Kimi Raikkonen led away from pole position this afternoon in the 70-lap French Grand Prix and controlled the race from Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa for the first half of the race. However, a right hand side exhaust failure saw Raikkonen suddenly lose a second and a half a lap and Massa was able to cruise ahead and would go onto take a relatively easy third victory of the season.
Massa’s eighth career win moves him to the top of the championship standings with 48 points while Raikkonen was able to finish the race in second position – such was the advantage the Italian team enjoyed this weekend in France. Raikkonen looked fully in control of the race, but second position and the eight points moves him third in the championship standings just five points behind Massa.
While the battle for the race win was not much of a contest, third position remained very much in doubt right until the chequered flag fell. Jarno Trulli took the position in his Toyota, ten seconds behind Raikkonen and fended off an aggressive challenge from Heikki Kovalainen over the closing stages of the race.
For Trulli, his first podium position of the season, was an impressive achievement Toyota this week mourns the loss of former Team Principal Ove Andersson.
Kovalainen finished fourth in the leading McLaren Mercedes from tenth position on the grid after a mature drive that saw the Finn run a long first stint to move through the field and take some much needed points for his title aspirations.
Robert Kubica had a low-key race for BMW Sauber with the F1.08 package clearly not particularly well suited to the demands of the Magny Cours circuit. The Canadian Grand Prix winner shadowed Trulli and Kovalainen across the line to finish in fifth position on a day when team-mate Nick Heidfeld was nowhere. Kubica’s four points in France see him now second to Massa in the overall standings.
A strong race from Mark Webber saw Red Bull Renault score points in its seventh straight Grand Prix as the Australian took the chequered flag in sixth position. Team-mate David Coulthard had a less successful run to ninth position in the second RB4.
Fernando Alonso flattered only to deceive in qualifying yesterday as he was unable to run with the front-runners after starting the event from third position on the grid. An error lapping traffic right at the end of the race saw him run wide at the Adelaide hairpin, handing seventh position to Renault team-mate Nelson Piquet.
For Piquet, seventh position and his first career Formula One points finish, was a solid reward after an error-free Grand Prix weekend. Alonso took the chequered flag two seconds behind Piquet to give Renault three valuable championship points. It was also Alonso’s 500th career point in the sport.
The French Grand Prix weekend will be one Lewis Hamilton will be as desperate to put behind him as was his Canadian effort two weeks ago. Starting 13th the McLaren driver found himself side-by-side with Sebastian Vettel on the first lap as he attempted a pass for position, but he had to cut turn seven in order to make the pass stick.
Instead of handing the position back to the Toro Rosso racer, Hamilton and the team carried on and it was therefore unsurprising that he was handed a drive through penalty for his actions. Hamilton went on to finish in tenth position and subsequently drops to fourth position in the championship standings. For whatever reason, Hamilton seems rattled at the mid-season point.
Timo Glock was unable to score points this weekend as he finished 11th in the second Toyota while Sebastian Vettel started 12th in his Toro Rosso and finished in the same position. Nick Heidfeld’s poor spell continued this afternoon as he finished a distant 13th in the second BMW Sauber, more than half a minute behind team-mate Kubica.
Honda did not have a good package for Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button as the former struggled to finish 14th and a lap down while the latter damaged his RA108 early in the race and was probably happy to park the machine for the day.
Over at Williams and the team suffered their least competitive outing in some time. With both FW30s brimmed with fuel at the start Kazuki Nakajima and Nico Rosberg struggled to 15th and 16th positions respectively and never showed any real pace. For Rosberg, his season is rapidly turning into a nightmare with just two points from the last seven races.
At the back of the pack, Sebastien Bourdais had a first home Grand Prix to forget in the second Toro Rosso as he finished 17th nearly half a minute ahead of the Force India Ferrari duo of Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil.
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