11 May 2008
Turkey 2008: Massa attack as McLaren fight back.
Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton have blown the 2008 Formula 1 World Championship wide open, after the former made it three wins out of three in Istanbul and the latter proved McLaren-Mercedes are well-and-truly back in contention.
The Turkish Grand Prix marked the first time since the season curtain-raiser in Melbourne back in March that McLaren have seemed to have the measure of Ferrari, and with an unusually off-colour Kimi Raikkonen coming home just third, battle – it would seem – has been resumed.
After the starting lights took what seemed to be an eternity to come on, when the race finally did get underway pole-sitter Massa made a textbook getaway, as Hamilton – on the clean side of the track – shot past McLaren-Mercedes team-mate Heikki Kovalainen to slot into second place.
Raikkonen attempted to dive up the inside of Kovalainen into third, but as the latter squeezed the world championship leader out, Robert Kubica in the BMW-Sauber was able to go around the outside of both of them to nick the spot, as Fernando Alonso demoted Raikkonen a further place down to sixth.
A collision towards the back of the pack, however, saw Giancarlo Fisichella enter turn one far too quickly, lock up and slam into the back of Kazuki Nakajima's Williams. Indeed, the experienced Italian – making his 199th grand prix start in Istanbul this weekend – almost flipped over as he marked his third first corner incident in as many years in Turkey, and both he and the rear wing-less Nakajima became early retirees.
With Fisichella's team-mate Adrian Sutil requiring a new front wing too, the safety car was deployed, with Massa leading from Hamilton, Kubica, Kovalainen, Alonso crucially ahead of Raikkonen and Mark Webber, Nick Heidfeld, Nico Rosberg and David Coulthard rounding out the top ten.
As the luckless Kovalainen peeled into the pits with a left rear puncture – a result of having been lightly clipped by Raikkonen's Ferrari in the first corner fracas – the safety car disappeared once more to leave Massa leading from a racy-looking Hamilton, whilst behind the pair Raikkonen wasted no time at all in getting by Alonso, fairly breezing past the Renault along the straight as the Spaniard offered precious little resistance.
That left Alonso under pressure from the similarly-powered Webber in the Red Bull Racing machine, with a slow-starting Jarno Trulli hounding Coulthard hard further back for ninth place. Up at the sharp end of proceedings, meanwhile, Massa and Hamilton were trading fastest lap times between themselves, with the Brazilian unable to break away as the British star kept the pressure on. Such was the duo's pace, in fact, that third-placed Kubica and Raikkonen were left somewhat gasping for breath six seconds in arrears.
Kovalainen found himself stuck behind a defensive Sutil in the battle over 17th place – with team-mate Hamilton no doubt able to empathise after spending many a lap boxed in behind the other VJM01 of Fisichella in Bahrain – but the Finn finally made a move stick as he drove all the way around the outside of the Force India in turn twelve, one of the circuit's tight left-handers entering the final complex.
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