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Rain Makes Monte Carlo A Real Gamble - (Global)

May 25th, 2008

A third place for Felipe Massa and a ninth for Kimi Raikkonen was definitely not what Scuderia Ferrari had expected, given that the two F2008 Ferraris started the Monaco GP from the front row at the weekend (25 May 2008).

However, the cliché about Monte Carlo being a lottery in the rain proved true today.

The race was won by the McLaren-Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and ironically, his victory stemmed partly from an early accident when he had to make an extra pit stop that worked in his favour in the run of rain and safety car periods.

Any chance Ferrari’s Brazilian driver had of hanging onto victory disappeared when he made a slight error in the treacherous conditions, spinning off at Ste Devote, fortunately without doing any damage. Joining these two on the podium in second place was BMW-Sauber's Robert Kubica.

"A shame to have ended up third because of a series of events that did not go in our favour, which can easily happen in these conditions and on this track,” explained Massa. “At the start, I was very quick and the car was perfect, but then I made a mistake at the first corner, braking on the yellow line and I lost a place to Robert. But after just a few laps I was right behind him and I knew I could push harder. We decided to switch strategies thinking the rain was going to return, but this turned out to be the wrong choice. On full tanks and on a drying track, the standard rain tyres did not have the same grip as the ones my nearest rivals were using. On top of that, there was a radio blackout between the car and the pits for part of the race. Given everything that happened, these six points are still important in light of the championship: we have only got through the first third of the season and there is still a long way to go."

Kimi also had his share of misfortune, including a spin and a "drive-through" penalty, because the Stewards deemed there had been a rule infringement on the grid. Both Ferrari drivers also lost out, switching to a strategy based on the rain returning, a prediction which turned out to be false.

"A very poor race for me, right from the off,” said Raikkonen. “There was a problem with a wheel before the start and we broke the rules, which meant I was given a drive-through penalty. During the race, my main problem was trying to get the tyres to work as well as possible. Then we decided to change the strategy as we expected it to rain again, but it didn't happen. Twice I had to change the nose after breaking the front wing. So, as you can see, a long run of things going wrong which explains the 0 points. I am sorry for Sutil, who I hit with just a few laps to go. I lost control of the car under braking coming out of the tunnel and I could do nothing to avoid him. It's a shame how things went today, as we had the potential to do well. It's true that I've lost the championship lead, but I always said the championship would be a very long one. Now we must prepare as well as possible for Canada where we will try to make up for this disappointment."

As far as the championships are concerned, the Scuderia still leads the Constructors, but McLaren-Mercedes has jumped ahead of BMW-Sauber to go second. In the Drivers' classification, Lewis Hamilton has moved into the lead, three points ahead of Kimi, who has one more point than Felipe.

As the cars set off on the formation lap, the rain was coming down and expected to continue for a further twenty minutes, so everyone was on rain tyres. Heikki Kovalainen's McLaren-Mercedes failed to get away for the formation lap and was pushed back into pit lane, to start from there. As the lights went out Massa got away cleanly into the lead, however, Raikkonen was immediately passed by Lewis Hamilton.

Jenson Button pitted the Honda on the first lap after colliding with Heidfeld's BMW, restarting with a new nose. As they came through the spray to complete the third lap the order was Massa, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Kubica, Alonso, Trulli, Glock, Heidfeld, Webber, Nakajima, Coulthard, BArrichello, Sutil, Bourdais, Piquet, Vettel, Fisichella, Kovalainen, Rosberg, who had just pitted for a new nose, with Button twentieth and last. Timo Glock's Toyota spun completely on lap four, touching the barriers on both sides of the track and had to pit for a new nose.

On lap 6, second placed Hamilton clipped a barrier, damaging the right rear wheel, forcing him to make a 9 second pit stop. This meant the Ferraris were now running first and second, with Robert Kubica promoted to third ahead of Fernando Alonso, with the English McLaren driver fifth. Felipe led his team-mate by 11.5 seconds on lap 7, but the Finn had his mirrors full of the BMW, as Kubica was just half a second behind him. Alonso lost fourth place after he too hit the barriers in his Renault and had to pit for a change of tyres.

Lap 8 saw more carnage, as David Coulthard crashed his Red Bull into the barriers at Turn 3, to be hit by Sebastian Bourdais' Toro Rosso, to put both men out of the race. This brought out the safety car while debris was cleared away. One lap later, the timing screens announced that the Stewards were investigating an incident involving car 1 (Raikkonen.) At the end of lap 10 the Safety Car came in to leave the two Ferraris in the lead ahead of Kubica, Hamilton, Heidfeld with Webber sixth. Raikkonen was given a drive-thru penalty apparently because his "tyres not fully fitted at the 3 minute signal." He came in for the penalty at the end of lap 13 and rejoined in fourth place.

Meanwhile, Alonso drove into Heidfeld at the hairpin, causing a traffic jam and sending Alonso back into the pits for a second new nose. On lap 16, Massa spun at Ste Devote which put Kubica into the lead, with Felipe 2.4s behind him. Hamilton was third, Raikkonen fourth, Heidfeld fifth and Webber sixth. Lap 17, saw Heidfeld's BMW slow and crawl back to the pits for another nose change. By lap 19, Massa had closed the gap to the leader so he was now only 1.4s behind Kubica, with 9.9 seconds in hand over Hamilton. Raikkonen was a further 3 seconds down and a comfortable 25.2 ahead of fifth placed Webber.

On lap 26, the leader refuelled in 8.9 seconds and next time round Raikkonen, having spun, came in for a new nose, as well as fuel and tyres. He was driving again after 16.1 seconds. On lap 28, Felipe was back in the lead, but yet to pit and 17 seconds clear of Hamilton. Raikkonen's problems had dropped him to sixth.

Felipe's pit stop came at the end of lap 33, five laps short of half distance. The Brazilian was stationary for 11.7 seconds. He came out in second place, behind Hamilton who had yet to pit and only just in front of Kubica. In the Force India, Giancarlo Fisichella's 200th Grand Prix ended when he had to park his car at the side of the track. The most exciting battle in the mid field was the fight for tenth place between Piquet, Rosberg and Button. By lap 44, Hamilton had pulled out a lead of 25.3 seconds over Massa, who had 8.4 in hand over Kubica. The top six was completed by Webber, Sutil and Raikkonen, with the Finn 66.5 seconds behind the race leader. Piquet crashed out in the Renault at Ste Devote on lap 50.

Third placed Kubica made his second stop on lap 54, while Adrian Sutil came in from fourth for his one stop at the same time. They were followed in by race leader Hamilton, stationary for 7.1 seconds, but he still rejoined in the lead. Then on lap 57, Massa came in to pit lane again to switch to dry weather tyres, followed in by his team mate who did the same. With eighteen laps remaining, the order was Hamilton, Kubica, Massa, Sutil, Raikkonen, Webber, Vettel Barrichello, and Nakajima. Rosberg had been tenth but he had a very big crash at the Swimming Pool that brought out the Safety Car again, until lap 68, leaving a very short race ahead as by this stage the grand prix was just eight minutes off its maximum two hours rule. Disaster for Raikkonen who ran into the back of Sutil at the chicane, forcing him to crawl around to the pits again, for another new nose.

The race stopped after two hours, with 76 of the 78 laps completed. The order was Hamilton, Kubica, Massa, Webber, Vettel, Barrichello, Nakajima, Kovalainen, Raikkonen ninth, Alonso, Button, Glock, Trulli and Heidfeld 14th and last.

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