Kovalainen grabs first win after Hamilton and Massa suffer failures

2008 Hungarian Grand Prix review

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Felipe Massa was three laps away from victory in the Hungarian Grand Prix – and the lead of the world championship – when a shock engine failure ended an excellent drive.

Massa had muscled his way past Lewis Hamilton at the start and had been poised to take seven points off the McLaren driver who had fallen to sixth after a puncture.

But Hamilton kept his championship lead while team mate Heikki Kovalainen seized the opportunity to score his maiden win.

Massa’s magnificent start

McLaren had the front row to themselves but it was a Ferrari that reached the first corner first – Massa’s. He out-dragged Kovalainen and Hamilton before passing Hamilton around the outside of the first corner – some payback for their brief encounter at Hockenheim.

Race day had brought hotter temperatures and the Ferraris seemed to cope with them much better than the McLarens did. Massa eked out an advantage over Hamilton, tenth by tenth, until his lead reached three seconds by lap 17.

But the other Ferrari was stuck. Starting sixth on the dirty side of the grid, Kimi Raikkonen could do nothing to keep Fernando Alonso from passing him at the start. He spent the first stint staring at the rear of the Renault, usually about one second behind, while Alonso dropped back from Timo Glock and Robert Kubica in fourth and fifth.

Felipe Massa: great start, awful finish

Hamilton hits trouble

Alonso lost so much time that when Massa made his first stop on lap 18 he came out of the pits ahead of the Renault drier, with Raikkonen still tucked up behind him. Hamilton went one lap further before pitting, but re-joined the race behind Raikkonen.

Fortunately for him Alonso and Raikkonen pitted together on lap 21, heaving him around three seconds behind Massa, just as he had been before the pit stops. And McLaren reckoned he had a few extra laps’ worth of fuel to give him a chance of passing Massa at the final round of pit stops.

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That was the theory, but they didn’t get the chance to put it into practice. On lap 41 Hamilton’s front left tyre deflated at the very first turn, forcing him to do an entire lap on a punctured tyre, and then do a 29-lap stint on the super-soft tyres they were trying to use as little as possible. He fell to tenth.

Afterwards McLaren said the failure had been caused by debris and Bridgestone took the tyre away for further analysis. (At the time of writing they have not stated conclusively what the problem was but did say: “a puncture from a sidewall cut looks to be the probable cause.”)

Ferrari reacted by pitting Massa as soon as he could take enough fuel to reach the end of the race, to protect him in the event of the safety car appearing. Kovalainen had been over 15 seconds behind, and thus no longer a threat.

Lewis Hamilton’s puncture “probably” caused by debris, say Bridgestone

Alonso holds off Raikkonen

Raikkonen days went from bad to worse as he failed to get past Alonso at the first round of pit stops. The drivers came in together and Alonso revved his engine impatiently as the Renault team finished refuelling him.

He rejoined the pit lane with Raikkonen right behind him and condemned to another stint stuck behind the Renault.

The pair did gain a position at the expense of Robert Kubica, who suffered a slow pit stop. Sebastien Bourdais and Rubens Barrichello ran into more serious problems, however, as both suffered brief fires during their pit stops – Bourdais twice.

Refuelling rig fires and failures hit race

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Massa’s disaster

Massa was cruelly struck by engine failure
It was for the most part a typically processional Hungarian Grand Prix with no-one able to get close enough to anyone else to make a pass. Once the first lap was done with their was very little overtaking at all, besides Jenson Button picking off his Honda team mate Barrichello on the second lap.

Raikkonen finally got past Alonso at the second set of pit stops by running one lap longer (despite a lurid slide at turn two on lap 49) and then quickly cut the gap to Timo Glock. With seven laps to go he was on the back of the Toyota but it was clear to see how hard it is for one F1 car to follow another. Having been over a second per lap quicker than Glock, Raikkonen couldn’t get close enough to make a move.

Then on lap 67 came a thunderbolt from a clear sky: with a sudden gush of smoke Massa’s Ferrari was coasting to a halt on the pit straight. The shock retirement handed the win to a surprised Kovalainen – his first victory.

Heikki Kovalainen lucks in to maiden win

Raikkonen settles for third

Although Raikkonen, unlike Massa, was using a new engine for this race, he backed off from his pursuit of Glock and took third place.

Alonso was fourth having been pursued by Hamilton, with Nelson Piquet Jnr in sixth making it a double points haul for Renault. Jarno Trulli and Robert Kubica were the last two points scorers.

Mark Webber was the best Red Bull in ninth as the team failed to score for the third race in a row, David Coulthard 11th. Nick Heidfld finished tenth after starting 15th.

