F1: European Grand Prix live blog

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarSunday, August 24th, 2008

 
 

We’re venturing into a whole new scenario at Valencia for the first-ever European Grand Prix to be held in this city.

It’s a street circuit – but rather than the challenges of Monaco, drivers will be propelling their cars round a high-speed track that’s more reminiscent of the Hockenheimring than the streets of Monte Carlo.

It’s a European venue – but the levels of heat and dust that the drivers will cope with are comparable to circuits like Bahrain and Istanbul.

It’s a Hermann Tilke design – but instead of sweeping run-off areas and multiple overtaking opportunities, teams are so convinced there’ll be an accident between the tight walls that they have planned their strategies around the safety car.

Ferrari’s Felipe Massa took a breathtaking pole in the dying seconds of qualifying – leaving McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, his companion on row one, with all the disadvantages of the dirty side of the track.

The two of them can expect challenges from BMW’s Robert Kubica and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen behind them on row two. And, with Hamilton’s team-mate Heikki Kovalainen and Toro Rosso’s rising star Sebastian Vettel behind them, we could be in for an interesting start.

The weather forecast is currently for light showers, so adding the potential of rain into the mix is a whole new level of complication.

Stick with us, and make sure you don’t miss a moment. 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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So. Now all that remains is to see what the stewards do – we’re not sure which would be worse, letting Ferrari’s blatant disregard for the consequences of their actions go unpunished, or seeing a race result reversed after the podium by officials.

Whichever, it would be very, very tough on the blameless Massa for him to lose two cast-iron victories in a row.

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On the podium, the Spanish fans boo and whistle as Hamilton receives the runner-up trophy. Remind us, where’s Fernando Alonso at the moment? OK, OK, we know – it wasn’t his fault he had to retire. Still…

Anyway, whatever might happen when the stewards do whatever it is they might or might not do, the current position in the championship standings is that Hamilton now leads Massa by six points, while Kubica is breathing down Raikkonen’s neck. Kovalainen overtakes Heidfeld for fifth. In the constructors championship McLaren move to seven points behind Ferrari.

Drivers’ championship

  1. Lewis Hamilton, 70
  2. Felipe Massa, 64
  3. Kimi Raikkonen, 57
  4. Robert Kubica, 55
  5. Heikki Kovalainen, 43
  6. Nick Heidfeld, 41
  7. Jarno Trulli, 26
  8. Fernando Alonso, 18
  9. Mark Webber, 18
  10. Timo Glock, 15
  11. Nelson Piquet Jr, 13
  12. Rubens Barrichello, 11
  13. Nico Rosberg, 9
  14. Sebastian Vettel, 9
  15. Kazuki Nakajima, 8
  16. David Coulthard, 6
  17. Jenson Button, 3
  18. Sebastien Bourdais, 2
  19. Giancarlo Fisichella, 0
  20. Takuma Sato, 0
  21. Adrian Sutil, 0
  22. Anthony Davidson, 0

Constructors’ championship

  1. Ferrari, 121
  2. McLaren-Mercedes, 114
  3. BMW Sauber, 96
  4. Toyota, 41
  5. Renault, 31
  6. Red Bull, 24
  7. Williams, 17
  8. Honda, 14
  9. Toro Rosso, 11
  10. Force India, 0

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Lap 57: And Massa wins it, with Hamilton second and Kubica third. In the other points-paying positions are Kovalainen, Trulli, Vettel, Glock and Rosberg. Congratulations to Massa on a well-deserved win – we have a lot of respect for Ferrari’s drivers, although we might not be overly fond of their team. Nick Heidfeld put in his fastest lap of the race but ended things 1.9 seconds outside the points.

Rob Smedley, Massa’s race engineer, says that he doesn’t want to talk about the “silly little incident” (his actual words) that saw a Ferrari released straight into the path of an oncoming Force India going at about 80 km/h. And Luca Colajanni the press officer asked: “Where’s the harm?”

Good to know that safety’s taken so seriously in that garage.

