Felipe Massa has won his second Turkish Grand Prix in succession today, conquering the McLarens and beating his team mate in a fair and square fight that the young Brazilian dominated from the start through to the chequered flag. Converting his pole position yesterday, Felipe looked strong for the win, and the blunder Kimi Raikkonen made in qualifying, along with an under-performing Fernando Alonso and a tyre blow out for Lewis Hamilton, the Ferrari team took a one-two and some points away from the current title leaders.
From the start it looked as though Ferrari would dominate the first half of the race, with both Massa and Raikkonen starting on the soft compound and both McLarens on the hard. As soon as the red lights went out Kimi made up a place on Hamilton and both BMWs shot past Alonso who trailed in fifth. The pace was comfortable though, and Lewis was able to keep the scarlet cars in check while Alonso darted around Heidfeld’s gear box trying to find a way back through.
It was only in the pit stops that Alonso was able to regain some of the lost track position, but it seemed all afternoon as though the Spaniard had lost some of his sparkle while Massa continued to lead the race from his team mate, ruing the error he had made in qualifying. At times Kimi made a charge and closed to gap to Massa, but each time Felipe responded and extended the gap again. Lewis too also had laps where he appeared to make ground on the Ferrari’s, only to see it disappear again as the leading duo put the boot in.
At about three-quarters distance, McLaren suffered another set back in the race as Lewis Hamilton struggled back to the pits with a flailing right front tyre, shredding his wing as it rotated around. As the British driver entered the pit lane he came incredibly close to binning the car in the wall, but thankfully managed to get to his box where it was changed. It is currently not known what happened to the tyre, whether it had simply worn out or whether it delaminated of its on doing. But irregardless of how it happened, Lewis lost his third place and finished his afternoon back in fifth. His podium spot was eventually taken over by his team mate Alonso who shared the champagne with his rivals in red.
Renault enjoyed a better afternoon with Heikki Kovalainen. The Finnish rookie drove well and ended up in sixth and began closing the gap to the damaged car of Hamilton in the closing stages. Unfortunately for the Anglo-French squad, Fisichella could do no better than ninth, but the three points from Kovalainen is welcomed and they now sit fourteen points ahead of Williams in the constructors, although they are on less than half of BMWs haul.
Nick Heidfeld had a relatively quiet race, although he did manage to get ahead of his team mate. Again finishing just outside of the podium spot in fourth, the German did well to claim another five points for the team. Robert Kubica slipped backwards during the afternoon, but he still managed to take the final point, putting BMW on 76 points in total and in a very comfortable third in the constructors.
Williams had another afternoon where Rosberg drove well and Wurz went backwards. Nico took seventh and two points for the Oxfordshire team, while Alex could only muster eleventh. It seems strange that Wurz seems to struggle during the races, yet he is on more points than his younger and lesser experienced partner. His podium in Canada certainly helped his cause, but one has to wonder about him. Will he be in the car next season? It seems Frank Williams has a secure contract for Rosberg, but little has been said about who will be granted the second seat for 2008.
The Red Bulls had a mixed race, with David Coulthard radioing the team on the parade lap to inform them of a dodgy gear box. The system was reset though, and the Scot drove the car all the way to the finish line with no apparent return of the problem. However, tenth place isn’t where the team want to be, and with Mark Webber retiring in the first stint with hydraulics failure, it wasn’t the best of afternoons for the squad.
Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello did well considering they both started from the back row of the grid. Having both had their engines changed, the drivers did a remarkable job of bringing home their cars in thirteenth for Jenson and seventeenth for Rubens. Although it was a reasonable recovery though, the team are seriously struggling with the RA107 chassis. It almost seems as though they have given up on this year, despite the single point they have so far. The team have announced they are focused on next year, but the remaining races will not do the morale in the green camp any good if they are not pushing to improve. Honda quite simply have to build a decent motor over the winter.
Super Aguri also had a bit of a disappointing afternoon, but after the lacklustre qualifying from Sato his race was expected to be spent holding off the Spykers at the back. Anthony Davidson shone yesterday but could not keep pace with the midfield. The British rookie finished in fourteenth just behind the sister team of Honda.
All in all it was a good race, and it is always great to see Massa win – he has that certain exuberance which comes bubbling out when he jumps onto the podium. However, today’s performance must put Ferrari in a bit of a quandry. Who do the team back in the final few events? Traditionally they have always liked to back one of their drivers, notably the one who is leading the title fight. In days gone by, this has been Michael Schumacher, and the German world champion could enjoy the support he received from his number two. But currently, Massa leads Raikkonen by only one single point. Of course, Massa has proven his loyalty to the team and works hard with the engineers and mechanics to provide a happy place for them to work. Conversely, Raikkonen does less to warm his team towards him, but puts in some mega performances and his probably the better of the two drivers. He also has more experience, having almost won a couple of titles, and moved from Woking to Maranello for the simple reason of winning the championship.
McLaren tend to take a different approach to motor racing and will let the two drivers duke it out just as long as they are set to win the constructors. However, relationships are strained within the team, and although they had a six hour meeting on Thursday in an attempt to sort out the differences, Fernando is developing a chip on his shoulder which will only harm his chances of receiving support from the team. The pair of pilots are being amicable in public, but Alonso is firing off comments left, right and centre at the moment, and this time it seems the team is in the dog house.
Fernando is suggesting that he has bought 0.6s to the car since his arrival late December ’06 and has received little in return. But while the reigning champion has undoubtedly helped to rejuvenate the squad, Lewis politely pointed out that there are 1000 people back in the factory who have worked day and night to provide the team with the best possible car. Morale boosting is clearly not one of Fernando’s fortes.
So with Fernando’s position at McLaren openly in doubt (he himself has admitted as much), why would Ron put his eggs in the basket labeled ‘1’?
The politics are really getting interesting at the top of tables, and with three races in September, the titles could not be closer. In two weeks we head off to Ferrari territory at Monza, then the following weekend sees the return of Spa to the calendar. In the mean time, McLaren will learn the fate of their suspended chief designer and whether or not they are entitled to the fifteen points they won in Hungary.
Interesting times ahead…