Massa maestro of Turkey
Felipe Massa secured Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro's fourth win from five races this season, his second this year, to take a hat-trick of Turkish Grand Prix victories. Starting from fourth on the grid, Kimi Raikkonen also put in a strong drive to come home third, joining his team-mate and second placed Lewis Hamilton on the podium. With the quarter point of the season now passed, the numbers tell the story: Ferrari heads the Constructors' table on 63 points, nineteen points ahead of BMW Sauber, Kimi is still up at the top of the Drivers' classification on 35, with Felipe now moving up to second, seven points behind the Finn.
The grid formed up in untypically chilly conditions for Turkey, with an ambient temperature of just 17 degrees and keeping tyres warm was made even harder as the Safety Car came out immediately after the start because of a collision that Fisichella and Nakajima. Massa got a perfect start from pole, with Lewis Hamilton charging into second place from third ahead of Kubica who got ahead of Kovalainen who made a bad start from second place. The Finnish McLaren driver pitted as soon as the race restarted on lap 2 for a change of tyres. Raikkonen found his path blocked off the line and had dropped two places to sixth, moving up to fifth after the McLaren had pitted. So the order on lap 3 was: Massa, Hamilton, Kubica, Raikkonen, Alonso, Webber, Heidfeld, Rosberg, Coulthard, Trulli, Button, Barrichello, Glock, Bourdais, Piquet, Vettel, Sutil and Kovalainen, 18th and last.
Out in front, Massa was having to push hard, as second placed Hamilton was only 1.4 seconds behind on lap 7 and only 1.1 five laps later. Why was the McLaren so fast? All would be revealed later! Kubica's BMW was a further 5.3 behind, while Raikkonen was 1.1 down on the Polish driver, with a comfortable 2.1 seconds in hand over Alonso's Renault. The fight for first place was turning into a fascinating duel, as the McLaren man seemed to always have a slight advantage in the first two sectors of the track, but the Ferrari had the edge in the third and final part of the lap.
Alonso was the first driver to make a planned pit stop bringing his Renault in on lap 15 and next time round, Hamilton came in for a 6.4 stop, which took the pressure off Massa, who came in for an 8.2 second stop on lap 19, as did Kubica in the BMW. But a Ferrari still led, as these stops promoted Raikkonen to first place, the Finn immediately setting a fastest lap with a clear track ahead of him. Next time round, he made his first stop, stationary for 8.6 seconds. Heidfeld who had been up to second in the BMW, also refuelled on this lap. Massa was leading again, but not for long, as Hamilton tried a very brave move running down to the hairpin to pass the Ferrari man on lap 24. This meant the two F2008 were running in convoy, as Raikkonen was third, 9.3 behind his team-mate and 4.1 ahead of Kubica.
With 28 laps of 58 remaining, the lead McLaren now headed Felipe by 6.3 seconds lapping almost a second quicker than the Brazilian, while Kimi was now running a solitary race behind Massa with a 4.8 second lead over Kubica. In the remaining points positions, were Heidfeld fifth, then Alonso, Webber and Button who pitted the Honda on lap 31.
On lap 32, Hamilton made his second stop, thus handing the lead back to the Ferrari duo. The TV caption indicated the McLaren driver had enough fuel to get to the flag. Was this right? Wait and see! Sometimes the best battles are not at the front and that was the case in Istanbul, as in the middle order, there were two fantastic fights for eleventh place between Button and Piquet and for thirteenth between Kovalainen and Glock.
Massa made his final 7.3 second stop on lap 40, with fourth placed Kubica also pitting on the same lap. Hamilton was now the McLaren meat in a Ferrari sandwich, as Raikkonen inherited the lead when Massa rejoined in third place, with the Englishman back in the lead when Kimi made his second and final stop for 7.1 seconds on lap 43. This meant that with 14 laps to go, Hamilton looked set for a relatively secure sprint to the flag as he led Felipe by 14.4s, with Kimi a further 7.1 behind. But things are not always what they seem and the pace of the McLaren now became clear as Hamilton came in for a third stop on lap 45, which promoted Massa to the number one position yet again. McLaren had in fact opted to put their English driver on a three stop strategy, which is why, on lighter fuel loads, he appeared to be quicker than the Ferraris. With eight laps remaining, the Finn had closed to within 0.7 seconds of Hamilton, but it was clear that he would not get past and Kimi made sure of a good third place. Off the podium but in the points were Robert Kubica, fourth and Nick Heidfeld fifth for BMW Sauber, Fernando Alonso sixth for Renault, Mark Webber seventh for Red Bull Renault and Nico Rosberg eighth for Williams Toyota.
The next round of the championship takes place at the most glamorous venue on the calendar in Monaco, where driver confidence and good team spirit play a key role - what better way to go there than leading both championships.
1. Felipe Massa Ferrari 58 Winner 1 10 2. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 58 +3.7 secs 3 8 3. Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 58 +4.2 secs 4 6 4. Robert Kubica BMW Sauber 58 +21.9 secs 5 5 5. Nick Heidfeld BMW Sauber 58 +38.7 secs 9 4 6. Fernando Alonso Renault 58 +53.7 secs 7 3 7. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 58 +64.2 secs 6 2 8. Nico Rosberg Williams-Toyota 58 +71.4 secs 11 1 9. David Coulthard Red Bull-Renault +75.2 secs 10 Jarno Trulli Toyota +76.3 secs 11 Jenson Button Honda +1 Lap 12 Heikki Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes +1 Lap 13 Timo Glock Toyota +1 Lap 14 Rubens Barrichello Honda +1 Lap 15 Nelsinho Piquet Renault +1 Lap 16 Adrian Sutil Force India-Ferrari +1 Lap 17 Sebastian Vettel STR-Ferrari +1 Lap
DNFSebastien Bourdais STR-Ferrari +34 Laps Kazuki Nakajima Williams-Toyota +57 Laps Giancarlo Fisichella Force India-Ferrari + secs