I do not want to say this was the best race of the season but it sure was entertaining. We could see some serious racing with overtaking up and down the grid, we had a safety car following a crash (luckily without any serious injury), we could see a serious strategy blunder and impressive recovery from it and 2 Brazilians on podium, one of them being Piquet jr. !
McLaren dominated the weekend from Friday but the close fight between Massa and Hamilton in qualifying promised some possibility of a fight for the race win. At the end we had a fight but more thanks to McLaren getting it wrong than Ferrari getting it right. Lewis Hamilton pulled away right from the start and Massa never looked like a serious opposition. Early on even Kovalainen was a threat but after few laps Massa pulled away from him. Not sure why because Heikki was not that much more heavy than Massa. In the meantime Hamilton managed to build a decent lead in front.
Ferrari fans may have seen some glimmer of hope when Hamilton made his pitstop earlier than Massa, but about a lap later it became clear that both are on pretty much same strategy. At this stage the race was rather dull and boring. But then Timo Glock crashed into the pitwall and safety car was deployed. The moment the pitlane was open most of the cars made their 2nd pit stops but Hamilton surprisingly stayed out on track. This seemed to be a serious tactical mistake that could have handed the win to somebody from competition. Later Ron Dennis admitted that the team simply did not expect the safety car period to last for that long … Once the race restarted Hamilton stepped on the gas to try to build up sufficient lead before his next stop. It did not work … He returned back on track some way back, even behind his team mate Heikki Kovalainen. Speculations whether Heikki would let him pass or not started immediately. It looked for a while that Kovalainen is ready to race and defend his position. If Heikki was ready to let Hamilton go ahead, he could do so already at the pit lane exit. It is hard to say what happened later, but when Hamilton finally managed to overtake Kovalainen at the hairpin it did look like somebody advised Heikki that stepping aside is the right thing to do. To see how F1Wolf readers feel about that, check this post and the poll.
But that was only the beginning for Hamilton, he still had Massa to deal with (at least that is what he must have thought). I am not sure what Massa was doing but he made it at least as easy for Hamilton to pass as Kovalainen few laps earlier. Massa tried to fight back but it looked like Sepang 2007 all over again. Wrong pass at wrong place, running wide and Hamilton was gone. Gone to chase the leader – another Brazilian, Nelson Piquet. Piquet (in his own words after the race) selected to go for safe 2nd rather than fighting with Hamilton and so after a while Hamilton was in the lead and went on to win the race.
There are some suggestions that Heiiki Kovalainen was angry after the race (see comments here), there seems to be no proof on that, McLaren PR department did a good job for once in not letting press to get near Heikki immediately after the race …
What a turnaround for Nelson Piquet. Eliminated after Q1 on Saturday, on podium on Sunday – first for him, and first of the season for Renault. The general opinion seems to be that he was just lucky. Well, he had luck on his side and he has admitted it himself. But you don’t get on the podium in F1 only by luck. He was sure lucky when the safety car came out just after he made his one and only pit stop. Should that happen one or two laps earlier his race might have been ruined. But once he found himself at the front end of the pack (unusual situation for him this year), he did everything right. He knew that his Renault is no match for Hamilton’s McLaren and did not take any risks in defending the lead. But he gave Massa no chance to catch him and threaten his second place. Looks we may have to stop slamming him for a while … All 3 Brazilians on the grid made it to the podium in last 2 races.
While all went well Piquet, all went wrong for Alonso. Everytime he tried to overtake somebody, he lost a position to a car behind him instead. Race to forget for Alonso …
The same may perhaps be said about Kimi Raikkonen. Sixth place is a disappointing result and the fact that he overtook Nico Rosberg, Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel, Jarno Trulli and Robert Kubica will not make him feel much better.
BMW Sauber had better weekends this year but 7 points on a weekend when things do not go well is a good result. Nick Heidfeld benefited from the safety car, Robert Kubica lots out because of that. One thing to note is that despite all the Kubica praise, the gap between Heidfeld and Kubica is now only 7 points. Nick Heidfeld remains the only driver without a DNF this season … Heidfeld also scored his his second fastest lap of the season.
Toro Rosso outclassed Red Bull this time. Sebastian Vettel finished 8th after overtaking Webber, Trulli and having good fights with Raikkonen and Alonso. Vettel perhaps could do even better if not for the safety car. Not a good weekend for Red Bull though. Mark Webber had to retire after an oil leak, David Coulthard resumed his mission to clide with as many drivers as possible this season, this time he added Rubens Barrichello on his list of achievements.
The hopes were high in Toyota after Trulli qualified 4th. But not much went right in the race. Timo Glock crashed heavily into the pit wall after some failure around his rear right wheel. Jarno Trulli could not hold the 8th place and finished out points.
Nico Rosberg did OK in Williams, but Williams car at the moment simply is not competitive enough to fight for points under normal circumstances. Kazuki Nakajima was another driver who would want to forget about 2008 German GP as quickly as possible …
There is not much to say about Honda and Force India …
Photos: Daimler Media, Renault/LAT, Red Bull/GEPA, BMW Motorsports