Kovalainen takes maiden victory after Massa’s late retirement

Heikki winner

Heikki Kovalainen claimed a surprising victory for McLaren after the dominant Felipe Massa suffered a late engine failure and Lewis Hamilton’s hopes were dashed by a puncture.

It was a lucky win for the Finn, as Massa was poised to take the chequered flag after making an excellent start off the grid. The Brazilian jumped both McLarens into the first corner and maintained a small gap over Lewis Hamilton in the first part of the race.

Massa was steadily pulling away at the front and appeared to have the Hungarian Grand Prix in the bag following Hamilton’s front-left puncture. But as he powered down the main straight on lap 68, his Ferrari V8 let go spectacularly and Massa grounded to a halt in front of the pits… That late retirement was a cruel blow to the Brazilian as race victory would have placed him in the lead of the drivers’ championship.

Instead, it was Kovalainen who took the chequered flag and the Finn becomes the 100th driver to win a Formula One Grand Prix. In addition, he is the second driver to take his first win this year after Robert Kubica in the Canadian Grand Prix. Heikki’s maiden victory comes after Vodafone McLaren Mercedes extended his contract to the end of the 2009 season.

Finishing in second went to Timo Glock. This was a fantastic result for the Toyota driver as it was only two weeks ago that he was hospitalised following his enormous Hockenheim accident. To take second position was a great achievement, especially as he finished ahead of reigning world champion Kimi Raikkonen.

It was another lacklustre race for Raikkonen, as he struggled to find a right balance in the Ferrari. Third place was a good result for the Finn but questions will need to be answered as to why he lacked the speed in qualifying and the race compared to team-mate Felipe Massa.

Double world champion Fernando Alonso came home in a solid fourth for Renault, after spending most of the race battling with Raikkonen. His team-mate Nelson Piquet again finished in the points with a fine sixth place. These two points finishes means Renault move into fifth place in the constructors’ standings and are now four points behind Toyota.

Finishing in between the Renaults was Lewis Hamilton. The pre-race favourite was on course in achieving his hat trick of race victories with a front row start, but as the five red lights went out, he was out-accelerated by Massa into the first corner. The McLaren driver did his best to maintain within touching distance with the Ferrari during the first rounds of pit-stops but on lap 37, he suffered a front-left puncture.

Lewis was able to return back to the pits and he did well to recover from this incident. Finishing in fifth wasn’t so bad as those four points will be crucial in the remaining races in this year’s championship.

Toyota’s Jarno Trulli finished seventh with BMW Sauber’s Robert Kubica claiming the final point with eighth.

The 2008 Hungarian Grand Prix was also notable for a number of minor fuel fires in the pits. Sebastien Bourdais (Toro Rosso), Kazuki Nakajima (Williams) and Rubens Barrichello (Honda) were all delayed in pit-stops after small amounts of fuel leaked onto their cars as the fuel nozzle was withdrawn. It caused a brief but ultimately harmless fires – for the case of Bourdais, it happened twice! All three were able to continue and finished the race.

Formula One now takes a three-week summer break where no testing will be allowed. It will be fascinating how the other teams can develop their cars in the search for performance and reliability without pounding around test tracks. The next Grand Prix will be Valencia, a new street circuit at the home of the America Cup yacht race.

Race results from Hungaroring – 70 laps:

1. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 1h37:27.067
2. Glock Toyota +11.061
3. Raikkonen Ferrari +16.856
4. Alonso Renault +21.614
5. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes +23.048
6. Piquet Renault +32.298
7. Trulli Toyota +36.449
8. Kubica BMW Sauber +48.321
9. Webber Red Bull-Renault +58.834
10. Heidfeld BMW Sauber +1:07.709
11. Coulthard Red Bull-Renault +1:10.407
12. Button Honda +1 lap
13. Nakajima Williams-Toyota +1 lap
14. Rosberg Williams-Toyota +1 lap
15. Fisichella Force India-Ferrari +1 lap
16. Barrichello Honda +2 laps
17. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari +3 laps
18. Massa Ferrari +3 laps

Fastest lap: Raikkonen, 1:21.195

Not classified/retirements:

Sutil Force India-Ferrari 63 laps
Vettel Toro Rosso-Ferrari 23 laps

World Championship standings, round 11:

Drivers’

1. Hamilton 62
2. Raikkonen 57
3. Massa 54
4. Kubica 49
5. Heidfeld 41
6. Kovalainen 38
7. Trulli 22
8. Alonso 18
9. Webber 18
10. Glock 13
11. Piquet 13
12. Barrichello 11
13. Rosberg 8
14. Nakajima 8
15. Vettel 6
16. Coulthard 6
17. Button 3
18. Bourdais 2

Constructors’

1. Ferrari 111
2. McLaren-Mercedes 100
3. BMW Sauber 90
4. Toyota 35
5. Renault 31
6. Red Bull-Renault 24
7. Williams-Toyota 16
8. Honda 14
9. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 8

Next race: European Grand Prix, Valencia, August 22-24