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Lap 56: Looks likely to be as you were until the end of the race now. If it finishes like this Hamilton will be on 70 points, Massa on 64, Raikkonen on 57 and Kubica on 55. The Finn really did not need that engine failure with Massa on the form he is, unless he wants the unusual experience of being a rear-gunner.

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Lap 53: At McLaren they’re reportedly telling Lewis Hamilton to concentrate and make sure he doesn’t fall more than 10 seconds behind Massa. Barrichello may be in trouble – Nakajima has just gone breezing past.

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Lap 51: Raikkonen, back in the garage, refuses to talk to Louise Goodman. Current order is Massa, Hamilton, Kubica, Kovalainen, Trulli, Vettel, Glock, Rosberg, Heidfeld, Bourdais, Piquet, Webber, Button, Fisichella, Barrichello, Nakajima, DC. Alonso, Sutil and Raikkonen have retired.

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Lap 48: Massa’s lead is currently 7.7 seconds – not enough for him to survive a stop-go. Brundle returns to the rule book and cannot find any precedent for this or figure out the reasons for it. However, suggestions include a need to collect more information than they have access to during the race, and needing further details from Force India. Or perhaps they want to penalise the team, not the driver, and Ferrari will end up with a fine.

Meanwhile, out there on the track where people are trying to race each other, Kovalainen is catching Kubica. Ferrari’s press officer says he is not sure the incident was dangerous and, since Sutil didn’t lose any time, where is the harm? Where, indeed.

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Lap 47: ITV1 have helpfully scheduled an ad break at precisely the moment when Raikkonen’s engine let go, dropping him out of the race. It’s not Ferrari’s weekend, is it?

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Lap 45: The Ferrari crew member is receiving medical attention from the Toyota team doctor. Jean Todt is also present – probably one of the last people you’d want to see if feeling a bit rough…

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Lap 44: McLaren and Ferrari pit crews out. Raikkonen pits, and there’s a terrible screw-up which sees the fuel hose gets stuck and a crew member injured. Raikkonen comes out sixth and his race isn’t too badly compromised, but that isn’t really the issue. It appears to be the same automated system failing that led to Massa’s problems.

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Lap 43: And the wall claims its first victim – Adrian Sutil has his nose plunged into a stack of tyres and a broken front suspension. A crane is summoned – luckily there’s a run-off area. And Ferrari’s magic luck has reasserted itself! The stewards, with their usual fair and consistent attitude that we all admire so much, have announced that they won’t be investigating that pit incident until after the race! Well, colour us astounded.

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Lap 42: Trulli pits from fifth and emerges sixth. Raikkonen has been catching Kovalainen, cutting his countryman’s lead from 1.6 to 1.3 seconds. Heidfeld pits.

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Lap 41: Kubica pits, stopping for 7.4 seconds, and rejoins in sixth.

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Lap 40: Toro Rosso’s Vettel pits and comes out in front of Timo Glock for seventh place.

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Lap 39: No, we are too sceptical, and must eat our unkind words about the stewards, their parentage and their possession or otherwise of spectacles. The stewards are investigating Massa. Hamilton has pitted and rejoined ahead of Kubica.

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Lap 38: Massa makes his second stop and is released into the path of Adrian Sutil due to dangerous error by the Ferrari pit crew. He’s rejoined in second, more than seven seconds clear of Kubica. Are Ferrari looking at a penalty? Brundle is reading from the regulations (a tactic only usually used by cricket commentators during prolonged rain spells) and Kravitz is pointing out that the stewards have been very tough on this recently, also revealing that the team’s system does not include a lollipop man. But will Ferrari lead a charmed life?

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Lap 35: Raikkonen is beginning to catch Kovalainen. The two-stop panic appears to have been a bit premature. Massa’s lead is 10 seconds at the front.

