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Thread: 2008 Formula One Belgian Grand Prix

  1. #1
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    2008 Formula One Belgian Grand Prix

    This weekend sees the Formula One circus step into the final third of the season; the home stretch as the race for the title really heats up. Going into this weekend McLaren's Lewis Hamilton holds a slender lead over his main rivals from Ferrari, Massa and Raikkonen. However, on the evidence of the past couple of races Ferrari are the team to beat on pace, and Spa is traditionally a circuit that suits their cars. Hamilton may have his work cut out to still be top of the tree come Sunday evening.

    Kimi Raikkonen is the current master of the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit, with multiple victories here in the past. If ever the Finn needed one of his great Spa performances, it's now. On his current form he is in danger of driving his way out of his lead driver slot at Ferrari. On the evidence of the past few races Felipe Massa is quicker, more consistent, and more able to produce the goods under pressure than Raikkonen. If Massa out performs Kimi again then Ferrari will surely be left with no choice but to focus all their efforts behind the Brazilian for the remainder of the season.

    Of course, Spa is one of those magical places that has the ability to rip up the form book and throw it out of the window. Particularly so when it is wet, as it is predicted to be for much of this weekend. Many racing purists have complained that the unique challenges of Spa have been neutered somewhat by modern safety regulations, making it a tame imitation of what it once was. But when the rain falls (and by God it really knows how to rain in this part of Belgium!), Spa is as challenging and treacherous a circuit as you could ever wish to find. When water starts to flow down the slope of the infamous Eau Rouge corner you know you're going to be in for a wild ride! The lack of traction control this year could make things all the more spectacular, judging from the carnage of the last seriously wet race at Silverstone a couple of months ago.

    On that day Lewis Hamilton reigned supreme, while Massa and Raikkonen both struggled in the awful conditions. If Ferrari prove to be on top again, McLaren and Hamilton may be performing a rain dance on the eve of battle to try and swing the race in his favour...
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    This is the make it or break it race for Raikkonen. F1 arrives at Spa and the timing could not be more critical for him. He will either step up and reclaim his role as a title contender or give in to Massa and play second role. But it is also his strongest track, having won the last 3 races there.

    If it stays dry and predictable, I see him as the favourite for the win. If it's really wet, Hamilton is my pick.

    But there is another factor that may play a huge role, track temperature. It has been reported and noticed that the McLaren is harder on the tyres, but also more capable of putting heat into them on a cool track. At the same time, the Ferrari's are easier, yet they the struggle more in cool conditions. So, even if it doesn' rain, it might only take some clouds and overcast conditions to swing the balance into McLaren's favour, and Hamilton would love it.

    A victory from him here would be fantastic for many reasons. He'd stretch his title lead, obviously; put a stop to Massa's charge in the last two races; and it would be a huge blow for Ferrari and possibly knock Raikkonen out of contention.

    What about the other guys? Namely Kovalainen, Kubica, Heidfeld, Alonso.

    I really don't know. Kovalainen won at Hungaroring, but hasn't shown the pace to keep up with the leaders in a while. BMW hit a wall after Canada and fell back a bit. Alonso has ben all over the place struggling with the Renault, which some accuse of being underpowered. Who knows? I don't. And maybe the Toyotas and Ferrari powered STRs might show some form. Maybe the Red Bulls will suddenly be quick again.

    All I know that this is Raikkonen's race to lose and I won't be surprised if he jumps into his dominant and crushing form just as easily as he dropped it.
    Last edited by Homem de Gelo; 09-04-2008 at 06:46 PM.
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    I'm still hoping Massa will keep on charging forward. I'm still rooting for him to win the championship. Hamilton is last year's news anyways.
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    I am rooting for Kimi mostly because he is my favorite driver and I have hated seeing him struggle so much recently. I really don't know if he is this apathetic but he this is his dominant circuit and I imagine he will give it his all. If he is back on form maybe he can do what he did last year down the stretch which was stay consistent, fast and mistake free. If he doesn't start doing that now he will really be in danger of closing up his title defense and go to playing second fiddle in helping a teammate win a title.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Homem de Gelo View Post
    Alonso has ben all over the place struggling with the Renault, which some accuse of being underpowered.
    After Valencia, which seemed to be a power cicuit, there is no doubt in my mind that RB and Renault need a stronger engine, not to catch up to the leaders, but to rejoin the fight for fourth.
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    The first practice session of the Belgian GP weekend was run under dry but overcast skies at Spa-Francorchamps, and gave the F1 teams and fans a good glimpse of the genuine pace of some of the title contenders. As expected, it was Ferrari who led the way with a slight advantage over McLaren. And as with recent races it was Felipe Massa who had the edge over Kimi Raikkonen in the red cars, and Lewis Hamilton who had the edge over Heikki Kovalainen in the silver cars.

