F1: Chinese Grand Prix live blog

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarSunday, October 19th, 2008

 
 

By the time the Chinese Grand Prix is over, Lewis Hamilton could be the Formula One world champion – or he could have taken a giant step towards throwing the title away for the second year in a row.

Boxed in by three of his most deadly rivals, coming off a quite dreadful start in Japan, and facing possible rain showers, his first and biggest challenge will be surviving the first few seconds of the race.

If he can manage that, he faces 56 laps of this Herman Tilke-designed circuit with all the hazards of tyre wear, penalties and competitive colleagues to negotiate.

It’s nervewracking stuff – and it’s impossible to predict what’s going to happen.

Stay with us to find out what happens next. Keep hitting refresh to get the latest, don’t forget you can comment on this post, and you can also email us with your thoughts on the race.

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Post-race: The ITV summary gets increasingly strained as a huge crowd of mostly Chinese spectators gathers around Rider and Blundell and starts to press in, pointing and smiling and taking photographs. It gets that momentum of ‘if there’s a crowd there must be something to see’ and more and more people show up. Is it the sight of decadent Westerners? No, our guess is wonderment at Steve Rider’s hair.

Something’s fallen off Hamilton’s trophy. Bloody Chinese workmanship.

Apparently Hamilton has both mum and stepmum present – all that parental pressure, poor sod. One (we think stepmum) is choking up as the National Anthem plays and Anthony H is pictured glowing with pride.

A genuinely friendly exchange between Hamilton and Massa before the podium but, intriguingly, Raikkonen is seen flapping a dismissive hand at Massa. Was that the thank-you?

Raikkonen is getting on with the serious business of swallowing down his champagne. We think Brundle has just described him as “not a man you’d want to sit next to on an aeroplane, that’s for sure.” Is this a reflection on some past incident?

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Points and standings:

Points from this race:

  1. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren: 10 points
  2. Felipe Massa, Ferrari: 8 points
  3. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari: 6 points
  4. Fernando Alonso, Renault: 5 points
  5. Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber: 4 points
  6. Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber: 3 points
  7. Timo Glock, Toyota: 2 points
  8. Nelson A Piquet: 1 point

Drivers’ championship:

  1. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren: 94 points
  2. Felipe Massa, Ferrari: 87 points
  3. Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber: 75 points
  4. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari: 69 points
  5. Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber: 60 points
  6. Fernando Alonso, Renault: 53 points
  7. Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren: 51 points
  8. Sebastian Vettel, Toro Rosso: 30 points
  9. Jarno Trulli, Toyota: 30 points
  10. Timo Glock, Toyota: 22 points
  11. Mark Webber, Red Bull: 21 points
  12. Nelson A Piquet, Renault: 19 points
  13. Nico Rosberg, Williams: 17 points
  14. Rubens Barrichello, Honda: 11 points
  15. Kazuki Nakajima, Williams: 9 points
  16. David Coulthard, Red Bull: 8 points
  17. Sebastien Bourdais, Toro Rosso: 4 points
  18. Jenson Button, Honda: 3 points

Constructors’ championship:

  1. Ferrari: 156 points
  2. McLaren: 145 points
  3. BMW Sauber: 135 points
  4. Renault: 72 points
  5. Toyota: 52 points
  6. Toro Rosso: 34 points
  7. Red Bull: 29 points
  8. Williams: 26 points
  9. Honda: 14 points
  10. Force India: 0 points

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Lap 56: Final lap and the race concludes with no dramas with 10 points for Hamilton and eight for Massa. The moment he’s across the line, Raikkonen cruises past him. McLaren, who have maintained public radio silence all race, suddenly come on with well-scripted words of praise from Ron Dennis.. “Discipline” seems to be the theme of the day. Interesting that BMW Sauber didn’t swap their drivers over.

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Lap 55: Hamilton’s coming up onto the back of a messy Nakajima, Bourdais, Webber midfield battle. He has a 15.7-second lead, so he can afford to take it easy.

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Lap 53: Alonso’s having a look at Raikkonen. Unfortunately there’s probably not enough time left for entertainment to ensue.

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Lap 52: Race order in the closing stages is Hamilton, Massa, Raikkonen, Alonso, Heidfeld, Kubica, Glock, Piquet, Vettel, DC, Barrichello, Nakajima, Bourdais, Webber, Rosberg, Button, Fisichella. Retirements are Trulli, Sutil and Kovalainen. Raikkonen’s turned his engine down, possibly in order to save Massa embarrassment. More evidence of why BMW Sauber should keep the faith with Heidfeld and not put all their eggs in the Kubica basket.

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Lap 51: Hamilton’s lead over Massa is 16.4 seconds.

