Felipe Massa has underlined his ability to compete well at the Istanbul Park circuit, winning his third race at the track and pulling himself back into contention for the 2008 world championship. And with team mate Kimi Raikkonen finishing in third, Ferrari are looking imperious at the top of the constructors leader board. Lewis Hamilton did well to finish in second, splitting the red cars and controlling a tyre problem from Bridgestone.
Some will say the race was a little dull, Massa leading from from lights to flag, and others will say it was exciting, full of passes, battles and breath-holding moments. Massa drove well in the lead, something he usually does well at when given the opportunity. His command of the race will make Kimi Raikkonen think about his weekend, but the Finn should be happy with his third place, retaining the lead of the drivers’ championship and surely able to extend his margin in the coming races without too much difficulty.
Lewis Hamilton endured a tougher weekend, qualifying going less well due to his choice of tyres, and in the post-race press conference the Briton admitted to being forced to use certain compounds for certain lengths of time due to Bridgestone fearing a tyre failure could be the result of only stopping twice. Comparing the F2008 to the MP4-23, you have to say Maranello are doing a lot better than Woking at the moment! Certainly on the tyres at any rate.
BMW improved their qualifying form to finish in fourth and fifth, Robert Kubica once again getting the better of Nick Heidfeld. However, considering the Swiss-German squad started the season with podiums and pole, fourth and fifth suddenly doesn’t look so good. Robert Kubica drove reasonably well from fifth on the grid, but if the team really want to be fighting for victories, they need to find a little more pace in their F1.08. Heidfeld drove a very quiet race, and about halfway through (after pitstops) he managed to find himself in fifth. Considering the German started his afternoon in ninth, a points-paying position at the chequered flag is a good result for himself and BMW.
Heikki Kovalainen didn’t do quite so well, despite lighting the track up in qualifying. From the front row, Kovalainen had a poor start in comparison to those around him and lost out to Kubica and Hamilton. He also picked up a puncture from Kimi Raikkonen as the pair made light contact going through T1, for which the Finn needed to pit for a new tyre. This effectively ruined Kovalainen’s race, and by the end of lap 58 he had climbed up to twelfth place, one lap down.
During the race however, Kovalainen had some fun with Nico Rosberg and Timo Glock. The German Toyota driver showed his credentials when attacked by Kovalainen, the pair having a great battle in the final complex of corners. Raw power won in the end, but the moves each driver pulled were both respectful and fun. Later on in the race, Kovalainen was to repeat his efforts in the final set of turns, this time with Nico Rosberg.
Lewis Hamilton also made a few fans stand up and take notice as the young McLaren driver charged his way past Felipe Massa on lap 24. Going into T9, Lewis dived up the inside and took control of the racing line. Massa did begin to move in but relinquished the line and the position when he realised just how far into the apex Hamilton was. While the move was textbook stuff, it gained applause perhaps because we we haven’t seen any real passing moves in a while.
Unfortunately for Lewis, is race was effectively ruined by the tyres and therefore the strategy he had to go with. The team changed him to a three-stopper, and stint of fastest lap-sharing with Felipe Massa allowed him to maintain second place as the race drew to a close. However, Ferrari clearly had the pace at today’s grand prix, and McLaren will have to work hard during the next few events to reclaim the margin Ferrari have over them.
Further down the finishing order, Fernando Alonso drove well to sixth, and Mark Webber gained yet more points for Red Bull by finishing in seventh. Whatever the Australian is doing for luck right now, he’d do well to continue it! Jarno Trulli also did an okay job to collect the remaining point of the day, also having a relatively quiet afternoon and keeping himself to himself.
Sebastian Vettel should be celebrating this evening, the German finally finishing a race, albeit in last position. The young STR driver has gained a bit of a reputation in recent races for not being able to get past lap one, but today he completed all 58. Unfortunately for the team, Sebastien Bourdais had a silly moment and retired his car on lap 26. We are still awaiting official reason for the retirement, but suffice to say it looks like a mechanical failure led to Bourdais’s STR being beached in the gravel and unable to continue. If it was a driver error, then it was a very embarrassing one for Bourdais.
Adrian Sutil also completed the full race distance, finishing ahead of Vettel as well. Although Force India once again lost their star driver early on, Giancarlo Fisichella being involved in the only lap-one-turn-one incident. From the footage shown, it looks as though Fisichella simply forgot to brake and drive straight into the back of Kazuki Nakajima’s Williams. However, from what I saw, I would suggest it isn’t entirely Fisichella’s fault, as I could clearly see another car to Nakajima’s left being forced to swerve around the Williams, implying Nakajima braked early (possibly for good reason) and Giancarlo had nowhere to go. I’ll go out on a limb and say it was a racing incident, but it did mean both Fisichella and Nakajima retired on the spot.
Only three retirees at Istanbul Park means 2008 is becoming another reliable season. Spain only saw one driver not finish, although there were two less cars running in Turkey; Super Aguri no longer competing in the sport. Rubens Barrichello completed the race and now holds the record of the driver with the most Grand Prix starts: 257. And Nelson Piquet Jr. continues to disappoint, finishing in fourteenth in the same Renault that Alonso took sixth place with.[poll=12]