The 2008 Season Review - Part Two 10 Nov 2008
Maiden win puts Kubica, BMW Sauber firmly in the title hunt
Theyd been threatening to do it all season and in June BMW Sauber finally made the breakthrough. With Lewis Hamiltons wrecked McLaren and Kimi Raikkonens injured Ferrari sat at the end of the Montreal pit lane, Robert Kubica took full advantage to score his and his teams first win. In the second part of our season review we go from Canada to Valencia, a period that also included a maiden victory for McLarens Heikki Kovalainen and David Coulthards last F1 podium
Good news for Max Mosley ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix as he wins the FIAs backing in a vote of confidence to remain President. On track in Montreal a bad Saturday for Toro Rosso sees both cars crashing out of final practice. Sebastian Vettel is forced to miss qualifying, while Sebastien Bourdais gets a gearbox penalty. Luck, however, is on Lewis Hamiltons side as he has the best of starts to his weekend, securing a dominant pole for McLaren from an on-pace Robert Kubica in the BMW Sauber
A win for Hamilton looks likely until he runs into the back of Kimi Raikkonens Ferrari at the end of the pit lane as the Finn sits at a red light waiting for the safety car to pass. Nico Rosberg makes the same mistake and both he and Hamilton are given grid penalties for the next round. The incident consigns all three drivers to an early retirement. With Hamilton out, BMW Sauber capitalise, with Kubica leading a historic one-two to take his and teams first win and the lead of the championship. Red Bulls David Coulthard is also in high spirits after securing what would prove to be the final podium of his F1 career.
Toyota arrive at the French Grand Prix in mourning following the death of former team boss Ove Andersson in a classic car event. Theres also unrest in the Magny-Cours pit lane over the FIAs plans for huge hike in the cost of Super licenses. Neither, however, does much to distract Raikkonen, who takes Ferraris 200th pole position ahead of team mate Felipe Massa.
On top of Hamiltons 10-place drop for his Canadian misdemeanour, team mate Heikki Kovalainen drops five for blocking during qualifying and its no surprise that neither McLaren makes it on to the France podium. Its Massa that eventually collars a fortuitous victory, sneaking past a dominant Raikkonen when his car is beset with exhaust problems. Jarno Trulli gives Toyota their first podium in two seasons, whilst Piquet overcomes his difficult start to the season to pick up the first points of his F1 career.
With a two-week break before the British race everyones attention refocuses on the sports long-term future, as the FIA announces plans to involve teams in a major review of the running of Formula One. Revised technical regulations aimed at cutting costs by up to half are amongst the suggestions mooted.
The driver markets first movements are confirmed ahead of the British Grand Prix, as veteran Scot Coulthard announces his retirement and Red Bull extend team mate Mark Webbers contract. Theres a surprise change to the sports future calendar too, with Donington Park taking the place of Silverstone from 2010.
Webber celebrates his new deal by clinching Red Bulls maiden front-row grid slot, alongside the equally happy Kovalainen, who takes his first ever F1 pole. Typical British weather hampers both drivers in the race, however, and its an unstoppable Hamilton who excels in the treacherous wet conditions to win in front of his home crowd. Exhausted but happy, the British driver describes it as the toughest win of my career.
With Massa, Raikkonen and Kubica all struggling to get a similar handle on the wet track after making poor tyre choices, there are podiums for BMW Saubers Nick Heidfeld and Hondas Rubens Barrichello. At the top of the drivers table it couldnt be closer, with Hamilton, Massa and Raikkonen tied at the top and Kubica just two points adrift. And just as their on-track skirmishes are heating up, Ferrari and McLaren officially draw an end to their off-track hostilities over the 2007 spy scandal.
At the German Grand Prix a fortnight later, Hamilton secures another win, despite poor luck with the timing of the safety car, prompted by another big shunt for Toyotas Timo Glock. Piquet also maximizes his race following Glocks accident to score his maiden podium. Other big stories at Hockenheim are BMWs one-off revival of the popular M1 Procar support series, with Niki Lauda amongst the drivers, and news that Vettel will partner Webber at Red Bull in 2009.
As July draws to a close, technical preparations for next season take centre stage. But during testing the safety of the proposed KERS systems are called in to question when a BMW Sauber mechanic suffers minor injuries from an electric shock.
After several unseasonably wet races, the paddock is glad of some sunshine at the Hungarian Grand Prix. McLaren lock out the front row, but its Massa who takes charge of the race until a failed engine three laps from home hands the advantage to Kovalainen. With team mate Hamilton ruled out of contention by earlier tyre problems, the Finn is thrilled to secure a maiden victory.
Glock bounces back from his German crash to clinch his first podium, ahead of a disappointed Raikkonen in third. Renault continue to show promise with fourth and sixth for Alonso and Piquet. A few days later the French team mourn the death from cancer of Dino Toso, the aerodynamicist behind their 2005 and 2006 title-winning cars.
With the next round, the European Grand Prix, to be held at an all-new track, the teams find it difficult to relax during the three-week summer break. The Valencia Street Circuit is met with enthusiasm, especially by Bridgestone, who celebrate their 200th race appearance.
Massa is quickest to master it, beating Hamilton to pole and also prevailing in the race. Despite predictions of multiple safety-car periods, it is a largely uneventful afternoon, the only real drama coming courtesy of two slip-ups by Ferrari. Firstly Massa almost collides with Adrian Sutils Force India after an unsafe release from his pit stop, and then Raikkonen exits his second stop with the fuel hose still attached to his F2008, before his engine fails.
Despite all the commotion, a win is still a win, and the result sees Massa (64 points) move clear of third-place Raikkonen (57) in the standings, while leader Hamilton (70) sees his advantage reduced to six. Ferrari continue to lead the constructors championship with 121, from McLaren (113) and BMW Sauber (96), but the Italian teams celebrations are subdued following news from America that the teams first world champion, Phil Hill, has died of Parkinsons disease, aged 81.