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Turkey Flashback 2008 - Massa makes it a hat trick 06 Jun 2009

Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Force India F1 VJM01 leaves the pits on a green light.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Turkish Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Istanbul Park, Turkey, Saturday, 10 May 2008 Rubens Barrichello (BRA)Honda Racing F1 Team to celebrates 257 GPs with Ross Brawn (GBR) Honda F1 Team Principal and Nick Fry (GBR) Honda Racing F1 Team Chief Executive Officer.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Turkish Grand Prix, Race Day, Istanbul Park, Turkey, Sunday, 11 May 2008 Jarno Trulli (ITA) Toyota TF108 on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Turkish Grand Prix, Race, Istanbul Park, Turkey, Sunday, 11 May 2008 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F2008.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Turkish Grand Prix, Race, Istanbul Park, Turkey, Sunday, 11 May 2008 Race winner Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari celebrates on the podium.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Turkish Grand Prix, Race, Istanbul Park, Turkey, Sunday, 11 May 2008

Super Aguri’s withdrawal from the championship dominated the headlines as the F1 paddock moved to Turkey last season, but Ferrari had other concerns. After a solid one-two at the preceding Spanish round (and successive wins at Istanbul Park in 2006 and ‘07), the Italian team arrived in a strong position, but wary of the McLaren and BMW Sauber threat to their supremacy.

Renault were upbeat after their robust Barcelona performance and Honda were confident the RA108 would take to the smooth Turkish track. And Toro Rosso confirmed the Istanbul race would be the last showing for their STR2B, before a Monte Carlo debut for the new STR3.

Felipe Massa soon put paid to any Ferrari concerns on Friday, heading the timesheets in the morning session from the McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen and Lewis Hamilton. During the afternoon the champions stayed on top, this time Raikkonen setting the fastest time from Hamilton and Massa.

A rain shower left the track slippery enough to catch out Mark Webber, who went into the barriers at Turn Six, but Red Bull team mate David Coulthard was fourth, ahead of Kovalainen and BMW Sauber’s Robert Kubica. Ferrari may have dominated the opening day, but McLaren, Red Bull et al proved there was still everything to play for.

Sure enough, during Saturday’s final practice Red Bull staked their claim. Webber set the quickest time and Coulthard went third fastest, with Renault’s Fernando Alonso splitting the RB4s. While the times were very close - just nine-tenths of a second separated the first 16 cars - Saturday afternoon was unequivocally Massa’s, with the Brazilian clinching his third consecutive pole at the track.

Kovalainen, showing no ill effects from the his massive accident at the Spanish Grand Prix a fortnight earlier, took second on the grid ahead of Hamilton, who blamed his choice of the harder tyre for his slower final run. Raikkonen was fourth, ahead of Kubica, Webber, Alonso, Trulli, Nick Heidfeld in the second BMW Sauber, and Coulthard.

But while Massa had wrapped up qualifying very nicely, with overtaking at Istanbul Park far from impossible the Brazilian wasn’t taking anything for granted as he looked ahead to Sunday’s race.

“I am very happy to have taken a third consecutive pole at this circuit - it is really motivating and it would be fantastic to do the same again in the race,” the Brazilian said. “The car was great and I got the most out of it. Tomorrow I will have to watch out for all those who are around me on the grid.”

At the start, Massa didn’t watch for long as he streaked away into the lead. But on Lap 24 it looked like his fears had been realised, when Hamilton squeezed past him with a gutsy overtaking move. But it soon transpired that the Briton, wary of his tyres’ durability, was on an unusual three-stop strategy. And when he stopped a few laps later, Massa regained the lead and retained it to the flag to move into joint second in the championship, level with Hamilton on 28 points, seven behind Raikkonen.

“It’s fantastic to have got the hat trick here in Istanbul,” exclaimed Massa. “It might really almost be worth asking for a Turkish passport! It was a very tough race but the team work magnificently, giving me a great car. When Hamilton came underneath me at an incredible pace, I preferred not to take too many risks: the pit wall informed he that he was clearly running a lighter fuel load. When that became clear, we were calmer, knowing we had everything in place to go for the win.”

Despite three-stopping, Hamilton crossed the finish line second, closely followed by Raikkonen, with the BMW Saubers of Kubica and Heidfeld fourth and fifth. Alonso gave Renault a lift with his sixth-place finish ahead of Webber, while Rosberg took the final point for Williams. Coulthard, Trulli and Button finished ninth, tenth and 11th respectively.

Kovalainen, 12th, was the day’s unluckiest runner. He had been running second, but had to make an unscheduled stop after minor contact with the front wing of Raikkonen’s Ferrari resulted in a slow rear puncture. It was a stinging day for Honda’s Rubens Barrichello too. Despite it being his record-breaking 257th race, he managed no more than 14th, behind Timo Glock in the second Toyota.

Even a year later, Massa still remembers his success at Istanbul in 2008 fondly, and is hoping to extend his winning streak with a fourth victory this weekend.

“I find it difficult to explain why I should be so strong here, other than the fact we had three fantastic weekends in Turkey, when everything worked perfectly, with the car performing very well right from the first session. It would be nice to carry on in the same direction. I just like the track and feel comfortable there, but it’s hard to pinpoint why it suits me better than some other circuits. It will be fantastic if we find we are in a position to fight for the win in Turkey.”