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Race analysis - Massa capitalises as Ferrari extend advantage 23 Jun 2008

Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari, Stefano Domenicali (ITA) Ferrari Manager of F1 Operations and Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari celebrate a 1-2 finish.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, French Grand Prix, Race, Magny-Cours, France, Sunday, 22 June 2008 The damaged exhaust of Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari F2008 in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, French Grand Prix, Race, Magny-Cours, France, Sunday, 22 June 2008 Jarno Trulli (ITA) Toyota celebrates his third position with the team.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, French Grand Prix, Race, Magny-Cours, France, Sunday, 22 June 2008 Nelson Piquet Jr. (BRA) Renault R28 and Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren Mercedes MP4/23.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, French Grand Prix, Race, Magny-Cours, France, Sunday, 22 June 2008 Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1.08.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, French Grand Prix, Race, Magny-Cours, France, Sunday, 22 June 2008

With the 2008 season rapidly approaching the halfway mark, Felipe Massa left France with the lead of the drivers’ championship. And on recent form, who’s to say he can’t go all the way? He may have benefitted from team mate Kimi Raikkonen’s technical woes, but even with a sick car, Ferrari’s one-two was emphatic. And as McLaren and BMW Sauber slipped down the order, it was Toyota who were partying hardest in the Magny-Cours paddock on Sunday evening. We take a team-by-team look at how the French Grand Prix played out...

Ferrari
Felipe Massa, 1m 16.729s, P1
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 16.630s, P2

Having taken pole, Raikkonen seemed an easy winner as he maintained a small but crucial margin over Massa. Then came his exhaust problem around the 33rd lap, which eventually cost him the lead and dropped him to a philosophical second place. On the one hand he was unlucky, on the other he was fortunate to make it to the finish as the engine was threatening to shut down in the final laps. Massa, who had qualified superbly with a heavier fuel load, was perfectly poised to take over as the wheel of fortune spun his way. As is so often the case here, Ferrari were in a class of their own, and the constructors’ points table more than reflects that.

Toyota
Jarno Trulli, 1m 17.567s, P3
Timo Glock, 1m 17.836s, P11

Third place was a great fillip for Toyota, as Trulli scored the marque’s first podium since Australia 2006 after a hard, pushy race which saw him hanging pretty tough on the penultimate lap as he resisted Kovalainen’s challenge. He likened the fight to racing karts. His six points moved Toyota further ahead of Williams. Glock seemed on for a good race when he ran sixth initially, but graining on his second set of Bridgestones created horrible understeer that dropped him down the order.

McLaren
Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 17.134s, P4
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 17.453s, P10

Yet again Hamilton went home without any points, this time almost certainly because the stewards judged his passing move on Vettel on the opening lap as worthy of a drive-through penalty. Hamilton and McLaren disagreed, but once he had served the penalty all chance of points had gone and he had to be content with a 10th place finish. The fastest lap times reveal that, this day, Ferrari had the upper hand in any case. Kovalainen was happy with a strategy that enabled him to move up from his penalised 10th place on the grid to fourth by the end of the race. Encouragingly, he said that his MP4-23 felt ‘fantastic’ throughout the race.

BMW Sauber
Robert Kubica, 1m 17.172s, P5
Nick Heidfeld, 1m 17.716s, P13

This was a disappointing race for BMW Sauber after the high in Canada. Kubica passed Alonso brilliantly on the outside of Turn One, but was repassed in the hairpin when he got bottled up behind Trulli who was carrying more fuel. His F1.08 lacked poise, but he took heart that his fifth place was only two seconds shy of the podium. Heidfeld had a terrible race, bemoaning his car’s balance on his way to 13th place.

Red Bull
Mark Webber, 1m 17.507s, P6
David Coulthard, 1m 17.818, P9

Both Red Bull drivers lost places at the start when their RB4s were slow getting off the line. Webber pushed hard to stay with Alonso early on, survived a near spin in the final corner when he banged the car over the kerbs too hard on new tyres and a full fuel load, and benefited when Renault’s strategy came up short. Three points for sixth place were extremely valuable. Coulthard rued balance problems on the prime Bridgestone.

Renault
Nelson Piquet, 1m 17.758s, P7
Fernando Alonso, 1m 17.641s, P8

Renault’s qualifying ploy was exposed when Alonso was the first to refuel after only 15 laps. By then he had failed to capitalise on a lightweight car and had fallen behind Trulli. Later he ran wide while lapping Fisichella, and surrendered seventh place to team mate Piquet. The latter had his best race yet in Formula One, fending off Hamilton early on despite running a heavier fuel load, chased down Alonso, and grabbed his first two points with a graceful move at the hairpin.

Toro Rosso
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 17.760s, P12
Sebastien Bourdais, 1m 18.216s, P17

Vettel was always in the middle of the midfield pack but struggled with some serious tyre graining which he said made his life harder. Bourdais lost ground to Nakajima at the start, and thereafter got stuck behind the Williams driver. Later he lost further time when, despite pulling away from the troubled Raikkonen, he still had to obey waved blue flags and let him by.

Honda
Rubens Barrichello, 1m 17.969s, P14
Jenson Button, 1m 20.876s, Retired lap 17, accident damage

Barrichello thought he had a great race in a difficult car, but agreed there was no escaping the fact that it was another painful weekend for Honda. It was even worse for Button, who collided with Bourdais on the opening lap. Yet again he sustained damage that would eventually render him the race’s sole retirement.

Williams
Kazuki Nakajima, 1m 18.054s, P15
Nico Rosberg, 1m 18.311s, P16

After Williams’ worst race of the year both drivers simply wanted to forget their struggle with lack of grip and look forward to Silverstone.

Force India
Giancarlo Fisichella, 1m 18.557s, P18
Adrian Sutil, 1m 18.462s, P19

Both drivers opted for aggressive strategies that didn’t really play out for them. And the minimal retirement rate left them trailing the field.