    The session was fairly plain sailing for everyone with no major incidents on track. Behind the top two teams the best of the rest were Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber, putting any fears about the Renault engine's reported lack of ponies to one side. It was also a good session for Toro Rosso who are enjoying a great few weeks, with the two Sebastiens 7th and 8th. Bourdais though did end the session with a broken car after it stopped out on track with a mystery fault.

    It was a truly pitiful display from the Honda team who ended up last and second last. It really is amazing that a team with such massive funding can end a trouble free session over 3 seconds off the leaders' pace. I hope for their sake that they have just given up on this season and are just pouring all their resources into their 2009 challenger.

    Session two included much more fun and games. The classic Ardenne weather materialized half an hour into the session, making the conditions highly treacherous as Mark Webber found to his cost. He was the first of the day's casualties as he put his Red Bull into the barriers at Beau Rivage, ending his session. After the heavy showers stopped the drivers started to venture out on track to get some valuable track time under their belts.

    If this really is a make or break race for Kimi Raikkonen as some have speculated, he could have done without stuffing his Ferrari backwards into the tyre wall at Turn 9. He limped back to the pits, but minus his rear wing, bringing his Friday to a close earlier than planned. He wasn't the only driver having difficulties in the slippery conditions though, as Giancarlo Fisichella spun his Force India into the barriers quite spectacularly, bringing out a red flag. After the track re-opened it wasn't long before more drivers ended up struggling. Nelson Piquet managed to do a perfect imitation of Raikkonen's earlier shunt, becoming the fourth driver to go for an early shower.

    As the session drew towards a close it was Felipe Massa who was again looking the class of the field. However, the form book was turned on its head in the final moments as Fernando Alonso put in a stellar lap to go P1; a great way to bounce back after the massive disappointment of his Valencia weekend.After the chequered flag dropped there was still some drama as Robert Kubica's car broke down while he attempted a practice start, rounding off what was a pretty mediocre session all round for the BMW team.

    Going into tomorrow's qualifying it certainly looks as though Felipe Massa's Ferrari is the car to beat, although with more rain predicted for throughout the day tomorrow who knows what kind of result the session may throw up...

    Practice One Times

    01 F. Massa Ferrari 1:47.284 25 laps
    02 K. Räikkönen Ferrari 1:47.623 25 laps
    03 L. Hamilton McLaren 1:47.878 27 laps
    04 H. Kovalainen McLaren 1:47.932 24 laps
    05 F. Alonso Renault 1:48.104 25 laps
    06 M. Webber Red Bull 1:48.428 28 laps
    07 S. Bourdais Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:48.557 30 laps
    08 S. Vettel Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:48.958 24 laps
    09 T. Glock Toyota 1:48.997 26 laps
    10 N. Piquet jr. Renault 1:49.068 24 laps
    11 R. Kubica BMW 1:49.139 25 laps
    12 N. Heidfeld BMW 1:49.185 26 laps
    13 N. Rosberg Williams 1:49.611 30 laps
    14 J. Trulli Toyota 1:49.625 14 laps
    15 D. Coulthard Red Bull 1:49.849 18 laps
    16 G. Fisichella Force India F1 1:49.986 27 laps
    17 A. Sutil Force India F1 1:50.117 19 laps
    18 K. Nakajima Williams 1:50.125 30 laps
    19 J. Button Honda 1:50.464 24 laps
    20 R. Barrichello Honda 1:50.905 25 laps

