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Kovalainen overjoyed, Hamilton and Massa rue misfortune 03 Aug 2008

Race winner Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) McLaren celebrates victory with a Finnish journalist.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Race, Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, 3 August 2008 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren Mercedes MP4/23 locks up his front left wheel under braking.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Race, Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, 3 August 2008. © Sutton Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F2008 retires from the race.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Race, Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, 3 August 2008. © Sutton Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari walks back through the pits after retiring from the lead of the race in the closing laps.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Race, Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, 3 August 2008

A few laps into Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix and few would have given McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen much chance of victory. Yes, he was clearly faster than those behind him, but it was also obvious he didn’t have the pace to live with team mate Lewis Hamilton and the Ferrari of Felipe Massa ahead of him.

His chances changed dramatically, however, as his rivals hit trouble. First came a front-left damaged tyre for Hamilton at just gone half distance, which dropped the Englishman from second to 10th. Then Massa was robbed of almost certain victory by an engine failure just three laps from home.

"I feel sorry for Felipe because he drove a great race, but my car felt good and I knew I could push for the victory,” said Kovalainen after his maiden win. “This is a great moment for me, something I’ve been targeting for many years. Hopefully, this victory will be the first of many."

Hamilton was philosophical after his misfortune saw him finish fifth, enough at least for him to retain a healthy advantage in the title standings. A poor start from pole dropped him behind Massa on lap one, but the Brazilian’s late demise ensured a bad race was not as disastrous as it might have been for the Briton.

“I feel I could have had a go at passing him (Massa), but the damaged tyre halted my progress,” said Hamilton. “I don’t yet know what happened. But at least I scored four points and maintained my lead in the championship, so this result is not too bad for me."

Massa was understandably devastated after driving a superb race, which, had he won, would have seen him leave Budapest leading the championship. As it is he now lies third on 54 points, three behind team mate Kimi Raikkonen and eight shy of Hamilton.

"It happened completely without warning, without giving the slightest indication,” said the Brazilian of his engine failure. “I was managing the race, because I had a good advantage over second place after Hamilton was delayed with a problem and I was taking no risks whatsoever. I am very frustrated at the moment, because today we had a great car and we had done everything perfectly until just a few kilometres from the finish.

“Unfortunately, racing can be a cruel sport. We had given it our all, but these things can happen. Now we must not give up, but instead we must react quickly. There are seven races to go and 70 points up for grabs, which means there is plenty of time to make up ground. Our rivals are strong but we have shown we are at their level."

Ferrari’s woes allowed McLaren to take a significant bite out of the Italian team’s lead in the constructors’ championship, with the difference now just 11 points.