Felipe Massa did the double at the Turkish Grand Prix, following up his maiden pole position in qualifying with his maiden F1 victory. In a thriller of a race Massa drove flawlessly from pole to flag, while Ferrari teammate Michael Schumacher and...
Felipe Massa did the double at the Turkish Grand Prix, following up his maiden pole position in qualifying with his maiden F1 victory. In a thriller of a race Massa drove flawlessly from pole to flag, while Ferrari teammate Michael Schumacher and Renault's Fernando Alonso fought tooth and nail behind him. Alonso got the better of his title rival to come home second, with Schumacher third.
It was hot and sunny, with the track temperature in the low fifties at the start. Massa got away well while Michael cut across to defend his position from Alonso. The Spaniard nearly got past but then got squeezed between the Ferraris at turn one and backed off. Behind him teammate Giancarlo Fisichella spun while braking to avoid Alonso and it all got a bit messy.
Red Bull's Christian Klien, who was 10th on the grid, had a good start but locked up into turn one and skidded straight on, but managed to stay on track. Kimi Raikkonen took avoiding action but the McLaren then got hit from behind, possibly by the Toro Rosso of Scott Speed. It resulted in a left rear puncture for the Finn and he had to limp back to the pits. BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld got clipped by Fisichella and lost his front wing.
Super Aguri's Takuma Sato pitted, an unseen victim with a damaged car, although he did rejoin some 15 or so laps down, presumably to get some mileage on the car. He later retired. Tiago Monteiro's MF1 also went out -- it was perhaps contact with Sato or the Toyota of Ralf Schumacher, who visited the pits for a new front wing. Really it was all too much of a mess to know who hit who in the confusion.
"Everybody was trying to avoid a car that has spun, and I think one of the cars behind turned into me as it was trying to avoid another car," said Monteiro. It happened so quickly; I had no time to react. He hit my wheel and my radiator and that was it."
Meanwhile, the Williams of Mark Webber was up to fourth and Honda's Jenson Button to fifth. The second Williams of Nico Rosberg also took advantage and nabbed sixth, while Tonio Liuzzi had a blinder of a start and had got his Toro Rosso up to seventh. Fisichella and Heidfeld were into the pits for new front wings, followed by Raikkonen for a tyre change.
The McLaren crew had trouble removing the damaged tyre and also had a new rear wing standing by, although they didn't change it, and it was quite a long stop. Almost as soon as Raikkonen got back out on track he was off into the tyre wall. "I don't really know what happened," said the Finn of the first corner incident.
"I got out of the way of (the Red Bull) but someone hit me on the rear and caused a puncture. I had to go the whole lap with the damaged tyre and I think it damaged something on the car. Then when I went back out (after the pit stop) there was no grip and that was it."
At the front Massa led from Michael and Alonso, while Button was then up to fourth. Webber held fifth then came Rosberg, the BMW Sauber of Robert Kubica and Klien, although outside the top four the positions were changing quite often. Liuzzi couldn't hold the pace near the front and had dropped to ninth, with the McLaren of Pedro de la Rosa rounding off the top 10.
He got past Liuzzi and Toyota's Jarno Trulli and David Coulthard's Red Bull swiftly followed suit. Christijan Albers' MF1 was 14th and the Super Aguri of Sakon Yamamoto 15th. Fisichella and Speed had regained the track and were rattling around at the back with Heidfeld. There was just over two seconds between Massa and Michael and Alonso was about seven behind the second Ferrari.
Liuzzi spun at turn one and the Toro Rosso stalled, beached on the kerb with the rear on the track. It was a very dodgy place to be and the safety car was deployed while the car was cleared. "I had some problems with the car and began to gradually go slower and slower," said Liuzzi. "Then on lap 12 at Turn 1, I think the rear axle locked as I turned into the apex and I could not avoid the spin. That was the end for me as the engine stalled at the same time."
While the safety car was out several cars took the opportunity to dive into the pits, including the top four. Race leader Massa was the first Ferrari in and Michael had to sit in the pit lane and wait. Meanwhile, Alonso got a clear stop and rejoined ahead of Michael in second. At the restart Massa again got away, followed by Alonso, Michael and Button. Rosberg, Klien, de la Rosa and Trulli were next in line but none of them had stopped.
Kubica had a go at Webber at got past but Heidfeld seemed to be struggling in difficulty near the back, perhaps with some problem on the BMW after his early incident. Fisichella was carving his way through the field and eventually caught up with Kubica. He got the BMW through turn 12; Kubica fought back down the pit straight but Fisichella held.
Barrichello was all over the back of Trulli's Toyota and they went side by side but Trulli fought back and stayed ahead. De la Rosa was likewise attacking Klien and dispatched the Red Bull for sixth. Kubica had lost ground somewhere and Ralf was next to pass the BMW, while Yamamoto spun off into the gravel at turn one.
Speed and Albers were having a little battle further down the field and de la Rosa next set his sights on Rosberg. He got past but then Williams called Rosberg into the pits to retire with a suspected water pressure problem. A shame as Rosberg had put in a good drive and was in a reasonable points position.
"On the one hand it was a good day for me today because I had a good start and was also able to claim several places on the first lap due to the accidents," he remarked. "The other side to the day was much more disappointing. Half way through the race my engineer told me we had lost water pressure. It was a disappointment not to make it to the end."
Those who hadn't pitted during the safety car period began to take their first stops, Trulli, Coulthard and Barrichello first. Fisichella was up to eighth, followed by Kubica into the position when Barrichello pitted. Michael went wide at turn eight and managed to wrestle it back on track but it lost him a few seconds to Alonso.
