Lewis Hamilton’s lead at the top of the World Championship has been cut to five points after a tyre failure left him limping into the pits as his title rivals roared ahead.
Meanwhile Ferrari’s Felipe Massa kept his title hopes alive with a victory off pole ahead of team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, while Fernando Alonso was elevated to the podium by Hamilton’s misfortune.
Both McLarens struggled from the dirty side of the track at the start, Hamilton losing second to Raikkonen while Alonso was taken by both BMWs and had to claw his way back through a canny pit strategy.
On lap 43 a dramatic tyre delamination saw Hamilton, temporarily leading the race after the Ferraris had pitted and putting in a fast lap in the hope of leapfrogging Raikkonen, kicked back to fifth with his car’s aerodynamics wrecked.
Afterwards he said “It was a little bit unfortunate. It really made a huge difference, I had huge understeer and couldn’t get round the corners. I was quite fortunate not to put it into the gravel.”
His lead in the drivers’ championship has now been cut to five points from Alonso, 84-79, with the Ferraris still in the hunt on 69 and 68 points. “You always have setbacks,” he said. “We won the last race, still five to go. We’re still leading by five points – don’t worry.”
Jenson Button came back from his qualifying disappointment, where he lost a decent position to an engine replacement penalty, making up eight places from his grid slot to finish 13th.
An uneventful weekend for David Coulthard saw him qualifying 13th for Red Bull Racing but pulling in a 10th place finish despite reporting gearbox problems on his formation lap. He avoided a hydraulics problem that felled team-mate Mark Webber in the middle stages of the race.
Anthony Davidson put in a fantastic qualifying lap which nearly saw him through to Q3 but was unable to translate it into much on race day when he finished 14th – looking at the gearbox of A team colleague Button.