Ferrari have dedicated Kimi Raikkonen's podium finish – only the Scuderia's
third of the 2009 F1 World Championship campaign, and the second for the Finn – to Felipe Massa, who remains sedated in hospital after undergoing surgery for the skull fracture he received during a qualifying accident in Hungary.
Having taken the start seventh, a KERS-aided getaway immediately propelled Raikkonen up the order, and though he got momentarily out-of-shape on the exit of turn one for the first time – in the process striking the Red Bull racing of Sebastian Vettel and precipitating the young German's eventual retirement from the grand prix – he completed the opening lap in fourth position.
Showing strong pace and benefitting from Fernando Alonso's loose wheel that curtailed his Renault rival's challenge, the 2007 F1 World Champion narrowly leapfrogged Mark Webber into second place during the first round of pit-stops, and there he would remain all the way to the chequered flag.
Though never able to hold a candle to the McLaren-Mercedes of race-winner Lewis Hamilton, Raikkonen was nonetheless comfortably clear of Webber – even if he did have to endure the not-entirely welcome attentions of a feisty Timo Glock in the closing stages before the Toyota ace pitted for his second and final stop.
“Today's result is very important for the team on such a difficult weekend because of what happened to Felipe yesterday,” the 17-time grand prix-winner underlined. “I am pleased with second place, even if it is not completely satisfying as I always race to win.
“On this type of track we are certainly closer to the best than at other circuits and today, honestly, we were actually even closer than we had expected to be. I got a good start, ending up fourth after the first few corners; we knew it would be crucial to make up places at the start to be in with a chance of fighting for the podium.
“After the first pit-stop we began to have problems with the right-hand exhaust and so, at the second stop, the team asked me to leave using a different procedure to usual. It lost me a bit of time, but I still had a reasonable advantage over Webber so I could manage the situation. Today, the car wasn't bad, but it was not quick enough to go for the win.”
Nonetheless, the eight points collected have elevated the Maranello-based outfit above Toyota into third place in the constructors' rankings with seven grands prix remaining on the calendar before season's end – and team principal Stefano Domenicali acknowledged that in the light of what had happened the previous day and the shadow that still hangs over Ferrari, Raikkonen's performance was a welcome and timely tonic.
“We dedicate this result to Felipe,” affirmed the Italian. “At this time, all our thoughts are with him and his family, and I think this sentiment also applies to those who are close to him and to fans all over the world. Kimi drove a great race and the team worked in impeccable fashion, concentrating on the job despite what happened yesterday. We got the best result we were capable of. Please allow me on behalf of everyone at Ferrari to send our best wishes to Felipe. We love you and we are all thinking of you.”
“A super result on a difficult weekend for the whole team,” added chief race engineer Chris Dyer. “Kimi drove a great race, starting with a really fantastic opening lap, followed by a very good second stint on the softer tyres. In-between those phases, the team pulled off a great pit-stop to put Kimi ahead of Webber.
“We were a bit worried about a problem with an exhaust and so we told the driver to be very careful at the second pit-stop. We lost a bit of time, and then in the final part we had to deal with a fast-closing Webber, who was very quick, but all-the-same, we managed to respond well enough to comfortably manage the situation to the finish.”