Massa wins European GP

Updated: 30 August 2008 08:54 IST

The Ferrari driver's fourth win this season came on a day teammate Kimi Raikkonen injured a pit mechanic and blew his engine.

Valencia (Spain):

Felipe Massa won Sunday's European Grand Prix for Ferrari on the new street circuit around the harbour in Valencia and revived his challenge for this year's drivers' championship.

The 27-year-old Brazilian came home ahead of championship leading Briton Lewis Hamilton in a McLaren-Mercedes with Poland's Robert Kubica third for BMW Sauber.

Massa's win lifted him up to second in the drivers championship with 64 points, six fewer than Hamilton on 70, with six of this year's 18 races remaining.

It was Massa's fourth win this season and helped him wipe away the disappointment of his enforced retirement, while leading, with three laps remaining in the Hungarian Grand Prix three weeks ago.

The win was the ninth of his career and was achieved in exemplary fashion as he drove from pole position to the chequered flag without a worry apart from a problem at his second pit-stop.

Then Ferrari released him a little early and dangerously and this resulted in a stewards investigation that was scheduled to take place after the race.

In another incident, his Ferrari team-mate, defending champion Finn Kimi Raikkonen, was involved in a disastrous pit stop that left a mechanic injured two laps before his engine blew and forced him to retire.

Hamilton's McLaren team-mate Heikki Kovalainen of Finland came home fourth ahead of Italian veteran Jarno Trulli in a Toyota and 21-year-old German Sebastian Vettel who was sixth for Toro Rosso.

Timo Glock of Germany was seventh for Toyota and another German Nico Rosberg eighth for Williams.

On a hot day with the sun blazing, Massa and Hamilton both set a blistering pace over the opening 15 laps, trading fastest laps, until the Brazilian came into the pits for the first time.

Massa had built up a lead of 4.8 seconds before his stop and that cushion served him well as after all the leading drivers had made their first stop the Brazilian led by three seconds ahead of Hamilton.

Behind the leading duo, it was a sad story for the Spanish fans packed into the temporary grandstands around the Mediterranean harbour as their local hero Fernando Alonso was forced to retire after the opening lap.

The two-times world champion was hit, from the rear, by the Williams of Japanese Kazuki Nakajima and suffered serious damage to his Renault car. He pulled into the team garage in a bid to rejoin the race after repairs, but was forced to retire.

"We have suspension, gearbox and rear wing damage," said Alonso. "It is too much. We tried to repair the car for the fans, so I could race, but it is too much and that is it."

As Alonso, and his supporters, licked their wounds, the leading group continued circulating in an unchanging formation, proving as feared that this street circuit is much like all the rest - not a provider of overtaking opportunities.

Apart from the interruptions and alterations caused by the pit stops, there had been no passing moves at all, worthy of note, in the opening 25 laps of the 57-laps race.

Massa continued to lap rapidly and opened up his lead from three seconds, after 20 laps, to 8.5 seconds by lap 33, much to the disappointment of the big contingent of British holidaymakers in the crowd.

Much has been made, by the organisers and the F1 circus, of this inaugural race being a street race to stand alongside Monaco, but, as many observers noted, it has more in common with Benidorm.

Indeed, it is probable that there was more action on a Benidorm beach.

Massa pitted for a second time after 37 laps and, after a rapid stop, rejoined dangerously, squeezing close behind German Adrian Sutil, in a Force India car, in the pit-lane.

It was classified as an 'unsafe release' by Ferrari and the stewards announced an investigation.

This put Hamilton in the lead again until he stopped, rejoining second again behind the Brazilian shortly before the stewards, surprisingly, announced they would decide about Massa's second stop after the race. The normal sanction for such a mistake is a 'drive-through' penalty.

Worse was to follow for Ferrari, however, when Raikkonen made his second stop and a mechanic was injured as the Finn was signalled to exit rapidly, before the refuelling rig was disengaged.

In the end, the Finn left the pits as mechanics leapt to aid one man lying on the concrete pit apron with a suspected broken left leg. He was loaded on to a stretcher and then taken by trolley to the medical centre.

The stewards announced a further investigation into Ferrari's pit stops would take place after the race.

Two laps later, Raikkonen's Ferrari blew up in a cloud of smoke on the pits straight and he pulled over and retired after parking it by the barriers.

All this still left Massa out in front by 7.5 seconds ahead of Hamilton, with Kubica third and Kovalainen fourth as they went into the final 10 laps with the Brazilian praying his engine would survive.

Topics : Formula 1 Felipe Massa
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