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Jenson Button started where he finished with 12th after losing ground at the start of the race. A change of Kazuki Nakajima brought Kazuki Nakajima 13th ahead of team mate Rosberg, another driver who suffered fuel rig problems.

Giancarlo Fisichella was 15th ahead of Barrichello. Massa was classified 17th, three laps down, but ahead of Bourdais who was still running after two pit fires plus an extra stop to clear extinguisher foam from his visor.

Sebastian Vettel pulled into the garage early on after suffering car trouble following his pit stop, and Adrian Sutil retired eight laps from home.

F1 takes its annual three-week break now before the first race at a new venue – the European Grand Prix at the Circuito Urbano Valencia. For a sneak preview of the track, have a look at these links:

Onboard video lap of the Valencia street circuit
TV video footage of the Valencia street circuit

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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24 comments on “Kovalainen grabs first win after Hamilton and Massa suffer failures”

  1. Very sour grapes for Massa. He did a great race, I must say, and was heading towards victory, even without Hamilton’s puncture.

  2. Gutted for Massa, absolutely gutted…He really deserved the win. Also Raikkonen was a bit unlucky as just before the first stop he was held up badly by Vettel, could have been closer to Alonso in the pits – or perhaps past him.

    Seems the Ferrari’s have the pace in the hotter races, we haven’t seen as many of them this year…

    Again tho, Hamilton seems to get away with another potential disaster, I guess as they say – you make your own luck.

    Well done Heikki…

  3. Massa was simply in a class of his own and I think the Lewis problem robbed him of making that statement even though it would have meant Hamilton winning as an eventuality.
    This is turning out to be a cracking year, hopefully until the last race.

  4. I felt really bad for Massa, but that happens. 10 points in such a levelled championship will certainly make a difference later.

    Keith, how about making a post about the most cruel race retirements?

  5. Strange things happening in Ferrari… when Raikkonen had the momentum, he was taken out by Hamilton, in Montreal… when Massa had it, his engine blew out…

    As for the most cruel race retirements, even though I’m obviosly sad, as a brazilian, I’ve seen many worse than that Massa’s misfortune today… a few examples:

    1 – Barrichello running third with a Jordan, in the same Hungaroring, I think it was 1994, but had to stop on the main straight, on the very last lap, literally seeing the chequered flag waved for the other cars

    2 – Kimi’s suspension failure in Nurburgring 2005;

    3 – Hamilton’s worn tyres in Shanghai 2007;

    4 – Mansell’s puncture in Adelaide 1986, that cost him the title

    5 – Sutil’s retirement, taken out by Raikkonen, while running fourth with a Force India in Monaco 2008;

  6. Felipe deserved that win. It’s sad that he went out of the race, but these things happen sometimes :( .

  7. With all these bad luck around Ferrari, I am sure the tide will turn in the next 7 races. I am sure Massa will get a good opportunity to take the championship. :)

  8. it was massa’s day. even if hamilton hadn’t had a puncture i sort of doubt he’d have gotten by.

    daniel, one i had completely forgotten until varsha or someone on speed mentioned it- damon hill, in the arrows- engine blow up 1 lap from the end -1997 (?)-at hungary.

  9. didn’t Hakkinen also have an engine failure not so far from the finish line only for Schumacher to take the win??

  10. Yes Brad, In Barcelona 01! I was at the race was gutted!!

  11. “despite a lurid slide” – nifty phrasing there

    Kimi did have it right afterwards, “we have the speed, but if I can’t get the qualifying right…” –
    As much as my prancing horse t-shirt was bleeding after Felipe’s disaster (spilled my coffee leaping off the couch – the first time cheering that magnificent pass at the start), I must say, all in all, what a GREAT season for F1!

    Question for the group: re: I like Heikki, but will he ever be a champion? Does he have “it”?

  12. Worst Luck I can remember.

    Hakkinen retires from lead on last lap with engine failure. Spain 2001.

    Mansell Retires from lead on Last lap with unexplained failure. Canada 1991.

    Hill Loses lead (In Arrows!) with 2 laps to go to Villeneueve with failing throttle, Hungary 1997.

    Raikkonen crashes out of lead on last lap after front suspension faliure, Nurburgring 2005.

    These are all recent. Keith an article on this subject with luckless days from the pat would be brill!
    Night x

  13. verasaki: yeah, I remembered that, I didn’t list because he still managed to finish second, but I must admit that, like Ben said, losing what would be Arrows only GP Win was really unlucky, regardless of his final standing.

    Martin: judging by what I’ve seen since last year, I don’t believe in Heikki’s potential, and I think McLaren made a mistake when they said they would keep him for 2009…

  14. Daniel, tks for reply, to add to the “significance of fastest lap” controversy, I note that this year is Kimi 7, Quick Nick 2 and Heikki 2 –
    Actually I agree, he’s fast but will never have what Alonso, Kimi, Hamilton have – the real puzzle for me is Felipe, should he be included in that group?

