Ferrari first and third, but Alonso spoils the party
Ferraris Felipe Massas eyes brimmed as he celebrated his first Grand Prix victory in Turkey this afternoon, after a superbly judged drive. But all the focus was on a nail-biting fight for second place in his wake between title rivals Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher.
This dramatic race began with a first-corner accident when Giancarlo Fisichella spun his Renault after team mate Alonso had to brake hard to avoid contact with the two Ferraris. Alonso had slipped ahead of Schumachers, but was forced to brake as Massa moved across his nose to grab the lead, and then lost out to the German. Nick Heidfelds BMW Sauber lost its nose on the stricken Renault, and behind them there was carnage as Pedro de la Rosa was hit from behind by Ralf Schumacher. Then Scott Speed hit the back of Kimi Raikkonen, and a sideways Takuma Sato was hit by Tiago Monteiro, who retired on the spot. While that was happening, Schumacher Jnr swept across the track and collided lightly with Toyota team mate Jarno Trulli. Schumacher Jnr, Fisichella, Heidfeld, Speed, Raikkonen and Sato all pitted at the end of the lap before resuming, Sato many laps later. A lap later Raikkonen crashed heavily in Turn 4 after running off the road, possibly because of associated problems.
Meanwhile, Massa opened up a lead over Schumacher and Alonso, but there was further drama when Tonio Liuzzi spun his Toro Rosso in Turn 1 on lap 13. The safety car came out as the stalled hazard was removed, prompting pit stops from Massa, Schumacher, Alonso and fourth-placed Jenson Button, together with a following Mark Webber and Robert Kubica. Since his team mate was already being serviced, Schumacher lost time waiting and was overtaken by Alonso.
Massa and Alonso refuelled again on the 39th lap, by which time the Brazilian had opened up nine seconds over the Spaniard, who in turn was seven ahead of Schumacher. Michael had lost four seconds in one go on lap 28 when he momentarily ran off the road in Turn 8. Alonso had no answer to Massa, but now it remained to be seen how much longer Schumacher could run now that he had the lead. It was another four laps. When he finally pitted, on lap 43, Massa resumed the lead and, crucially, Alonso went by into second place. Schumacher was very close, however, and much happier with his third set of tyres after his second set had blistered. Over the remaining laps it was war. Schumacher came very close to grabbing second place on the 50th lap, but Alonso held his nerve and was able to open up a breather four laps later when Schumacher made a small error. By the finish, however, the official timing could not split them as Alonso just got the verdict after protecting his line into the final corner. It was wonderful racing.
Behind them, Button brought his Honda home a strong fourth from Pedro de la Rosas McLaren and the recovered Fisichella, while Schumacher Jnr also recovered well to take seventh just ahead of Rubens Barrichellos Honda. A strong drive from Webber once again went unrewarded as his Williams chased home ninth-placed Jarno Trulli. When David Coulthard retired his Red Bull only laps from home, Christian Klien brought his RB2 home 11th, ahead of Robert Kubica who had an adventurous afternoon for BMW Sauber. Speed took 13th ahead of Heidfeld, and Coulthard was classified 15th.
Christijan Albers drove a great race for Midland until running wide into the barriers after 46 laps, and the other retirements included Sato after his restart, Nico Rosberg with loss of water pressure in his Williams after 41 laps, and Sakon Yamamoto who spun in Turn 1 on lap 24.
The result puts Alonso 12 points ahead of Schumacher with four races remaining, and Ferrari within two of Renault, but spare a thought for Massa as he celebrated his triumph. Its just fantastic, he said, his voice occasionally wavering. When youve been working so hard your whole career to get to this moment, its just amazing. Now Im here, Im really happy. Its been a fantastic day for me.