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Lap 50: Kovalainen makes an unexpected pitstop and parks up with a brake problem. His brakes were smoking on the start line and have been dodgy ever since.

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Lap 50: Massa finally manages to haul himself past Raikkonen but you can’t help feeling the current world champion’s been making a bit of a fool of him. Now it *should* be a gentle cruise to the end…

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Lap 49: Hamilton’s lead is 14.9 seconds as Raikkonen concentrates on going gently backwards. Massa’s only a second behind him, the harder tyres don’t seem to be working for him. This really is comical.

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Lap 48: Probably one of the dullest grands prix of the year so far – but unfortunately that’s exactly what Hamilton needed so we can’t complain too loudly. Kovalainen currently trying to catch Webber in 14th place so he’s effectively out of it.

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Lap 46: Race order is Hamilton, Raikkonen, Massa, Alonso, Heidfeld, Kubica, Glock, Piquet, Vettel, Coulthard, Barrichello, Nakajima, Bourdais, Webber, Kovalainen, Rosberg, Button, Fisichella. Only retirements are Trulli and Sutil. Current view on the Ferrari situation is that Raikkonen will let Massa through if he can get up with him, but isn’t actually going to pull over and wait. It’s almost like he’s teasing Massa – letting him get closer and then pulling away again.

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Lap 45: If Hamilton comes away with 10 points and Massa with eight, then Hamilton will go into Brazil with a seven-point lead over Massa. It’s clear that Ferrari has to do the swap. In the constructors McLaren is going to have its work cut out thanks to Kovalainen’s puncture. Brundle is saying that he is surprised Ferrari didn’t do the switch earlier.

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Lap 44: Raikkonen is letting Massa catch him bit by bit (colour us cynical if you like) – no, he can’t bring himself to do it, he’s gained on this last lap. Kubica’s championship hopes look to be more or less done. Hamilton’s quietly maintaining his pace at the front.

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Lap 41: Kubica pits from fourth and rejoins behind Vettel in seventh. We think that Vettel will have to pit again. Massa’s fallen off the back of Raikkonen a bit – all kinds of calculations involving his tyre change would be necessary to try to fathom what’s going on. Kovalainen is running in 16th. Hamilton has to hold it together for another 15 laps.

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Lap 40: Order is Hamilton, Heidfeld (not pitted), Raikkonen, Massa, Kubica (not pitted), Alonso. Massa is suddenly remarkably close to Raikkonen. What a surprise. Brundle is advising Hamilton to dial down his engine now and save it for Brazil.

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Lap 39: Mark Webber runs wide but is OK. Hamilton pits for McLaren and Raikkonen for Ferrari. Hamilton’s is 6.8, Raikkonen’s 8.4 with a little trouble getting the fuel hose off. Meanwhile, Hamilton is up the road. Raikkonen emerges in third.

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Lap 38: Massa stops – 7.5 seconds and switching to harder tyres, as he is required to do at some point during the race. He comes out in fourth. Before the pitstops started Heidfeld had got himself up to fifth and is currently third.

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Lap 37: Kovalainen fuelled to the end and some wing adjustments too. But he’s running well outside the points, which won’t help McLaren in the constructors’. Alonso, now he’s no longer racing Kovalainen, pits. Hamilton’s lead down to 7.9 seconds and the Ferrari pit crew are out.

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Lap 36: Kovalainen has made it back to the pits and there’s speculation that this is caused by a brake problem dating back to the start.

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Lap 35: Kovalainen is starting to match Alonso’s pace, which could get interesting. Hamilton was half a second quicker than Raikkonen on the last lap and the McLaren mechanics are out – presumably for Kovalainen. Whoa! Some huge problem for Kovalainen! Looks like a front-right puncture and he’s limping back to the pits – will he make it? Were the mechanics out because they knew he’s in trouble?

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Lap 33: Raikkonen’s had a tenth of a second out of Hamilton on this lap – but Hamilton’s around eight seconds ahead. Things are so quiet on the track that the commentators are talking about Max Mosley’s bid to enforce a single engine on F1.

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Lap 32: Brundle gives his take on recent criticisms of Hamilton – he says it’s half justified, half jealosy – and adds that Hamilton doesn’t always help himself by the way he expresses himself. Webber and Nakajima have both pitted and come out in 16th and 17th. DC is on a one-stop strategy and therefore doesn’t need to stop again.

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Lap 31: Past the halfway point and Hamilton’s some seven seconds ahead of Raikkonen, with about around 15 seconds on Massa. Problems lapping Fisichella’s Force India have affected both the leaders, but Raikkonen’s come off worse, thus the expanded lead.