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Lap 34: The teams on two-stop strategies are starting to rue them, apparently, and are urging on those drivers with one-stoppers behind them. This prompts Raikkonen’s scheduled wake-up call which was definitely due, given that this circuit has long laps and therefore only 57 of them. Cue our usual jokes about Chris Dyer and the Raikkonen remote control with its push to pass button.

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Lap 32: Glock has pitted and come out ninth. Massa is currently eight and a half seconds clear of Lewis Hamilton. Kubica in third is 17 seconds behind him.

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Lap 30: Timo Glock warned his pitstop will be a long one, because he will need aerodynamic adjustments.

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Lap 29: The halfway point and Massa’s lead is 7.5 seconds. Mark Webber pits for Red Bull.

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Lap 28: Massa starts this lap 6.5 seconds ahead of Hamilton. The two leaders have almost a pitstop’s worth of time on Robert Kubica in third. Glock, thought to be on a one-stopper, is catching Kovalainen, presumably because of fuel differences.

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Lap 26: Order after first stops is Massa, Hamilton, Kubica, Kovalainen, Glock (no stop), Raikkonen, Trulli, Vettel, Rosberg, Webber (no stop), Heidfeld, Button (no stop), Fisi (no stop), Piquet, Bourdais, Sutil, Barrichello, Nakajima, DC. Only retirement so far is Alonso.

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Lap 25: Our roughly-half-time verdict on Valencia (better take advantage while it’s quiet): not delivering outstanding racing, is it? While we don’t necessarily want cars bouncing off walls and showers of carbon fibre, this hasn’t really delivered seat-edge stuff yet. Mind you, every time we say that something major happens about two laps later. Back to the track: speculation that McLaren are on an extremely conservative strategy and only interested in coming away with a decent points haul rather than a devil-may-care win. Brundle is sceptical that they can afford to hand Massa two points.

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Lap 23: Nick Heidfeld pits. Massa’s lead currently about three seconds. Raikkonen in net fifth place with an unpitted Glock in front of him.

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Lap 21: Kovalainen has a 3-second lead over Massa as he pits. Speculation that he might be done for speeding in the pitlane. Comes out ahead of Heidfeld, who has yet to pit. Order is Massa, Hamilton, Kubica, Kovalainen after the pitstops – so as you were, except Massa’s lead has been cut a bit. Heidfeld and Glock out of position in fifth and sixth.

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Lap 20: Trulli pits and comes out behind Raikkonen. A net gain over Vettel. Hamilton has gained a second on Massa in the pitstops – but a place would have proved more useful.

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Lap 19: Kubica pits at end of lap 18. Debris that was interfering with his air intake is removed. Raikkonen comes in and emerges between Glock and Vettel.

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Lap 18: Hamilton pits at the end of lap 17. 8.9 second stop. He comes out behind Raikkonen. Vettel has pitted in the midst of all this and come out ninth.

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Lap 17: Does this mean that Massa’s the man Ferrari is backing…? Hamilton currently has a 13-second lead on second-place man Kubica. DC has pitted and rejoined in last place. McLaren mechanics are out.

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Lap 16: Massa has come out in fourth, behind Kovalainen and right in front of team-mate Raikkonen – he can’t be pleased. Kovy is off into the distance and Raikkonen’s race is being ruined. Altogether now: “This would never have happened in Ross Brawn’s day…”

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Lap 15: Hamilton and Massa lapping in the low 1 minute 39s, Kubica in the high 1:39s and the drivers behind that are in the mid 1:40s. A risky discussion of the merits of Felipe Massa going on among the commentators – we know how passionate his UK fans are, there will be Letters to the Press if James Allen is not careful. Eh up, action. Massa has pitted from the lead. What can Hamilton do now?

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Lap 14: Raikkonen is losing a second to a second and a half a lap to Massa – stuck behind Kovalainen. The pitstop window must surely be approaching…

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Lap 12: Order is Massa four seconds ahead of Hamilton, then Kubica 10 seconds behind, Kovalainen, Raikkonen, Vettel, Trulli, Rosberg, Heidfeld, Glock, Bourdais, Webber, Button, Sutil, Fisichella, Piquet, Coulthard, Barrichello and Nakajima.

