Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen delivered Ferrari an unchallenged one-two finish in the 2008 French Grand Prix – much as they had done this time last year, albeit the other way round – whilst further down the field the story was all about how Lewis Hamilton's season is threatening to fly off the rails in much the same way as the McLaren-Mercedes ace flew off the track in Magny-Cours.
With rain menacing ahead of the start, all eyes on the skies, a somewhat topsy-turvy grid and both McLaren drivers beginning somewhat further down than expected, the scene was set for fireworks – and by Magny-Cours standards at least, the race in some measure lived up to that promise.
As Raikkonen held station over Massa when the lights went out, a fast-starting Jarno Trulli out-dragged Fernando Alonso from row two, with Robert Kubica also getting past the Spaniard for good measure, Timo Glock flying off the fourth row to slot into sixth place and the tardy Red Bull Racing machines of Mark Webber and David Coulthard both losing ground.
Further down the order, Hamilton put a move on Scuderia Toro Rosso's Sebastian Vettel for twelfth, and though he flew off the track straight afterwards, absolutely on the ragged edge, he retained the place – though the Briton would later find himself under investigation by the race stewards for his troubles.
Further back still, Jenson Button was assaulted from behind by one of the Force Indias – and would subsequently have to pit for a new front wing to complete his misery – whilst Alonso regained fourth position from Kubica later around the opening lap when the Pole ran briefly wide in attempting to find a way by Trulli, and the Renault star would go on to chase down his former team-mate ahead.
The two McLarens, meanwhile, were tucked up behind eighth-placed Nelsinho Piquet, with an increasingly aggressive and ragged-looking Hamilton nudging the back of his Finnish team-mate, as over-ambition perhaps got the better of him in his desperate efforts to make his way up through the order following the grid penalty meted out to him for his Montreal misdemeanour.
As Kovalainen found himself unable to battle his way past Piquet – the young Brazilian rookie enjoying by some margin his best race of the season to-date, and certainly enjoying strong straight-line speed – Hamilton was allowed by on lap five at the Adelaide hairpin to see what he could do about his former GP2 Series title rival.
With the two Ferraris pulling away at a rate of knots – Raikkonen 2.6 seconds clear of Massa at the end of lap seven, though believed to be running somewhat lighter on fuel – third-placed Trulli was beginning to peg Alonso's pace, albeit some 5.6 seconds adrift of the two scarlet machines.
Hamilton, meanwhile, was continuing to lock up in his scrappy efforts to pass Piquet, and ultimately proving no more successful in doing so than had been Kovalainen as his pace languished some two seconds a lap shy of the two Ferraris, Raikkonen now almost five seconds to the good at the head of the field.