De la Rosa, Webber and Barrichello were nose to tail, fighting like mad, while Massa, who had a fairly solitary race, was sailing serenely on at the front. The gap between him and Alonso was about seven seconds and the same between Alonso and Michael, so despite Ferrari's seemingly superior speed earlier in the weekend, Renault was holding its own.
Kubica, who had previously been one of the drivers to pit under the safety car, was first to take his second stop. Albers was up to ninth but had to stop again, while Massa, Alonso and Michael were trading fastest laps as they headed towards their second stops. Barrichello got a nice slipstream off Webber down the back straight and passed the Williams for sixth.
Massa took his second stop and Alonso did too -- that was slightly surprising as it had seemed like Alonso and Michael would be on a longer middle stint than the Brazilian. Barrichello and Webber were still battling, swapping places another two times, while Kubica went wide at turn eight. Webber went off in sympathy but both managed to continue. He then got passed the BMW at turn 12.
Michael took his second stop three or four laps after Alonso and rejoined right behind the Renault. And that was it, the fight was on in earnest for the last dozen or so laps. The Ferrari was better under braking but Alonso was quicker in the fast corners. He flew through turn eight time and again and Michael couldn't match him but then the Ferrari closed in again towards the end of the lap.
Albers went off track and retired, seemingly just driver error, which was another shame as he was doing well. Alonso made a slight mistake and Michael nearly got him but the Spaniard grimly held on, apparently struggling with deteriorating rear tyres. Ten laps, eight laps, they remained relentlessly glued together, reminiscent of Imola last year.
Michael again had to wrestle the car through turn eight and Alonso got a bit of a breather -- by this time Massa, presumably being kept aware of the massive fight going on behind him, had backed off and was playing the waiting game to see if Michael could get ahead of Alonso. That must have been hard for Massa, with his maiden victory only a few laps away.
With four to go Button was closing in on the battle but there was not enough time left to get involved. On the penultimate lap Michael was on Alonso's rear bumper, attacking through turns four and five but still Alonso kept him behind. Massa took the chequered flag and Alonso followed, just about half a car-length ahead of Michael.
What a race! It was a deserved first win for Massa, who was quite emotional in the press conference, bless him, as he never put a foot wrong. Certainly he wasn't too troubled because he had a reasonable lead, but it was a very confident, mature drive. If that boy isn't in a decent race seat next year it will be a crime.
"It's just fantastic, I've been working so hard through my whole career to get to this moment," he said, clearly struggling for control. "Just amazing, looking back to everything in my life to get to here -- I'm really happy and very emotional. It's a fantastic day for me, like yesterday was."
"I did a very good start and first lap. The car was well balanced through the whole race and even after the safety car I was able to pull away and wasn't too aggressive on the car. Every set of tyres and every part of the car was just responding in a fantastic way and I was able to keep the gap through the whole race."
The battle between Alonso and Michael was a thriller and Alonso kept his cool in remarkable fashion. In close quarters the Ferrari looked to have the upper hand on the Renault but Alonso never wavered, reminding us why he is the reigning champion. Michael piled the pressure on, reminding us why he is a seven-time champion but this time Alonso bettered him and stretched his championship lead to 12 points.
"We were lucky with the safety car and overtook Michael there," said the Spaniard. "I managed to pull away a little bit and was light on fuel in the second stint. I think Michael went wide in Turn Eight because the gap increased to three or four seconds in one lap and that was probably the key to maintaining the second place."
"It's true in the last 15 laps it was very close as we ran together and to finish in front by half a car length was enough to be second. It's good, I'm very happy in a way and it would have been difficult to win because Felipe was away and impossible to catch him, so for sure we need to improve something for the forthcoming race."
Michael congratualted his teammate before discussing his race. "Obviously, this weekend things did not go my way, either yesterday in qualifying or today in the race," he commented. "For some reason, in the second stint, the car was not going as well as it had done in Friday's free practice."
"It was rather nervous and the fact that it had a pretty heavy fuel load certainly didn't help and neither did my mistake at Turn 8 on lap 28. On top of that, the set of tyres in this stint did not perform as well as the others and they also blistered. In the end I tried to stick with my rival in case he made a mistake."
It was unlikely that Button could have repeated his Hungary win but he crossed the line a respectable fourth for Honda and Barrichello scraped the last point in eighth. De la Rosa had another feisty drive to come home fifth and seeing as he started 11th one can only wonder where Raikkonen would have finished if he had, seeing as he started seventh.
After his early spin Fisichella made amends and took the flag sixth -- however, Ferrari's double podium means the gap between the reds and Renault is now only two points. Ralf made some notable overtaking moves and kept it all together to notch up two points in seventh, not bad going from 15th on the grid.
Trulli just missed the points in ninth and after all his efforts Webber dropped back and rounded off the top 10. Klien likewise lost ground after his early points-running positions and was 11th, and Kubica too couldn't keep up and finished 12th. Speed managed 13th after his early incident but Heidfeld never recovered from his and was 14th. Coulthard was last of the classified finishers in 15th, although he actually retired with a gearbox failure three laps from the end.
It was perhaps too much to ask for another exciting race after Hungary but that's exactly what we got. Massa's win was a good way for it to finish and the scrap between Alonso and Michael added plenty of tension. Roll on Monza! Final top eight classification: Massa, Alonso, M. Schumacher, Button, de la Rosa, Fisichella, R. Schumacher, Barrichello.