    Practice Two Times

    01 F. Alonso Renault 1:48.454 21 laps
    2 F. Massa Ferrari 1:48.504 16 laps
    3 H. Kovalainen McLaren 1:48.740 19 laps
    4 L. Hamilton McLaren 1:48.805 17 laps
    5 K. Räikkönen Ferrari 1:49.328 10 laps
    6 N. Rosberg Williams 1:49.405 17 laps
    7 S. Vettel Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:49.427 29 laps
    8 A. Sutil Force India F1 1:49.585 22 laps
    9 J. Trulli Toyota 1:49.715 23 laps
    10 N. Heidfeld BMW 1:49.725 22 laps
    11 R. Kubica BMW 1:49.875 22 laps
    12 D. Coulthard Red Bull 1:49.922 20 laps
    13 S. Bourdais Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:49.948 20 laps
    14 T. Glock Toyota 1:50.281 24 laps
    15 K. Nakajima Williams 1:50.364 20 laps
    16 G. Fisichella Force India F1 1:50.740 11 laps
    17 J. Button Honda 1:50.925 19 laps
    18 R. Barrichello Honda 1:51.238 22 laps
    19 N. Piquet jr. Renault 1:51.334 19 laps
    20 M. Webber Red Bull 1:51.640 7 laps
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    Nice reports, JB.

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    Nick Heidfeld was the fastest man in Saturday's final practice session before the action starts in earnest in this afternoon's qualifying. BMW have not looked competitive all weekend, so many will have been surprised to see the German pipping McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen to the top spot in this rain affected session. Title contenders Hamilton and Massa were 4th and 5th respectively, with Kimi Raikkonen a couple of places further back in 7th.

    The track was wet as the green light signalled the start of the session, and as a result there was very little running for the first half an hour. A few of the midfield runners and back markers came out early on to do a bit of track sweeping and getting a feel for the circuit. Several of the leading drivers like the McLaren boys didn't even come out of the pits until the final 10-12 minutes of the session.

    Unsurprisingly, as the track cleared throughout the session the times dropped dramatically. The early times were up in the high 1.50s bracket, but by the end of the session were a full ten seconds per lap faster. The likes of Vettel and Bourdais started to up the pace with about twenty minutes to go in the session, being the first drives to dip under 1:50s. Raikkonen was the first of the big boys out to play, and he immediately looked quick. He went faster than the Toro Rossos, and could have gone faster still but for a huge lock up into the Bus Stop that put him right off the track temporarily.

    The two McLaren drivers were next to show their hands. On his very first flying lap Hamilton knocked a massive 1.3 seconds off the fastest time, and Kovalainen wasn't far behind. Massa was the last of the main drivers to take to the track and he too looked quick, although not quite up to the times of the McLarens.

    As the session began drawing to a close Nick Heidfeld put in a blistering lap to go P1 and the only man in the 1:47s. It was a real surprise as Heidfeld has been struggling all year with his one lap pace, and his team mate Kubica has been having a torrid time trying to get his tyres to work for him so far this weekend. Hamilton had a bash at taking the P1 slot and looked to be comfortably going to make it before he too locked up at the Bus Stop and had to bail out of going for the apex. Yesterday's fastest man Alonso put in a great lap at the death to slot in just behind Heidfeld, but he was quickly bumped down the pecking order by Kovalainen going P2.

    There is probably not a lot we can learn about the relative pace of the lead cars. The McLarens were quickest on paper today, but none of the main drivers put any serious miles on their cars. I would still expect Ferrari to be red hot favourites to take the pole today, with the McLarens in close company.

    Saturday Practice Times

    01 N. Heidfeld BMW 1:47.876 19 laps
    02 H. Kovalainen McLaren 1:48.165 10 laps
    03 F. Alonso Renault 1:48.307 19 laps
    04 L. Hamilton McLaren 1:48.356 10 laps
    05 F. Massa Ferrari 1:48.692 6 laps
    06 S. Vettel Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:48.768 16 laps
    07 K. Räikkönen Ferrari 1:48.815 10 laps
    08 N. Rosberg Williams 1:48.836 13 laps
    09 N. Piquet jr. Renault 1:48.946 17 laps
    10 M. Webber Red Bull 1:49.054 14 laps
    11 J. Trulli Toyota 1:49.057 16 laps
    12 D. Coulthard Red Bull 1:49.125 11 laps
    13 R. Kubica BMW 1:49.250 12 laps
    14 S. Bourdais Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:49.256 19 laps
    15 T. Glock Toyota 1:49.535 18 laps
    16 K. Nakajima Williams 1:49.830 12 laps
    17 G. Fisichella Force India F1 1:49.949 16 laps
    18 A. Sutil Force India F1 1:50.034 16 laps
    19 R. Barrichello Honda 1:50.061 17 laps
    20 J. Button Honda no time 1 laps
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    Lewis Hamilton secured one of the most important pole positions of his young career in Saturday's qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit. At a track where Ferrari were expected to dominate, the McLaren drivers ended up in first and third leaving Massa and especially Raikkonen with plenty of work to do tomorrow afternoon. Nick Heidfeld produced one of his best displays of the year to come in fifth place ahead of Alonso, Webber, Kubica and the two Toro Rosso drivers.