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Lap 28: James Allen points out that Ferrari has “no answer to the pace of McLaren” just as a graphic comes up showing Raikkonen is catching Hamilton at the rate of two tenths of a second. But what does Ferrari do with that lead, apart from shunting the Boy Wonder out altogether? It’s Massa they need to catch him…

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Lap 27: Race order is Hamilton, Raikkonen, Massa, Alonso, Kovalainen, Heidfeld, Glock, Coulthard, Kubica, Piquet, Vettel, Nakajima, Webber, Barrichello, Fisichella, Bourdais, Rosberg, Button. The field was getting a bit backed up there behind Vettel.

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Lap 26: Kubica pits. 6.7-second stop and he comes out in ninth behind DC. It’s no surprise to anyone that Alonso is failing to make an impression on Massa and remains some five seconds behind him. Anything else simply wouldn’t be helpful.

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Lap 25: Piquet has come out in tenth behind DC and ahead of Vettel, Nakajima and Webber. Jenson Button has dropped to the back of the field.

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Lap 24: Hamilton’s lead is currently 7.2 seconds. Kubica, starting outside the top 10 and able to set his own fuel load, was on a very long first stint. He is third and yet to pit. When he does, the order will be Hamilton, Raikkonen, Massa, Alonso, Kovalainen. As you were. Piquet, who was also out of position, has just pitted.

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Lap 23: All three of the front-runners on a long middle stint. The first point of interest at the moment is Kovalainen starting to catch Alonso – what order will they shake out in? Hamilton has radioed into his garage and said his car is “perfect”. Creep.

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Lap 22: Massa 14.3 seconds behind Hamilton. Ferarri would undoubtedly like to swap their drivers over in the pitstops – but Massa’s a far way down the road from his team-mate, and doing it subtly could be a job.

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Lap 19: Kovalainen pits. 10.3 secs on hard tyres. The new tyres are counting for Hamilton who’s increasing his lead still further. Kovalainen’s pitstop has put him back in the lead.

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Lap 18: No-one is fast enough to get between Massa and Hamilton, meaning that the McLaren driver may be lucky to tie things up today. Heidfeld has pitted. Hamilton’s first flying lap after his pitstop saw him increase his lead by six-tenths of a second over Raikkonen. It’s something in the region of five seconds. The yellow flag for Sutil has gone in.

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Lap 16: Sutil has to park it. No points for him today. McLaren have fiddled with Hamilton’s front wing during the pitstop to try to deal with his oversteer. Alonso and Massa on soft tyres, Raikkonen on harder ones. Alonso is behaving a bit like those kids who follow you around in the playground begging to be in your gang, what with his dog-whistle “I’ll help Massa” statement before the race.

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Lap 15: Sutil has come to a halt in a run-off area. Hamilton and Raikkonen are in the pits. Hamilton puts on harder tyres. 9.4 seconds at McLaren, 9.3 at Ferrari. They maintain their relative positions and a Toro Rosso has got in among them as they come out – it’s Vettel. Order is Kovalainen, Heidfeld (both yet to pit), Vettel, Raikkonen, Kubica, Massa, Piquet, Alonso.

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Lap 14: Hamilton’s starting to go like the wind. Piquet’s taken a trip through the scenery from ninth but gets back on the track. He’s lost time to Barrichello, but nothing worse. It’s pointed out that with the weekend Honda have had so far, he’s doing a stellar job. Ferrari mechanics are out, McLaren’s are sitting there. It’s Massa. Will he hang around to pay for his fuel this time? Ferrari are using a lollipop. 9.1 sec stop for Massa and also for Alonso who came in at the same time. The two come out either side of Piquet in seventh and ninth respectively.

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Lap 13: Brundle: “Nice big oversteer moment for Hamilton there.” Brundle blames his tyres – but this time he’s lost no time to Raikkonen. Webber signals the start of the first stops by diving into the pits. Hamilton’s lead is 4.1 seconds.

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Lap 12: Hamilton has lost another couple of tenths to Raikkonen – it looks like the Ferrari’s tyres have finally come in. Long shots of the circuit show just how smoggy it is in Shanghai today. Rosberg is striving to get past Glock for 12th place with the team on the radio urging him on.

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Lap 11: Raikkonen has gained a tenth of a second on Hamilton. The rain forecast is now down to 20 per cent likelihood.

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Lap 10: Kimi Raikkonen has just done a fastest middle sector and this is the first clue that Ferrari have found out how to make up their performance deficit to McLaren. Renault is on the radio reassuring Piquet that Webber is lighter than him. Vettel also thought to be lighter than Kubica.

