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Formula One Championship Goes to the Wire

Formula One Championship Goes to the Wire

Two Ferrari drivers on the podium in China at the weekend (19 October 2008) in the penultimate round of the 2008 Formula One Championship was not enough to decide the 2008 titles and battle for the titles will now move to the final round in Brazil.

Second and third for Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen respectively in the Chinese Grand Prix, but a mountain to climb for the Brazilian driver with one round remaining in the world championship, as the winner, producing what one has to say was a faultless lights to flag performance, was Lewis Hamilton.

This means the Englishman extends his lead over Massa to seven points with just ten to play for in Brazil in a fortnight's time.

"This is a great result for the team, less so for me,” admitted Massa. “The race was a difficult one: we were not quick enough to fight against Hamilton. Losing two points does not mean that I have lost hope. I will continue to fight right to the very end and I can't wait to race in Interlagos in front of my home crowd: I will try my luck there - it will be the first time for a Brazilian - which will be a further incentive. There was no specific element that wasn't working on my car. It's just that today it was impossible for me to win. I feel a bit as though I'm in a penalty shoot-out in the football World Cup finals: we have missed the first two shots, while the other team has scored and therefore we cannot make any more mistakes and hope that they make three. It will be very difficult, but not impossible as we saw last year. The team is united and has faith: that is very important and nice too.”

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In the Constructors' classification, Scuderia Ferrari leads its closest rivals, McLaren-Mercedes by eleven points.

"Today I had a good car, but it was not quick enough to beat our main competitor,” said Raikkonen. “At the start and after every tyre change, Hamilton managed to pull away, while when it got near to the pit stops I was able to go a bit quicker, but it was always too late. On top of that, three times, I came up behind backmarkers who cost me valuable time. We secured a very good result for the Constructors' classification. Now we go to Brazil where we must try and get a one-two finish and then we can see where we stand in both Championships. Felipe passing me? I am part of a team and I am well aware what they expect of me. I am out of the title fight and have to do the maximum because Ferrari can achieve both its objectives. It's a simple as that.”

As the cars gridded the forecast was for some chance of rain around the mid-point of the race. Kimi was on the front row alongside pole man Hamilton, while Felipe was behind the McLaren driver in third place, with Fernando Alonso alongside him.

When the penultimate round of the world championship got underway, the majority of the cars were on the prime tyre, but the Ferraris were on the option. As the lights went out, the first three left the grid in order, Hamilton, Kimi and Felipe, with Kovalainen getting ahead of Alonso with the Renault man then getting the better of the Finn a few corners later. Most progress was made by Webber, going from 16th to 12th but he was running very light and would stop early. Trulli and Bourdais tangled shortly after the start and dropped to the back of the field. Trulli was the first to retire, on lap 3 in the Toyota. After four laps, Hamilton had a 2.7 lead over Kimi with Massa a further 20 behind.

The leader then put in a fastest lap to extend his lead to 3.1. Alonso was still in touch with Felipe, but behind the Renault a gap of almost 5 seconds passed before the rest of the field crossed the line.

By lap 10, Hamilton had extended his lead over Kimi to 3.9 and over Felipe to 4.0. Behind them came Alonso, Kovalainen, Heidfeld, Vettel, Kubica, Webber with Piquet completing the top ten. Next time round and Kimi put in a fastest race lap, reducing the gap by 2 tenths. The best battle at this stage involved Rosberg's Williams all over the back of Glock's Toyota for 12th place, the Finn finally getting the upper hand.

As expected, Webber who had climbed as high as ninth, was the first to pit on lap 12. There were now almost identical gaps between the lead trio so that Hamilton to Massa was now 8.4 until Felipe refuelled on lap 14 for 9 seconds, with Alonso also coming in at this time. The race leader came in next time round (9.4) as did Raikkonen. Kovalainen and Heidfeld now were in the top two slots, followed by Hamilton, Vettel, Raikkonen, Kubica and Massa seventh.

Heidfeld pitted on 17, Kovalainen and Vettel on 18. When Kubica finally made his refuelling stop on lap 25, the order at the front returned to its original setting, with Hamilton 6.9 ahead of Kimi, (the gap was coming down) followed by Felipe, (8.7 behind his team-mate,) Alonso, Kovalainen and Heidfeld seventh. If Kimi was closing the gap to the leader, Felipe was losing ground slightly to the Finn around the halfway point of the 56 lap race. Lap 30 and the gap between the lead two had grown again, to 7.5, as Kimi was in traffic. It grew to 8 two laps later.

Nakajima made his first stop and Webber his second on lap 32, while at the front, everything remained the same: Hamilton, Kimi, Felipe, Alonso, Kovalainen, Heidfeld, Kubica, Piquet, Vettel and Glock completing the top ten. There was a change when Kovalainen got a puncture and had to cruise back the pits. Alonso made his final stop from fourth on lap 36, with Felipe making his second stop on lap 37 (7.5.) Next in the race, leader followed in by Kimi

Lap 42, the gap between Hamilton and Kimi was over 12 seconds, but Felipe was closing on his team-mate, only 2 seconds behind. On lap 49, Felipe closed his team-mate down and went past to go second. But he was 16.5 seconds behind the McLaren man with only seven laps remaining. That's how it stayed to the flag with Alonso fourth, Heidfeld fifth, Kubica, sixth, Glock seventh and Piquet in the last points position eighth.

"Today, we did the best we could at the end of a weekend when our main rival proved to be superior to us in terms of performance, both over a single lap and in terms of race pace,” said Stefano Domenincali. “These fourteen points are very important for the Constructors' championship, in which we have increased our lead. Felipe has lost a bit of ground but now has nothing to lose, and he will give it his best shot in his home race, where he can count on the warm support of his fans We will try and give our drivers a car with more performance than we had today. To do that, we need to analyse what did not work on this track, also taking into account that things can change very quickly: at Fuji and in Singapore we were better than our competitors in terms of performance, while here it was the opposite. Felipe passing Kimi? Our drivers are well aware what is in the best interests of the team and they acted accordingly. Indeed, events like this have already happened this season in other teams, which is a normal state of affairs in a sport like Formula 1.”


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