French GP: Massa leads dominant Ferrari 1-2
Felipe Massa led a Ferrari 1-2 in the French GP today at Magny-Cours beating his teammate Kimi Raikkonen by 17.9 seconds back. Third place went to Jarno Trulli in the Toyota, 28.2 seconds behind the leader. Massa was lucky in that his faster teammate, Raikkonen, had exhaust problems on his Ferrari, which enabled Massa to win.
Raikkonen was on his way to a comfortable victory when exhaust leak developed. Despite pitting earlier than Massa, he established a six-second advantage in the first half of the race. However, the exhaust leak slowed him and he had to let his teammate through. Such was Ferrari's dominance that even with the leak Raikkonen still finished well ahead of the third place car.
Trulli battled to the finish with Heikki Kovalainen in his McLaren-Mercedes in fourth, half a second behind. Robert Kubica finished in fifth place in his BMW Sauber, followed by Mark Webber in the Red Bull-Renault in sixth, Nelson Piquet in the Renault in seventh place, and his teammate Fernando Alonso finishing in the final points paying position.
Lewis Hamilton took his 10 place grid penalty from the Canadian GP and was never a factor, especially after he was hit with a second penalty and was awarded a drive-through for cutting the Nurburgring chicane while passing Sebastian Vettel on the first lap. The McLaren driver was only able to recover to 10th.
Raikkonen believes he would not have finished the French Grand Prix on Sunday had the event lasted just two more laps.
"It was disappointing in the end," he shrugged. "We had a good car all weekend. I was on pole and leading quite easily and then I had problem with the car. Unfortunately, that happens sometimes. We were still lucky to finish the race and get the eight points.
"On the last couple of laps the car almost stopped a few times. So even if it's disappointing not to win I still took eight points... and it's much better in the championship, I'm in a more confident position. A great the result for the team, just an unlucky situation [for me]."
Despite his problem in more detail, he explained: "We just lost most of the power, so that was the biggest problem. We lost the power and then it came back. The car was slow in the straight line and also out of the low-speed corners so it was difficult.
"But luckily we were fast enough in the beginning to go away from the others, and we had enough gap.
"I suspect two more laps and we would have not finished the race. Like I said before it's disappointing but still eight points is good for the championship and good for the team. Everybody did their best but unfortunately these things happen in racing."
Asked what the final laps in damp conditions were like, he added: "It was like having traction control! I didn't have power out of corners so it didn't really affect me at all."
Robert Kubica admitted that the French Grand Prix was principally about damage control for his BMW Sauber team.
The Pole took the lead of the Drivers' championship following his victory in Canada two weeks ago, but the Swiss-based squad just never found their grove at Magny-Cours.
"We didn't score as many points as we wanted to here in Magny-Cours," said Kubica, who finished fifth.
"Over the whole weekend we tried to minimize the problems we had, and we knew the race would be decided on the first lap. At the start I tried to overtake Jarno Trulli, but did not manage it. I tried again in turn 5 on the outside, but it did not work out.
"In the end I have to say I am pretty happy. I finished fifth, only two seconds away from the podium. We now have to analyze what happened here and see how we can improve for the next race."
Race winner Felipe Massa is happy to be in the points lead now.
"It's a great pleasure to lead, and hopefully we can stay in that position to the end," said Massa.
"For the moment we've won nothing, just some races, and the championship is open 100 percent, with many races to go."
"We just need to keep doing our job race by race, thinking about the points, about winning, although second and third are good."
"We also need to think about the championship until the last race, and then we will know if we did the right job, had the right luck and did everything we could to win."
"Because my dream is not just to lead the championship, it is to win the championship."
"I am going to do the best I can to try and achieve that. That is my goal, and hopefully one day we can celebrate that."
Winner Felipe Massa - the first Brazilian championship leader since the great Ayrton Senna in 1993 - admitted that, given the Finn's peerless pace, "it would have been hard for me to beat him on the track".
Timo Glock struggled with handling and was a long way behind at the checker, finishing 11th.
Kovalainen fared better, fighting back from his own grid penalty to be fourth at the flag, despite a spirited attempt to pass Trulli right at the end.
David Coulthard finished 8 seconds behind Alonso in ninth.
Alonso started third but lost positions on the first lap, and Piquet got past due to a mistake. "I was not able to find the pace I had shown yesterday," he said.
Local driver Sebastien Bourdais only led home the slow Force Indias.
Rubens Barrichello started last, after a gearbox change penalty, and he fought back to be the first of the six lapped cars. "There is no escaping the fact that this has been a painful weekend for us," he said.
Fastest lap: Raikkonen, 1:16.630
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