27 April 2008
Spain 2008: Finnish pleasure and Finnish pain.
Kimi Raikkonen may have strengthened his world championship credentials by triumphing from pole position in the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona, but the real joy of the race was that of countryman Heikki Kovalainen, who escaped concussed and heavily shaken but thankfully otherwise seemingly unscathed from a terrifying high-speed accident when his McLaren-Mercedes broke just after he had taken the lead of the race.
There was drama, in fact, even before the lights went out, when front row sitter Fernando Alonso got onto the grass and very nearly clouted the pit wall coming around to the grid, as the Spaniard attempted to warm his tyres up a little over-enthusiastically.
Whether his heart was ion his mouth or not, he had composed himself again in time for the start as he vaulted off the line, but Felipe Massa was even better, and by the time the front-runners got to turn one, the Brazilian had passed his Renault rival into second place, making it a Ferrari one-two within mere moments of the grand prix having got underway.
Lewis Hamilton was another man on the move, charging past Robert Kubica into fourth, but in doing so he aggressively chopped across the nose of fast-starting McLaren team-mate Kovalainen, who then had to get off the throttle to avoid running into the Briton and was left to unsuccessfully try the outside line around the BMW-Sauber instead, consequently staying in sixth place.
Further back, though, later around the opening lap there was further excitement as Adrian Sutil ambitiously tried a move up the inside of David Coulthard, but with two wheels on the grass it was never going to work and the Force India predictably made light contact with the Red Bull Racing machine and went spinning across the track, where he was ploughed into by the luckless Sebastian Vettel, himself receiving the unwelcome attentions one of the Super Aguris, caught up in the chain reaction.
Sutil and Vettel were out on the spot – the incident maintaining the latter's unenviable 100 per cent non-finishing record in 2008 so far, and meaning three of those retirements have been first lap collisions. The safety car was therefore deployed, with Raikkonen leading from Massa, Alonso, Hamilton, Kubica, Kovalainen and Nick Heidfeld, up two spots from his lowly ninth grid position. Nico Rosberg was another to have made a good getaway, progressing into eleventh from 15th, whilst team-mate Kazuki Nakajima had gone in the opposite direction down in 14th.
The safety car returned to the pit-lane at the end of lap three, and just one lap later Raikkonen had already opened up a 1.3 second margin over the sister scarlet machine, with the two McLarens also looking racy back in fourth and sixth.
The next man to hit trouble, though, was Nelsinho Piquet, who ran off-track from tenth place, and shortly afterwards would make his retirement terminal, by clattering into the side of an unsighted Sébastien Bourdais whilst endeavouring to make his way back up the order again from 18th place. Piquet was out on the spot, with Bourdais touring back to his pit box where a broken left front suspension would see him take a similarly early bath.
Anthony Davidson was another man to drop out early on, as Super Aguri's miserable season showed no signs of brightening up anytime soon. The Hemel Hempstead ace's radiator had been punctured by a stone brought back onto the track by Piquet, meaning there was no way back in what could be his last outing in the top flight for now.
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