    The conditions were decidedly cool with dark clouds surrounding the circuit. Fortunately for the drivers the rain that threatened to throw a spanner in the works never arrived, and the whole session was run in dry conditions. The first session didn't really throw up too many surprises; all of the main contenders made it through comfortably and without incident, and the predicted strugglers went out of the first hurdle. Both Hondas looked pretty appalling, their blushes saved only by perennial back markers Force India and the terribly out of sorts Kazuki Nakajima.

    The second session again saw the main title rivals get through without any real issues. There was a real surprise at the top of the timing screens though, as Toro Rosso's under pressure Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais was fastest of all. Fastest in Q2 doesn't really count for much in the end, but I'm sure it's a moment Bourdais will remember for a long time. Kovalainen was second behind the former Champ Car ace ahead of his team mate Hamilton. McLaren were looking extremely comfortable, with Lewis Hamilton running the fewest laps of anyone in the entire field by this point in the day. Were Ferrari holding anything back in store for Q3?

    Felipe Massa was the first man out in Q3 and would be the man setting down the benchmark time for everyone to match. He made a bit of a balls up of the final chicane though, and lost plenty of time. Raikkonen was easily faster than Massa, but then both McLarens went faster still and looked very comfortable. Heidfeld continued his excellent showing from yesterday by getting ahead of Massa. Vettel did not bother going out for the first round of flying laps. He clearly was happy enough just to stay in P10 and fill his tank to the brim for race day.

    Everyone came in and bolted on a fresh set of option tyres and went out to do battle again. This time around Massa held it together really well and went fastest so far. It looked an excellent lap from the Brazilian, and he seemed to squeeze out everything the Ferrari had to offer. Raikkonen couldn't match his team mate, a situation which has now become the norm for the increasingly beleaguered world champion. But behind Kimi on the road Hamilton was absolutely flying, and he crossed the line a full 3 tenths quicker than Massa. A brilliant lap from the young Brit, one which his team mate Kovalainen couldn't quite match. McLaren couldn't quite manage the front row lock out they would have hoped for, but Heikki at least managed to split the two Ferraris in third place. Heidfeld took a well deserved 5th place ahead of a strong performance from Alonso. Webber edged out the struggling Kubica by the slimmest of margins for 7th place, with Bourdais putting in his best showing of his F1 career in 9th ahead of Vettel.

    So the run down to La Source on the very first lap will be a straight fight between this year's two main title contenders. Massa will be looking for a repeat performance of his brilliant first lap in Hungary two races ago, but may find it tricky given that La Source is a somewhat easier corner to defend from pole. It should be a great fight between the two, and a perfect test of their title credentials. Hamilton certainly looked a little faster here today, but the suspicion is that he's running a little lighter in the first stint. It should be fascinating to watch, especially if the Ardenne Forest throws up the kind of changeable weather it is famed for at any point during tomorrow's race...

    Provisional Starting Grid

    1. Hamilton
    2. Massa
    3. Kovalainen
    4. Raikkonen
    5. Heidfeld
    6. Alonso
    7. Webber
    8. Kubica
    9. Bourdais
    10. Vettel
    11. Trulli
    12. Piquet
    13. Glock
    14. Coulthard
    15. Rosberg
    16. Barrichello
    17. Button
    18. Sutil
    19. Nakajima
    20. Fisichella
    Last edited by Jack_Bauer; 09-06-2008 at 06:34 AM.
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    Bourdais was very impressive as was Hamilton.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wouter Melissen View Post
    Bourdais was very impressive as was Hamilton.
    Bourdais has a limited amount of time to prove himself, but I believe he is going to be sacked to make room for Buemi anyway.

