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Sunday, April 6, 2008

Bahrain race report

For the second year in a row, Felipe Massa needed a big win in Bahrain.

For the second year in a row, he got it, as Ferrari got a big 1-2 finish just when its championship campaign was looking for a jump start.

Pole sitter Robert Kubica led his teammate to round out the podium.

Massa had a blistering start off the line and the first corner was never in doubt. It was the complete opposite for Lewis Hamilton as he found himself off to a terrible start and fighting for 9th with ex-teammate Fernando Alonso.

Thus a wild and thrilling opening to the Bahrain GP was underway that saw Hamilton run into the back of Alonso and lose his front wing, a retirement for Sebestien Vettel with smoke coming out the back of his Torro Roso, Nelson Piquet spinning, and some excellent dicing between Jarno Trulli and Nico Rosberg.

When the dust settled by lap 4, the front-running Ferraris, led by Massa, were chased by Kubica, Heidfeld and Kovalainen.

Save for an excellent pass by Piquet on Sebestian Bourdais on lap 11, things would stay quite the same until the first round of stops.

Pit stops; payin' his dues; and what wins races, the cars or the drivers?

Kubica was in first on lap 17. Raikonnen and Massa traded fastest laps trying to gain an advantage before Raikonnen came in on lap 20 and Massa on lap 21, respectively.

Meanwhile, David Coulthard had a coming together reminiscent of his run-in with Massa in Melbourne as Jenson Button got a little ambitious and out-braked himself into a turn. DC, who looked as if he never expected Button to be there, shut the door (if it was even open) and Button drove up on his sidepod.

Button would soon retire, and DC wouldn’t be a factor for the rest of the race. DC was quoted after Melbourne that he couldn’t see Massa because of the design of the Red Bull. Granted, I don’t think Button should have tried what he tried, but a driver needs to be able to see what’s coming up alongside. Fragile, poor sight lines -- Adrian Newey doesn't have a reputation for putting drivers first in his designs.

Meanwhile, down in the depths of the order, Hamilton was finding it hard to move up. The McLaren was obviously hurting from its run-in with Alonso. Still, the young sophomore seemed a bit miffed that Giancarlo Fisichella didn’t move over for him when they were fighting for position.

It must have been a humbling experience for Hamilton, as he was lapped by the front runners. He was getting to see how most other young drivers pay their dues race in and race out -- rewarded with a top drive if they are good enough or cashed out if they were not.

On the flip side, Force India must have been over the moon with Fisi, who gave the new boys a full race -- a competitive drive where he freely gave up positions to no one. A far cry from Adrian Sutil. One wonders just how much longer he has to start giving the Indian squad results.

When all was said and done, the top five remained as it had been.

Final pit stops; and a little bit of history

Approaching the final round of stops, the Ferraris were again swapping fastest laps. Could the Iceman get by the Brazilian with a better pit stop? A similar battle was going on between Kubica and Heidfeld.

The answer would be no as Massa retained a comfortable lead and Kubica came out ahead of his teammate as well.

For a brief moment, however, on lap 40, history was made. The Ferraris had pitted and the BMW Saubers had not, and for the first time cars with the Sauber name were 1-2 in a grand prix.

On lap 42 Piquet became just the third retirement of the race.

By 10 to go, the pit stops that mattered were done and had changed nothing. Massa led Raikonnen, Kubica, Heidfeld and Kovalainen.

That was how it would stay, Massa driving to a brilliant win, Raikonnen leading the driver’s championship, and BMW Sauber jumping to the top of the constructors’ table.

Jarno Trulli, Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg rounded out the top eight.

It’s three weeks off until Barcelona, and the teams will be racing to make improvements for the European bulk of the season.

For now:
  • BMW Sauber must be smiling
  • Ferrari must be relieved
  • Hamilton will have some time to think about this race and how he will move on
  • Williams and Rosberg will have to be ruing the missed opportunities that this weekend seemed to promise until qualifying
  • Fernando Alonso, who finally confirmed that contracts are “flexible,” will be thinking about the future, and if Renault is where it will be
  • And Toyota, Red Bull, and Honda will have to be thinking fast about how to salvage a challenge this season.
Some thrilling battles here three races in! SpeedRead will keep you briefed on what's news in F1 as the circus prepares for the first race European race of the season. Don't miss the top stories of the day, subscribe to the SpeedRead Web newspaper now! -- Email SpeedRead -- Learn more about author C.D. Six

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