Spain flashback 2007 - Massa, and Super Aguri, celebrate 22 Apr 2008
The entire Formula One paddock was anticipating a thrilling Spanish Grand Prix as they arrived in Barcelona ahead of last years race. Not only had the majority of teams just wrapped up an intensive test at the Circuit de Catalunya, but the track had recently received a facelift designed to ease overtaking and spice up the spectacle.
There was also the increasingly fraught championship battle to consider. Different drivers had taken victory in each of the opening three rounds and Ferraris Kimi Raikkonen and McLaren team mates Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso comprised a three-way tie at the top of the standings, with 22 points apiece.
Ferrari in particular were eager to impress, having spent the weeks following the Bahrain race intensively tweaking the F2007s aerodynamics and rear-end stability. McLaren were confident too, with rookie Lewis Hamilton looking for a maiden victory and reigning champion Fernando Alonso keen to repeat his Malaysian win.
And it was the silver cars that took the honours during the opening Friday practice session, with a dominant one-two. Hamilton, despite not testing at the track the previous week, secured the top spot, ahead of Alonso and the Ferraris of Raikkonen and Felipe Massa. Anthony Davidson for Super Aguri was another stand-out performer as he took his SA07 to sixth.
McLaren again held the advantage in the afternoon session, but this time it was Alonso who led the pack. The Ferrari duo, meanwhile, complained loudly about the slippery conditions and eventually succumbed to the Renaults of Giancarlo Fisichella and Heikki Kovalainen. Further back, Honda, Toyota, Red Bull and Super Aguri were all left disappointed by their respective performances.
When McLarens dominance continued in Saturdays final practice, qualifying looked all but a done deal. The fight for grid spots, however, turned up more than a few surprises - not least Massas last-ditch lap which won the Brazilian his third consecutive pole position, a mere three-hundredths of a second separating him from local hero Alonso.
Raikkonen ended up third, with Hamilton relegated to a relatively lowly fourth. But despite failing to match his second place in Bahrain qualifying, the British driver seemed confident that his second-row grid slot would not compromise his overall race strategy. Also content with their qualifying pace were BMW Sauber, with Robert Kubica starting fifth and Nick Heidfeld seventh. Toyotas Ralf Schumacher, however, was left licking his wounds after failing to make it into Q2 - a stark contrast to team mate Jarno Trulli, who qualified sixth.
With the championship rivals sharing the two front rows, all looked set for a supercharged Spanish Grand Prix. In reality, however, the race proved far simpler than any of the front runners could have imagined. From his quick start to the chequered flag, polesitter Massa looked completely in control. Only Alonso briefly challenged the Brazilian. But as he tried to go around the Ferrari at the very first corner, the Spaniard found he couldnt make it stick, and after a hairy off-track moment found himself demoted from second to fourth behind team mate Hamilton and Raikkonen in the second F2007, with the two BMW Saubers giving chase.
From that point on Massas lead was impenetrable. The Brazilian eventually won with a 6.7s advantage over second-placed Hamilton. But it wasnt all good news for Ferrari. Despite his poor start, it was Alonso and not Raikkonen who took the last step on podium, the Finn having retired on lap nine with an electronic problem.
In the end it was Kubica who followed Alonso home in fourth (team mate Heidfeld had retired with gearbox troubles), ahead of the Red Bull of David Coulthard, Williams Nico Rosberg and Renaults Heikki Kovalainen, for whom the two points came as something of a relief following the rather public criticism from team boss Flavio Briatore over his slow start to his season.
Unquestionably the biggest news story of the day, however, was Takuma Satos triumphant eighth place for backmarkers Super Aguri, the fledging squads first-ever points finish prompting widespread celebration throughout the paddock. But as the post-race exodus from the Circuit de Catalunya began, the biggest smile by far belonged to Hamilton. Not only had he beaten his illustrious team mate for the second consecutive race, but the 22 year-old had made history, becoming the youngest-ever driver to lead the world championship.