Felipe Massa secured Scuderia Ferrari's fourth win from five races this season, his second this year, to take a hat-trick of Turkish Grand Prix victories.
"Its fantastic to have got the hat trick here in Istanbul: it might really almost be worth asking for a Turkish passport!,” said Massa after the race. “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 cleary running a lighter fuel load even if we were not certain he was on a three stop strategy. When that became clear, we were calmer, knowing we had everything in place to go for the win. My engineer, Rob, guided my pace and I drove in such a way as to keep ahead of Lewis. Maybe the hard tyres worked better today, but from what we saw over the weekend, the softs were more competitive and in any case, the difference was not that great. I want to dedicate this win to two people: to my mother on Mothers Day and to Stefano Domenicali whose birthday it is today."
Starting from fourth on the grid, Kimi Raikkonen also put in a strong drive to come home third, joining his team-mate and second placed Lewis Hamilton on the podium.
"It was a difficult weekend for me but six points are definitely better than nothing,” said Raikkonen. At the start, I was almost alongside Heikki but then he slowed and I had to brake too to avoid a heavy crash. We touched just enough to damage the end plate of the front wing on my car: it was not a very serious problem, but it definitely didn't help my race. My first set of soft tyres worked very well, but the second was not as good: for the rears, maybe it would have been better to switch immediately to the harder, but that's easy to say with hindsight. After a less than great qualifying yesterday, we knew the race would be an uphill struggle. Now we must ensure we are as well prepared as possible for the Monaco Grand Prix, where we struggled in 2007. This winter we worked a lot on the car to concentrate on those shortcomings which we saw at tracks like this. Now we will see if we did enough to be competitive."
With the quarter point of the season now passed, the numbers tell the story: Ferrari heads the Constructors' table on 63 points, nineteen points ahead of BMW Sauber, Kimi is still up at the top of the Drivers' classification on 35, with Felipe now moving up to second, seven points behind the Finn.
"We are very happy with this result, but we know it was a tough one to get. Felipe drove a great race and made the most of yesterday's pole position, but given what happened at the start, Kimi's result in managing to get onto the podium, could have been a lot worse,” said Ferrari team director Stefano Domenicali. “It was yet another example of the fact that, in this sport, it takes very little for the pendulum to swing one way or the other. We wanted to continue down this winning path which started as a reaction to the heavy hit we took in Melbourne and we have managed it. We hope this is a nice wedding present for Clementina, the daughter of our President, Luca di Montezemolo! These sixteen points are the result of the work from the whole team at all levels and that is why we chose Francesco Uguzzoni, the head mechanic to go on the podium and pick up the winning team trophy. Now we have to prepare maybe even more carefully for the next rounds: at Monaco and Canada last year, we suffered a lot and we will have to do our best in preparing for these races, both in the test session at Paul Ricard, from next Wednesday to Friday and in analyzing the data back in Maranello."
The grid formed up in untypically chilly conditions for Turkey, with an ambient temperature of just 17 degrees and keeping tyres warm was made even harder as the Safety Car came out immediately after the start because of a collision that Fisichella and Nakajima. Massa got a perfect start from pole, with Lewis Hamilton charging into second place from third ahead of Kubica who got ahead of Kovalainen who made a bad start from second place.
The Finnish McLaren driver pitted as soon as the race restarted on lap 2 for a change of tyres. Raikkonen found his path blocked off the line and had dropped two places to sixth, moving up to fifth after the McLaren had pitted. So the order on lap 3 was: Massa, Hamilton, Kubica, Raikkonen, Alonso, Webber, Heidfeld, Rosberg, Coulthard, Trulli, Button, Barrichello, Glock, Bourdais, Piquet, Vettel, Sutil and Kovalainen, 18th and last.