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    Wish it coulda been Heikki.
    Good job by Bourdais tho.
    "Kimi, can you improve on your [race] finish?"
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    That was the craziest end to a race I have ever witnessed.

    The only thing I can think of that was close of the top of my head was last year's final Indy race when Franchitti won after the leader ran out of gas on the last lap.

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    Lewis Hamilton cemented his place at the top of the Formula 1 World Driver's Championship with a stunning victory in a rain affected Belgian Grand Prix. Despite starting from pole position it was a victory that looked highly unlikely for much of the race, as Kimi Raikkonen looked to be driving his way back into title contention on this his favourite track. However, in the dying moments of the race the rain began to fall and chaos ensued; in one of the most thrilling finishes to an F1 race in years Raikkonen ended his race and his world title defence in the crash barriers on the exit of Blanchimont corner. Felipe Massa finished second to keep himself firmly in the contest for the title, while Nick Heidfeld secured an amazing third place despite starting the final lap in ninth place!

    After a morning of fun and games in the rain for the GP2 drivers the track was still damp as the main event was due to begin. There was no rain predicted for the hour or so, so all drivers barring Nelso Piquet took the option of starting on dry tyres and braving it out for the first couple of laps. From the start everyone seemed to get away relatively cleanly and Hamilton lead comfortably going into La Source. Jarno Trulli had an incredible start and was scything through the field only to be bumped from behind be Sebastien Bourdais. This caused the field to bunch up and a number of cars to run wide, with Heikki Kovalainen being the big loser dropping from 3rd way down to 12th. Raikkonen was the beneficiary as he managed to get right in behind Massa through Eau Rouge and then tow straight past his team mate into Les Combes.

    By this point Hamilton had gained himself a comfortable lead and was enjoying the clean air out front. Coming into La Source for the second time though the race changed complexion dramatically. Downshifting for the hairpin Hamilton locked his rear tyres and the back end snapped loose. The half spin meant Raikkonen went wide onto the run off zone for the second time in succession. Hamilton recovered his spin very quickly and managed to just maintain his lead through Eau Rouge, but Raikkonen was so close that he was able to draft straight by him on the straight just as he had done to Massa the lap before. Raikkonen had gone from 4th to 1st in less than two laps; it seemed that he was finally getting his act in gear after weeks of mediocre performances had the paddock and press doubting his championship credentials.

    Raikkonen began to creep away from Hamilton slowly but surely, with his extra downforce really paying dividends through the second sector of the lap and Pouhon in particular. Hamilton was able to stay well ahead of Massa, and he in turn was ahead of Alonso who had had an excellent start. Kovalainen was beginning to recover from his awful start and was taking positions left right and centre from the mid field runners. However, his eagerness soon got the better of him as he got a little too bold into the Bustop trying to overtake Mark Webber, and he locked up on the greasy inside line and bumped the inside of Webber and earned himself a drive through penalty. Just as that was occurring the leaders came in to pit. Hamilton was in first, and unfortunately for him ended up rejoining the circuit right behind his team mate who in turn was now bunched up behind Kubica. What little chance Hamilton had of getting past Raikkonen in the pits had disappeared, as Raikkonen pitted next time round and was able to avoid all traffic and increase his lead easily.

    For the rest of the second stint the status quo was more or less maintained. Raikkonen had a 5-6 second lead over Hamilton, and Hamilton himself had a similar gap over Massa. Behind them Alonso was maintaining fourth place well, and the two Toro Rosso drivers were having a great day. Bourdais was putting in easily his best performance of his F1 career, keeping the BMW of Kubica at arm's length, and Vettel right in behind Kubica. It looked likely as though the top three or four positions would remain as they were for the rest of the race.

