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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Raikkonen wins the Spanish Grand Prix

The last seven pole sitters have won the Spanish Grand Prix. Now you can make that eight, as Kimi Raikkonen stormed to his second victory of the season at the Circuit de Catalunya.

“It was good enough to stay in front. If we had wanted we could have gone a bit faster but there is no point to push it when you don't need to,” Raikkonen said. “I think it was closer than we expected but saying that there were many safety cars, so without them maybe it would have been looking a little bit different. It was a good day - everything was brilliant.”

Teammate Felipe Massa beat hometown favorite Fernando Alonso to the first corner on his way to second place, as Ferrari achieved an optimal 1-2 in Barcelona.

“I started third but I did a very good start and could manage to pass Fernando and that's it. I had a little moment with the safety car and I saw that he was going a little bit longer than me,” Massa said. “That maybe was a little bit of a scare for us but then I managed to build the gap in the second stint in a very good way and it was not a problem to stop one lap before and get in front. We did our homework and brought two Ferrari's in the front - first and second - which is very important for the championship.”

Lewis Hamilton was third. Considering the challenges the weekend provided, Hamilton was happy to come away with six points.

“Obviously when we qualified fifth we knew that it would be very difficult to beat the Ferraris. But the key was to get a good start and make as many places as possible and fortunately I was able to do that,” Hamilton said. “We sort of had a feeling that Fernando would be a bit lighter and that didn't cause us any problems.”

A safety period came into play on the first lap as Sebastien Vettel and Adrian Sutil came together. When the safety car finally came in on lap 3, it quickly became apparent that Alonso’s Renault was on a lighter fuel load. How much was the question.

Behind him, the two McLarens were in pursuit mode, trying to hold on to the Ferraris. And Robert Kubica was also in the mix.

Indeed, Alonso was the first to pit, rejoining in sixth. Raikkonen was in by lap 20, and most of the leaders had finished by lap 22.

Lap 22 was significant because that was when a wheel failure put Heikki Kovalainen into a tire wall on turn 9. The safety car was again deployed as a tension-filled ten minutes went by before the car was extracted and the young Finn was stretchered off, giving the crowd a thumbs-up.

On track, the real loser in the situation was Nick Heidfeld, forced to refuel before the pitlane was open. The ensuing drive-through penalty would finish the German’s race.

Once the pitlane did open, the runners further back in the field who had not pitted dove in. Rubens Barrichello and Giancarlo Fisichella made contact in the pitlane, and Barrichello's Honda emerged with a broken nose He would have to return for a replacement, and would soon retire.

The safety car was back in on lap 28, and we were racing again, Hamilton chasing the Ferraris. Alonso’s short first stint had not paid off, as he fell back to fifth after the first round of stops.

Alonso would not finish his home race, his engine letting go on lap 35. He took the opportunity to mingle with some of the fans before riding back to the pits. It was a tough way for the race to end for the Spaniard, but Renault’s performance certainly must have some folks smiling again back at the factory.

Nico Rosberg soon joined him, his motor letting go on lap 42. Rosberg had been running seventh at the time.

The second round of stops provided suspense, but in the end changed little. Raikkonen maintained the lead followed by his teammate, and Hamilton again led Kubica.

“It is amazing how close all the cars are,” Hamilton remarked. “Even Robert Kubica was extremely close to me and I kept looking in the mirrors at a certain point and he was always in the exact same spot. It is very impressive that all the teams are so close.”

That is how it would stay as Raikkonen won, followed by Massa and Hamilton. The result leaves Raikkonen with a comfortable lead in the drivers championship, and Ferrari a solid lead in the constructors championship.

Raikkonen favors his chances in Turkey (remember to read in a run-on monotone).

“Our car should be quite strong in Turkey. It is a great circuit and I am looking forward to going there and trying to do the best job we can,” he said. “As a team we had a great weekend here and we will try to repeat it in Turkey and hopefully we can do it. Whatever it brings we need points and whatever we get is always a bonus.”

Elsewhere:

A difficult race for Nelson Piquet, off a couple of times early and contact with Sebastian Bourdais on lap eight that would ultimately eliminate both of them from the race.

Another clash for David Coulthard, as Timo Glock ran into the back of him while fighting for position on lap 54. The incident was under investigation, but stewards have chosen to take no action. In fairness to DC, this one wasn’t his fault.

Best news of the day:

Heikki Kovalainen seems to have escaped with only a concussion. What a testament to the safety of the modern F1 car. Here’s hoping he’s back behind the wheel soon. 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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