Out in front, Massa was having to push hard, as second placed Hamilton was only 1.4 seconds behind on lap 7 and only 1.1 five laps later. Why was the McLaren so fast? All would be revealed later! Kubica's BMW was a further 5.3 behind, while Raikkonen was 1.1 down on the Polish driver, with a comfortable 2.1 seconds in hand over Alonso's Renault. The fight for first place was turning into a fascinating duel, as the McLaren man seemed to always have a slight advantage in the first two sectors of the track, but the Ferrari had the edge in the third and final part of the lap.
Alonso was the first driver to make a planned pit stop bringing his Renault in on lap 15 and next time round, Hamilton came in for a 6.4 stop, which took the pressure off Massa, who came in for an 8.2 second stop on lap 19, as did Kubica in the BMW. But a Ferrari still led, as these stops promoted Raikkonen to first place, the Finn immediately setting a fastest lap with a clear track ahead of him. Next time round, he made his first stop, stationary for 8.6 seconds. Heidfeld who had been up to second in the BMW, also refuelled on this lap. Massa was leading again, but not for long, as Hamilton tried a very brave move running down to the hairpin to pass the Ferrari man on lap 24. This meant the two F2008 were running in convoy, as Raikkonen was third, 9.3 behind his team-mate and 4.1 ahead of Kubica.
With 28 laps of 58 remaining, the lead McLaren now headed Felipe by 6.3 seconds lapping almost a second quicker than the Brazilian, while Kimi was now running a solitary race behind Massa with a 4.8 second lead over Kubica. In the remaining points positions, were Heidfeld fifth, then Alonso, Webber and Button who pitted the Honda on lap 31.
On lap 32, Hamilton made his second stop, thus handing the lead back to the Ferrari duo. The TV caption indicated the McLaren driver had enough fuel to get to the flag. Was this right? Wait and see! Sometimes the best battles are not at the front and that was the case in Istanbul, as in the middle order, there were two fantastic fights for eleventh place between Button and Piquet and for thirteenth between Kovalainen and Glock.
Massa made his final 7.3 second stop on lap 40, with fourth placed Kubica also pitting on the same lap. Hamilton was now the McLaren meat in a Ferrari sandwich, as Raikkonen inherited the lead when Massa rejoined in third place, with the Englishman back in the lead when Kimi made his second and final stop for 7.1 seconds on lap 43. This meant that with 14 laps to go, Hamilton looked set for a relatively secure sprint to the flag as he led Felipe by 14.4s, with Kimi a further 7.1 behind. But things are not always what they seem and the pace of the McLaren now became clear as Hamilton came in for a third stop on lap 45, which promoted Massa to the number one position yet again.
McLaren had in fact opted to put their English driver on a three stop strategy, which is why, on lighter fuel loads, he appeared to be quicker than the Ferraris. With eight laps remaining, the Finn had closed to within 0.7 seconds of Hamilton, but it was clear that he would not get past and Kimi made sure of a good third place. Off the podium but in the points were Robert Kubica, fourth and Nick Heidfeld fifth for BMW Sauber, Fernando Alonso sixth for Renault, Mark Webber seventh for Red Bull Renault and Nico Rosberg eighth for Williams Toyota.
"All in all, a really good result,” explains Ferrari’s Luca Baldisserri. “We had the potential to get a one-two, but after what happened at the start, we could have ended up with one car outside the points. The choice of when to use which tyre was based on data gathered in free practice and on past experience at this track, as well as a logical prediction of how the track surface would evolve. With hindsight, it is easy to say that we could have gone for a different choice. The team worked well and the cars ran trouble free, which included amongst other things, successfully completing the useage cycle of four races for the gearbox: for this and for their usual technical contribution I would like to thank Shell especially. Now we can expect two tricky races, where last year we were not competitive enough to win. We have worked a lot to remedy the problems which we had there and now we will find out if we have worked in the right direction."
The next round of the championship takes place at the most glamorous venue on the calendar in Monaco, where driver confidence and good team spirit play a key role - what better way to go there than leading both championships.
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