    Thankfully for the spectators though, the infamous Ardennes weather was about to have a say in the matter. Rain was predicted to fall with around 5 or 6 laps to go, with the potential to cause some real headaches for the strategists, and cause some real stress and difficulty for the drivers themselves. First things first, the second pit stops took place and the drivers all switched to the less fancied prime tyre. Immediately Raikkonen did not look comfortable on the less grippy tyre, and Hamilton began to close in on him at a rate of knots. In looked that Hamilton may even have a chance of getting past Kimi before the rain fell, as he closed the gap to around 1.5 seconds. However, Raikkonen suddenly got to grips with the new tyres and was able to stabilise the gap at about 2 secs. Any rain now would surely set up a grand stand finish for the final laps...

    And so it proved! With about 6 laps remaining light spots of rain started to fall all around the track, and the track started to get visibly slippier and the lap times increased dramatically. Hamilton was again closing on Raikkonen, and as the rain worsened Hamilton got to within striking distance. On the run up to the Bus Stop Hamilton forced Raikkonen to go very defensive, and he went for a pass around the outside. He looked to have made the position, but Kimi had other ideas. He forced Lewis wide and onto the escape road. Hamilton was told on the radio to immediately give the position back, which he did very quickly. But no sooner was Raikkonen back in front than Hamilton was attacking again. He sold him a dummy on the outside and jinked to the inside to take the lead. Kimi got a little too close to comfort at La Source trying to regain the lead and actually hit the back of Hamilton. Lewis was unfazed though, and he headed off down to Eau Rouge with his lead intact.

    The rain was getting worse and worse, and each and every corner was becoming a voyage into the unknown with regards to grip levels, especially for those still trying to fight for position and without the option of taking it cautiously. Raikkonen clearly wasn't giving up without a fight, and was pushing Hamilton all the way. When they reached Fagnes chicane they came across Nico Rosberg who was recovering from a spin, and Hamilton was forced wide and onto the grass, allowing Kimi back in front. It seemed a cruel stroke of luck for Hamilton as it seemed to have stolen his victory away from him. However, Raikkonen's lead was incredibly short lived as he spun almost immediately, letting Hamilton back through. Things really were getting dangerous out on track, a fact that was to be proved by Raikkonen on the exit of Blanchimont. Hamilton looked to have overcooked it slightly and ran right across the kerbing and white lines. Amazingly this didn't send him into a spin, and he was able to continue. Raikkonen wasn't so fortunate though, as he ran wide onto the concrete run off and the back snapped wide. He was then a passenger as his car skidded nose first into the barrier and was trashed, along with any realistic hope of Kimi retaining his title.

    At this point many drivers chose to pit for intermediate tyres just for the final lap, but both Hamilton and Massa decided to brave it on dry tyres. It must have been the slowest final lap in history, as both drivers coasted home desperately trying to avoid an embarrassing incident. Both kept their cool and made it home safely to secure the points and make the title battle a close two horse race. Behind them all hell was breaking loose though, as those drivers who pitted for new tyres suddenly found themselves 30 seconds a lap faster than those in front. Heidfeld was the man to gain the most, as he stormed through the field to take a highly improbable podium finish, rounding off what had been a very good weekend for the German. Alonso too had an incredible final lap to take fourth place. Spare a thought though for the poor Toro Rosso drivers, particularly Bourdais. He and Vettel began the final lap third and fourth respectively, and on for the greatest finish in the team's history. However, at the chequered flag Vettel had dropped to fifth and Bourdais all the way down to seventh amidst the last lap chaos.

    So going into Monza in just a week's time Lewis Hamilton has increased his championship lead over Felipe Massa, and Kimi Raikkonen's title challenge is all but over. Yet again Hamilton has proved to be the class of the field when the chips are down and the rain is falling. The McLaren may not quite be able to match the raw speed of the Ferrari at this point in the season, but if Hamilton continues this consistency and reliability the title may well be his to lose...

    Race Results

    1. Hamilton
    2. Massa
    3. Heidfeld
    4. Alonso
    5. Vettel
    6. Kubica
    7. Bourdais
    8. Glock
    9. Webber
    10. Kovalainen
    11. Coulthard
    12. Rosberg
    13. Sutil
    14. Nakajima
    15. Button
    16. Trulli
    17. Fisichella
    18. Raikkonen ret
    ret Barrichello
    ret Piquet
    Last edited by Jack_Bauer; 09-07-2008 at 07:31 AM.
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  15. #15
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    UNBELIEVABLE finish.. that's one for youtube right there.
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