Felipe Massa took the chequered flag first at the end of the 57-lap European Grand Prix, but with the Brazilian and the Ferrari team under investigation, it remains to be seen if in fact Massa has actually really won the first race around the streets of Valencia.
The moment in question came as Massa exited his pit box following his second pit stop on lap 38 as he was released into the path of Adrian Sutil who was already coming down the pit lane. It was a close situation and it was certainly unnecessary from Massa who had dominated the Grand Prix from the pole position and was under no real pressure from behind.
The FIA placed Massa under investigation and then announced that any penalty, should there be one, would be imposed after the race. That is most unusual as the normal practice is for a driver to receive a drive through penalty within a few minutes of the incident in questions.
Regardless of this incident, Massa dominated the race from the pole position and at no time looked under any serious pressure from Lewis Hamilton who shadowed Massa across the line six seconds behind. Hamilton retains the championship lead with 70 points, while Massa moves second in the championship race with 64.
Robert Kubica started third and like those ahead of him, took the chequered flag in the same position in what really was an uninspired event in terms of on-track entertainment despite the excellent new circuit. It was a solid run from Kubica and his six points move him to within striking distance of third position in the drivers’ table.
It was all change for fourth position as Heikki Kovalainen started fifth and actually finished one position higher. The Hungarian Grand Prix winner made up the position at the start of the race as he got the jump on Raikkonen and held the position to the chequered flag as Raikkonen hit further problems as the race progressed.
Raikkonen was content to sit behind Kovalainen throughout the first stint of the race but after his first pit stop found the one -topping Timo Glock ahead of him on track. Not to be deterred or flustered into action, Raikkonen continued to be patient only for it to all do wrong in his second pit stop.
For the first time Raikkonen seemed to sense a bit of urgency as the fuel flowed into the Ferrari. However, the Finn was a little too eager as he left the pits before the fuel hose had been fully removed. The result was a delay in the pits and a crew member slightly injured.
It would all prove academic anyway for the unhappy Raikkonen as the Ferrari engine failed in dramatic style a few minutes later as he crossed the start-finish line. Given these engine designs are frozen, it is strange that Ferrari have suddenly found reliability issues…
Jarno Trulli got the jump on Sebastian Vettel in the first round of pit stops and brought his Toyota home in fifth position holding off Vettel by just two seconds by the chequered flag. Timo Glock used a one stop strategy well to finish seventh in the second Toyota after starting 13th.
Nico Rosberg started in ninth position and with Nick Heidfeld sliding back and Kimi Raikkonen failing to finish, scored a valuable championship point for the Williams Toyota team. The point is Rosberg’s first since he finished in the same position in Turkey.
It was a poor race for Nick Heidfeld who finished out of the points in ninth after qualifying one position higher. Taking the option of a long first stint and retaining a two-stop strategy just did not work for the under-pressure BMW Sauber driver.
Sebastien Bourdais finished where he started in tenth position in the second Toro Rosso ahead of Nelson Piquet in the sole surviving Renault. Team-mate Fernando Alonso was eliminated on the first lap of the race when Kazuki Nakajima hit the Renault from behind, causing too much damage for the fan favourite to continue.
It was predictably a tough race for Red Bull Renault with Mark Webber finishing a lap down in 12th position with David Coulthard last in 17th after spinning early on after contact with Giancarlo Fisichella. Jenson Button finished 13th in the leading Honda ahead of Fisichella, Nakajima, Rubens Barrichello and Coulthard. Adrian Sutil failed to finish after nosing into the barrier late in the race, his eighth retirement from 12 starts so far this year.
It was hardly a thrilling race and at the time of writing, the FIA have not made clear what the decision is regarding the man who took the chequered flag first and that makes for an unsatisfactory situation.
© CAPSIS International