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Ferrari on the German Podium - Just - (Global)

July 21st, 2008



Felipe Massa made it to the third step of the podium at the end of the German Grand Prix at the weekend (20 July 2008) and his Scuderia Ferrari team-mate, Kimi Raikkonen finished where he started - in sixth.

The race was won by Lewis Hamilton for McLaren-Mercedes, while Nelson Piquet, having started from the penultimate row of the grid, brought his Renault home second thanks to a lucky and clever strategic break, only making a single pit stop.

"It was a difficult race,” admitted Massa at the end of the race. :Right from the beginning, Hamilton's pace seemed unbeatable and I understood that it would be very hard to beat him. I never had good grip and, in the final stages, I also had brake problems and was not even able to attack Piquet, whom I congratulate on the first podium of his career. We must try and understand why, this weekend, we have not been a match for our rivals. They have definitely improved, but I think this was more a case of us having taken a step backwards. However, we are still confident: we have the ability to get out of this situation, right from the next race."

Raikkonen had an even worse time in Germany.

"This was definitely not the kind of race we had been hoping for,” he said. “We have struggled all weekend and we have to try and understand why. Usually, our race pace is always good, but today that was not the case, because I almost always suffered with a lack of grip: only in the final stages did the situation improve a little bit, but it was never enough to be competitive. We have a test in Jerez, where we will try and improve the car so as to arrive in Budapest in better shape. This is definitely not a crisis, but we have to study carefully the handling of the car to understand if we have taken the right road in terms of development."

Hamilton now leads the Drivers' Championship on 58 points, four points more than second placed Massa, with Kimi third, a further three points down. In the Constructors' classification, Ferrari is still out in front on 105 points, with BMW Sauber second on 89, and McLaren-Mercedes a further three behind.

The grid formed up in the warmest conditions of the weekend, with Felipe Massa in second spot on the front row and Kimi Raikkonen in sixth place on row three. As the lights went out , Hamilton maintained his pole advantage for McLaren, while Felipe came under immediate pressure from the other McLaren of Kovalainen for several corners. Kubica in the BMW moved up from seventh to fourth ahead of Trulli in the Toyota and Alonso in the Renault, which meant that Raikkonen dropped one spot to seventh. Behind him was the Toro Rosso of Vettel, with Webber's Red Bull and Glock's Toyota completing the top ten. Kimi passed Alonso on lap four to go sixth.

By lap 4, Hamilton's lead over Felipe was 3.7 seconds and the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro driver had a 2.7 advantage over Kovalainen. Kimi was eleven seconds off the leader. As is often the case, one of the best battle was lower down the order, as Button (Honda) Coulthard (Red Bull) and Rosberg (Williams) had a great scrap for thirteenth spot.

On lap 10 of 67, Hamilton had a 7.0 lead over Felipe, with Kovalainen 5.2 behind. The order behind the top trio was Kubica, Trulli, Raikkonen, Alonso, Vettel, Webber, Glock, Heidfeld, Bourdais, Button, Coulthard, Rosberg, Barrichello, Nakajima, Piquet, Fisichella, Sutil.

The leader was the first to pit on lap 18 (9 seconds) and Kubica also came in from fourth. Trulli and Alonso came in together next time round, helping the Toyota to get ahead of the Renault. Felipe now led the race and Kovalainen by six seconds, until he refuelled on lap 20 (7.9.) Kovalainen came in on 21, along with Vettel. Kimi came in on lap 22 (8.0.) Webber and Bourdais refuelled on lap 23.

On lap 25, with all cars still running, the English McLaren driver led from the Brazilian Ferrari man, the gap between them 9.4 seconds. In third fourth and fifth, Glock, Kovalainen and Heidfeld had yet to make a pit stop, so that Kubica was sixth, 3.4 seconds ahead of Kimi. But once the late-stoppers refuelled, the Finnish Ferrari driver found himself fifth ahead of Trulli. The race had been pretty much incident free, but on lap 36, Timo Glock had a heavy crash in the Toyota which brought out the Safety Car. While the accident was going on, Piquet was refuelling his Renault and this would have a key effect on the final result.

On lap 38, when the pit lane was declared open, almost the entire field pitted, with Kimi queuing behind Felipe. This meant the top three was now Hamilton, Heidfeld and Piquet as they had yet to make a second stop. The race went live again for the final 27 laps with Felipe in fourth and Kimi in eleventh place. Vettel and Alonso were scrapping eighth which allowed Raikkonen to get ahead of the Renault to go ninth and then eighth as he got past Vettel too. The Finn was really flying now as he slipped past Trulli to take seventh and set off in pursuit of Kubica. Still having only stopped once, Hamilton was leading, 10.8 seconds ahead of fourth placed Felipe. Coulthard and Barrichello collided on lap 49, the Scotsman pitting for a new nose, but the Brazilian was out. Then Hamilton finally made his second stop on lap 50, promoting Felipe to third behind new leader Heidfeld in the BMW and Piquet in the Renault, both men having only stopped once. Heidfeld came in on lap 53, moving Felipe up to second, with Hamilton, on the softer tyres, now 1.4 behind him and catching.

The Ferrari man was not so happy with the way his F2008 was performing, struggling also with the brakes. On lap 57, the Englishman barged past the Brazilian at the hairpin to retake second and Felipe immediately fought back at the next corner, but he ran wide, costing him precious time. Meanwhile with ten laps remaining, race leader Piquet had still only made one pit stop. On lap 58, Alonso in tenth, spun but continued. By this stage, it was clear Piquet was not making another stop, but on lap 60, he was powerless to hold off Hamilton, who moved into the lead. Felipe was now 3.5 seconds behind his fellow countryman with seven laps to the flag, but he had Heidfeld just 0.7 behind. The remaining points positions went to Kovalainen fifth, Kimi sixth, Kubica seventh and Vettel eighth.

"This was not a good day and there's no point denying it,” said Ferrari Team Director, Stefano Domenicali. “Our rivals were stronger than us and we have to work out why, without however getting caught up in nebulous and superficial analysis. For the first time this season in a race, we did not have the pace we had expected to run at, with both Kimi and Felipe. We suffered constantly from a lack of grip and, in the final stages, Felipe's brakes were also overheating which complicated still further the management of his car. The Safety Car offered us the opportunity to give it another go and all things considered, I think we made the right choice in terms of strategy, but when your pace is inadequate, it is therefore difficult to get a good result. We have to work well over the coming days to react in the right manner to return to the level we were at just two races ago."

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