Massa takes the win as Raikkonen hits trouble

Massa France 2008

Felipe Massa heads the drivers’ championship after a decisive victory at Magny-Cours. The Brazilian was behind his Ferrari team-mate in the first 38 of the 70 laps race, but when Kimi Raikkonen developed an exhaust problem (losing him vital horsepower), Massa was able to benefit and take the chequered flag.

Even though Raikkonen had a problem with his F2008, the pace of the red cars was significant compared to the rest of the 20-car field. Jarno Trulli finished in a distant third, earning the team’s first podium since Melbourne 2006. It was nice gesture for Trulli to dedicate this podium finish to the former Toyota team boss Ove Andersson, who was killed in a car crash earlier this month.

The Italian was under extreme pressure from McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen in the closing stages of the race. On the run down to the Imola chicane, the Finn tried a move around the outside. The two cars touched but Trulli held the racing line and stayed in front.

As for Lewis Hamilton, this wasn’t a great weekend for the British driver. After his mistake in Canada in which he was penalised by crashing into the back of Raikkonen’s Ferrari in the pits, Lewis had a tough race in the French Grand Prix.

Starting from P13 on the grid, he was given a second penalty (a drive-through) when he cut the Nurburgring chicane while passing Sebastian Vettel on the opening lap. It was a little harsh by the race stewards in my opinion – Lewis couldn’t take the racing line into the chicane after just passing the Toro Rosso. He was going way too fast! So with this punishment and his low grid position, Hamilton’s race was already comprised. He tried in vain to regain lost ground by overtaking several cars, including arch-rival Fernando Alonso, but in the end Lewis finished tenth.

After winning the previous race in Montreal, Robert Kubica struggled with pace in the BMW Sauber. The Polish driver lacked the performance many people when expecting and to finish sixth was disappointing. At least Robert did a better job behind the wheel of the F1.08, as team-mate Nick Heidfeld was the last remaining runner on the lead lap (he finished P13).

Red Bull Racing’s Mark Webber led home an intense and private Renault battle with sixth, ahead of Nelson Piquet (who scored his first points of the season), Fernando Alonso and David Coulthard. The young Brazilian was able to move ahead of his Renault team leader when Alonso slid wide when lapping Giancarlo Fisichella’s Force India three laps from the end. It was a great result for Piquet after several bad races.

Toyota’s Timo Glock hung to eleventh position despite a late challenge from Vettel in the Toro Rosso. Nick Heidfeld was a disappointing P13 for BMW Sauber (he finished second in Montreal). Rubens Barrichello, who started from the back of the grid after a gearbox change, was the first lapped runner in P14 heading home the Williams duo of Kazuki Nakajima and Nico Rosberg (who also received a penalty in the pit-lane crash at Montreal).

Sebastien Bourdais was P17 for Toro Rosso ahead of Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil in their Force Indias. Jenson Button was the only retirement after his Honda made first-lap contact with Bourdais and sustained irreparable damage.

Massa’s third Grand Prix victory of the season (the eighth in his Formula One career) means he becomes the fourth driver to lead the championship standings. In addition, Massa is the first Brazilian to lead the world championship since the late great Ayrton Senna back in 1993. He has 48 points compare to Kubica’s 46 and Raikkonen’s 43. Hamilton trails with 38 after his second race without scoring points.

Meanwhile Ferrari extends their lead in the constructors’ championship to a commanding 17 points over BMW Sauber.

French Grand Prix, Magny-Cours:

1. Massa Ferrari 1h31:50.245
2. Raikkonen Ferrari +17.984
3. Trulli Toyota +28.250
4. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes +28.929
5. Kubica BMW Sauber +30.512
6. Webber Red Bull-Renault +40.304
7. Piquet Renault +41.033
8. Alonso Renault +43.372
9. Coulthard Red Bull-Renault +51.021
10. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes +54.538
11. Glock Toyota +57.700
12. Vettel Toro Rosso-Ferrari +58.065
13. Heidfeld BMW Sauber +1:02.079
14. Barrichello Honda +1 lap
15. Nakajima Williams-Toyota +1 lap
16. Rosberg Williams-Toyota +1 lap
17. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari +1 lap
18. Fisichella Force India-Ferrari +1 lap
19. Sutil Force India-Ferrari +1 lap

Fastest lap: Raikkonen, 1:16.630

Not classified/retirements:
Button Honda 17 laps

World Championship standings, round 8

Drivers:

1. Massa 48
2. Kubica 46
3. Raikkonen 43
4. Hamilton 38
5. Heidfeld 28
6. Kovalainen 20
7. Trulli 18
8. Webber 18
9. Alonso 10
10. Rosberg 8
11. Nakajima 7
12. Coulthard 6
13. Barrichello 5
14. Glock 5
15. Vettel 5
16. Button 3
17. Piquet 2
18. Bourdais 2

Constructors:

1. Ferrari 91
2. BMW Sauber 74
3. McLaren-Mercedes 58
4. Red Bull-Renault 24
5. Toyota 23
6. Williams-Toyota 15
7. Renault 12
8. Honda 8
9. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 7

Next race: British Grand Prix, Silverstone July 4-6