  15. I am not a Flippy fan, but even I was gutted to see that plume of smoke billowing out of his car. He’d done a fantastic job until then. Lady Luck can be cruel sometimes.

    ‘Bout time she smiled on Heikki, though. Was pretty darn pleased for him ! I knew he had it in him, hope to see it more often.

  16. I think Felipe is real good when he’s qualified right at the front and has clear air. I mean he can go v. fast and be consistent for a large number of laps. His bad luck today may get towards evening up some of the bad luck Kimi (who has had most of it) has had this season (being taken out at canada by Lewis when in the joint lead; the Silverstone tyre tactics mistake by the team when a mere 1 second behind Lewis…the.exhaust failure in France when in the lead…even today he had to back off from taking Glock for two more points because of another mechanical problem at the rear end…). Thing about Felipe is he doesn’t seem (?) to have the ability to do what Alonso, Lewis and Kimi can do from further down the field or eg in the wet…he seems less all round of a driver so far.

  17. Today’s misfortune for Felipe Massa may prove a vital turning point in the season. Up until his Ferrari went boom, everything was going to plan for Massa.
    A certain race win, the lead in the championship, and yet more points taken from his illustrious team mate.
    Now, everything has been turned on its head for Massa.
    Hamilton retains the championship lead despite his problems, and Raikkonen now is the leading Ferrari driver in terms of points. If I was a racing driver, and had experienced a day as bad as that, I would be on suicide watch by now.
    Raikkonen summed up the day well in his interview. He had gotten lucky, had a reasonable race, but a bad qualifying performance. In other words, if Raikkonen gets back to his best on the Saturday, he’ll be right back at the sharp end.
    I can just imagine Raikkonen celebrating with Kovalainen, so, so gratefull for Heikki’s victory. If Massa had won today, the pressure would have been enormous on Raikkonen, within Ferrari and from outside Ferrari.
    I hate to say it, but Massa has been dealt a grevious blow today.

  18. Mansell’s “unexplained” failure was him bumping the kill switch on the steering wheel while he was waving to the fans. So I read once anyway…..

  19. Yes , Hakkinen in Spain 2001 in the last lap is probably the worse one I remember. Still , as bad as it ended for Massa , he will no doubt be buoyed by the fact that after Hamilton won the last two races , seemed to have the best package this week-end , took the pole , Massa was able to pass him on a difficult track (albeit at the start) , and then very importantly open a gap even before Hamilton had the puncture. While I will keep fingers crossed for the next seven races , it’s looking like Ferrari will have a mountain to climb if they are to take the drivers championship this year. Even the constructors is starting to look like it may be slipping away. The basic package and the speed to match and sometimes beat McLaren is there , as we have just seen , but they are hurting through some reliability and Kimi struggling (by his standards) with qualifying . McLaren on the other hand , have no relibility problems , there only problem this year is tyre management.

  20. and to add to Martin’s comment , asking if Heikki has “it” to be a champion , my feeling is at this stage no , he is too polite , even on the track . You can see this year , he has qualified well up in most races , but has lost positions from the start in as many. This is not saying he may not get there one day , but for now , no. And he seems OK with playing second fiddle to Hamilton , always the sign of a “nice guy” mentality , but not one who has the necessary ruthlessness it takes , together with many other attributes , to be a world champion. Massa , as we know , blows hot and cold in that area. If he can consistently pull off aggressive (but clean) moves like he did from the start yesterday , that will then put him in the league of the great drivers , and a world championship will soon follow.

  21. By popular demand – two-part article on last-lap losers to follow today and tomorrow!

  22. michael counsell
    4th August 2008, 12:52

    It was very good to see the Renaults and Toyotas fighting with the Ferraris, Mclarens and BMW-Saubers.

  23. This will probably end up being contentious but here goes …

    Everyone inevitably talks about how unlucky it was for Masa to blow out in the last 3 laps, but why is this any worse than Hamilton having a puncture mid race? OK Masa did a great job at the start and continued to show good form, but Hungry eventually became the the race that never was. The fact that the two front runners, both Hamilton and then Masa, suffered significant failures denied us potentially a fantastic fight to the finish. The good news is that the gap between Ferrari and McLaren, which seemed to show McLaren in the ascendancy , seems to have been re-balanced. I for one can’t wait for the next three weeks to pass quickly and the race for the Championship to get underway again.

  24. GuyPV – the difference is that Hamiton at least scored four precious points by finishing 5th, while Massa didn’t score any…

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