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Lap 11: Toro Rosso’s Bourdais has a suspected problem with his aerodynamics due to broken bits on his nosecone. Barrichello has taken a lengthy excursion into the run-off area and is doing the F1 equivalent of a 36-point turn to get running again.

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Lap 10: Massa has got another half a second on Hamilton over the last couple of laps. Kubica is more than eight seconds back and may have a car problem – the BMW mechanics are standing by with a new front wing. Kovalainen, Raikkonen, Vettel and Trulli are all starting to back up behind him.

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Lap 8: Massa is nearly three seconds clear of Hamilton.

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Lap 7: Lewis Hamilton has put his foot down and stopped the slow leakage of time to Massa in his latest lap. Sutil is bawling at his garage on the radio, wanting to be let past Fisi – the garage very non-committal. DC has just tried to overtake him and hit him. Both apparently still running.

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Lap 5: DC up to 16th after overtaking Piquet. Massa described as ‘very comfortable’ at the front, putting on about half a second per lap. His lead is now 2.9 seconds. The big gainer from the start is Timo Glock, who gained three places to get himself up to 10th. A bad lap from Hamilton sees him concede 0.7 sec to Masssa and Kubica come a tenth closer. DC now eyeing the backs of the Force Indias.

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Lap 4: Raikkonen appears to be slower than Kovalainen ahead of him – but we all know what the Brits on Pole motto is, don’t we kids? ‘Never take your eyes off Kimi Raikkonen.’ He’ll come alive about 20 laps from the end, we’re sure. Meanwhile, Alonso’s out of the car and the crowd is doing us all the immense favour of remaining in their seats rather than abandoning the event because the homeboy is out.

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Lap 3: A replay reveals that Coulthard has spun and is having to recover places. He’s already got past Honda’s Barrichello. Jenson Button has made up places, and is up to 13th. At the front, Massa and Hamilton are dropping Kubica. Looks like the prediction that overtaking opportunities will be few and far between are coming true.

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Lap 2: Massa has a 1.4 second lead as lap 2 starts. A Williams is pitting – Nakajima. They have changed at least one tyre – it appears he hit the back of a Renault. Yup, Alonso’s Renault. It could take them up to five minutes to change that, obviously pretty pointless, and he’s been wheeled back into the garage. The crowd is furious and the Williams driver should expect to leave the circut with a bag over his head. Renault is persevering with Alonso and he’s told to stay in the car.

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Lap 1: Hamilton is immediately pressurised by Kubica but the McLaren driver holds his place. Kovalainen has taken Raikkonen to get himself up to fourth. Massa untroubled at the front. Raikkonen and Vettel are fifth and sixth. A wing has been detached – is it Piquet? Heidfeld and Alonso have both lost places. Whoops – the wing is Alonso’s and he’s had to go straight in for a new one.

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Parade lap: Sutil and Barrichello, who constitute row 10, are both starting from the pit lane after electing to make some changes to their gearboxes. Rosberg is the only driver electing to start on the super-soft tyre.

Grid walk: Brundle describes the fish docks of Valencia as “having a lot of character.” That’s one way of putting it… Initially he’s more or less reduced to interviewing the safety car. But we mock too soon. Now his former team-mate Michael Schumacher isn’t contracted to German TV any more he actually deigns to utter a few words. This must be a first – the tension between the two of them is palpable.

Pre-race: James Allen says of Valencia: “This is local government funding of the sort that Silverstone could only dream about.”

Louise Goodman points out her favourite innovation of the new circuit: a Honda grid boy, stood there holding a sign in a fetching pair of shorts. Go Lou! We’ll miss you when the BBC takes over.

Lewis Hamilton tells Steve Rider on ITV1 that he’s very satisfied to find himself on the front row, despite having missed out on pole. He says he was very, very disappointed to have been overtaken on the outside in Hungary: “I swear it’ll never happen again.” Fighting talk.

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