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Lap 9: Hamilton has gained a second on Massa during the last lap. Webber has passed Barrichello and had a go at Piquet. Webber hasn’t got past this time but soon will. Whoa! Very soon. Webber’s now in front. Commentators point out that Piquet’s drive for next year is still not confirmed.

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Lap 8: Hamilton’s the fastest man on the track and his lead is more than three seconds. The gap to Massa is 6.8 seconds. Kovalainen had a bit of a moment in that battle at the start and the speculation is that he damaged his brakes and tyres. Heidfeld is catching him and, in the pitlane, Jarno Trulli is fuming at Sebastien Bourdais: “This guy has to cool down a bit.”

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Lap 7: Order is Hamilton, Raikkonen, Massa, Alonso, Kovalainen, Heidfeld, Vettel, Kubica, Piquet, Barrichello, Webber, Glock, Rosberg, DC, Button, Nakajima, Bourdais and the Force Indias. Only retirement so far is Trulli.

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Lap 6: Kovalainen appears to be struggling for pace and is being looked at by Heidfeld and Vettel. But we don’t think he deserves too much criticism – he kept Alonso busy at the start and he’s probably in a more helpful frame of mind than Kimi Raikkonen.

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Lap 5: The only real action in this calm-before-the-storm section is between Webber and Barrichello, which should tell you something. The front of the field is spreading out, except maybe between Alonso and Massa, where the Renault driver could be catching the Ferrari. We hear that Hamilton’s driving smoothly and calmly with a three-second lead. Can the nation exhale?

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Lap 4: Trulli’s had to retire. Curses! He’s one of our McLaren Grand Prix League drivers… At least Heidfeld seems to have picked up a few places.

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Lap 3: Hamilton’s lead is 2.3 seconds and poor old Trulli has just been lapped. Bourdais, meanwhile, must feel like he’s in a dodgem car – his contact with Trulli was very similar to the incident with Massa last week.

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Lap 2: Hamilton’s lead is 1.1 seconds. Mark Webber has passed Timo Glock. Trulli pits and gets back out but apparently his car’s in a pretty bad way. Bourdais now running in 18th

– – – – –

Lap 1: Hamilton’s had a better getaway and looks safe at the front. Kovalainen has come up the outside. Two cars at the back have come to grief and there’s a yellow flag. Kovalainen is fighting Alonso for fourth and has got it, go Heikki! The Ferraris have had a much worse start than usual and Brundle has just used the dreaded phrase “for sure”. Trulli is one of the cars that is out, Bourdais possibly the other one since he doesn’t appear in the top 10 any more. Kovalainen has lost the place back to Alonso. Well, if he’s busy with Heikki then he can’t provide that invaluabe assistance to Massa…

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Parade lap: James Allen’s on fine form for what’s probably his penultimate Grand Prix, never mind David Coulthard. “A nation holds its breath,” he says. Not for an hour and a half, we hope.

“Felipe Massa has won championships too, in go-karting…” Come on, now, that’s just unkind ;- ))

Tyre choices: Most people on the harder tyre, including Hamilton and Kubica. Raikkonen and Massa, however, have gone for the softer choice.

Robert Kubica is being warned on his radio about rain – apparently there’s a 40 per cent chance.

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On the grid: Brundle’s found Norbert Haug of Mercedes on the grid. He’s apologising for Kovalainen’s engine failure in the last race. Brundle points out that Hamilton has a fresh engine today but will be on a used one in Brazil – but the Ferraris are on the opposite strategy.

He points out that the polesitter might well be on the dirtier side of the track today, and therefore at a disadvantage.

Pat Symonds of Renault reminds us that Alonso won it from fourth last week and predicts “shenanigans at the front.”

Brundle’s had to hand over to Louise Goodman in the pitlane, because no drivers are actually on the grid (except for Massa, who won’t talk to him). Did they get together beforehand and agree to shun him?

Lou has found Mark Webber who has more or less written the race off after his ten-place penalty for an engine change.

Apparently it’s Heikki Kovalainen’s birthday. Let’s hope he’s a lucky boy today. He’s uncharacteristically tense (who wouldn’t be, in his shoes?) and quite brusque in his answers.

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Pre-race: Hamilton on the criticism he gets from other drivers: “It’s just the way sport is and the way people get when they’re not winning.” He’s talking about being propelled by racing instinct and the difference between last year and this.

According to Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren have been on pins all week, which is not necessarily the view we normally have of that team.

Do you feel more informed about the stewarding process now, following Louise Goodman’s package on the subject? Most informative was Bernie saying: “Problem? What problem?” Of course he’d see it like that – for more details on why we think this, click here.

Apparently in Chinese lore being surrounded by red brings you luck. Good stuff… Showers are forecast but no drops have fallen in anger yet.

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