Racenotes: 2008 Sinopec Chinese Grand Prix

2008 Sinopec Chinese Grand Prix
Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China

Coverage from ITV1, their penultimate event before the rights switch to the BBC.
Paddock anchors: Steve Rider & Mark Blundell
Commentary: James Allen & Martin Brundle
Pitlane: Ted Kravitz & Louise Goodman

Coverage started at 7am, I’m coming in at 7.30am although I wasn’t really paying attention for five minutes or so while I was starting Notepad and FIA live timing. I did mean to get up at 7am but I don’t do mornings very well.

I think Sinopec is a fuel company. Yesterday we were told the circuit is 40 minutes to 2 hours from central Shanghai depending on time of day and levels of traffic.

7.45am, Martin is on the grid, this is he:
“Hamilton can secure the driver’s title and Ferrari the constructor’s.
There’s a stadium effect here, between the grandstands and the buildings over the track, one is hospitality and the other is the media centre.
We’ve seen in the support races the drivers who can hang on around the outside of turn one are in the ideal position for turn 2.”

I’ve woken up now I’ve started typing.

Martin talks to Norbert Haug of Mercedes before heading down the grid – but he says not a single driver is near their cars at the moment. Finds Pat Symonds (Renault): “There’s going to be some shenanigans going into the first corner. Let’s keep out of trouble and have a good race.”
Martin throws to Louise with Mark Webber.

Webber: “My fuel load is probably a little lighter than the guys around here because of Q3. Taking a penalty 5 rows back and you’re gone basically.”

Now she’s with Kovalainen: “All we can do is aim to take maximum points. We’re going to be positive, let’s not worry about what might happen.”
Louise: “Enjoy the rest of your birthday.”

The gridwalk is a bit early today so maybe that’s why nobody is around. They go back to Steve & Mark for a bit.

STARTING ORDER
Q3 Hamilton, Raikkonen, Massa, Alonso, Kovalainen, Vettel, Trulli, Bourdais, Heidfeld *
Q2 Piquet (9th), Kubica, Glock, Barrichello, Rosberg
Q3 Coulthard, Webber**, Nakajima, Button, Sutil, Fisichella

* Heidfeld was P7 but penalised 3 places for holding up DC in qualifying.
** Webber was P6 but penalised 10 places for an engine change.

5 minutes to go, FIA graphics, we go to James Allen and Martin Brundle and at *precisely* this moment the live timing updates – it was showing qualifying results, now it has cleared the timing data and shows the starting order.

Formation lap – this will be a 56 lap race and there is a chance of rain towards the end.
As I write that BMW get on Kubica’s radio to say there could be rain in 20 minutes.

Martin – it’s a longer lap than Fuji, more chance to get the brakes up to temperature, they need to be 700 degrees to work effectively.

Hamilton is on hard tyres, the two Ferraris are on soft tyres. Alonso in 4th on hard tyres.
Cars arrive on the grid, lots of tension..

5.4.3.2.1.GO!

Hamilton takes the lead, Kova around the outside, crash at the back.
Kovalainen is still alongside Alonso. Heikki bags him. Top 3 are as they were on the grid.
On to the back straight and Alonso goes alongside Heikki, and outbrakes him at the end of it. Important move, and interesting that he could pass with horsepower.

Lap 2 – not seen a replay of the start crash yet. On timing it looks like Trulli is the only car damaged and he pits now.
Alonso is pulling away from Heikki.
Ted is at Toyota – the whole right-hand sidepod is flapping everywhere, completely destroyed, it’ll lose him a load of downforce. James suggests he may have hit Bourdais who is now 18th after starting further up.
Replay – Heidfeld drivers around a few cars. Trulli turns in on Bourdais (not again Sebastien!).
Replay of Alonso passing Heikki who got it slightly wrong leading on to the straight, thus losing speed.

L3 – Trulli pulls the car in after letting the leaders through. The car must be too damaged.

L4 – Hamilton pulling away. Webber vs Barrichello, Rubens covers the inside.

L5 – first ad break
Timing shows Webber has taken Rubens for 10th. Hamilton is still faster than everybody, Ferrari next up with Alonso, these are in a race of their own. Kovalainen can’t stay with them and leads Heidfeld and Vettel.

L8 – back from ads
Heikki is 1.2 seconds per lap slower than Lewis and we saw Heikki’s brakes smoking on the grid, Martin says too much temperature in them. It could be hurting him now.

Louise is with Trulli, ‘not the first time you’ve had contact with Bourdais at the start’: “I mean this guy has to cool down a little bit. I had a hit on the rear right and my car was damaged.”

L9 – Webber is all over Piquet, takes him up the inside but too fast, Piquet comes back and they stay together – Piquet has to back out. Radio: “You know he’s light Nelson so don’t worry.”

L10 – Kimi now sets fastest lap. Ted tells us Vettel (P7) will stop a lot shorter than Kubica (P8) but Robert needs to stay within 7 seconds of him.

L13 – Rosberg passes Glock at the hairpin. Webber pits from 10th, James says the leaders are due in shortly. Rosberg’s radio says ‘qualifying laps until you stop’.

L14 – Piquet ran a little wide at the last corner. Webber is now running 18th and has to pass all those guys again, though he’s hoping most of that will come when they pit.
L15 – Massa and Alonso pit. Massa stays on soft tyres, Alonso stays on hards. Massa is 8th behind Kubica, Alonso is 10th behind Piquet.
Adrian Sutil has parked in a little run-off at the last corner.
L16 – Hamilton and Raikkonen pit. Both are on the hard tyres. Hamilton gets out ahead of Vettel with Raikkonen just behind Vettel. Kovalainen leads.
Replay of Sutil’s engine smoking as he pulls over.

L18 – Heidfeld is in.
L19 – Kovalainen and Vettel pit. Hamilton is now in the lead again. We go to an ad break.

Hamilton, Raikkonen, Kubica (not stopped), Massa, Piquet (not stopped), Alonso, Kovalainen, Heidfeld

L21 – Back from break.
L22 – Alonso radio: “Heikki is 6 laps longer than us.”
Lots of marbles on the side of the long straight.

L23 – Ted at McLaren: “Lewis says the car is a lot better and more stable after a half a turn of front wing at the stop.”

Everything is pretty stable right now on the timing screens, they are all matching each other up front.

L25 – Piquet comes in. He beats Vettel and Nakajima. Martin says he tried to pick up a fuel hose the other day and it was very heavy, he struggled with it and that was with no fuel, says it is a very hard job!
L26 – Kubica pits from 3rd. He’s out in 8th behind Coulthard who hasn’t stopped yet.
Replay of Kubica’s stop – they left the tyres on, added fuel and adjusted the front wing. Not often you see tyres left on in F1.

L28 – another ad break, return on L30.
Raikkonen lost 1.4 seconds trying to lap Fisichella.

Hamilton, Raikkonen +7.5, Massa +14.6 from Hamilton, Alonso +21.7, Kovalainen +29.7

L32 – Coulthard and Bourdais having a fight, Sebastien takes the place. Nakajima and Webber pit.
L33 – Glock is in. Massa lost a second passing Fisichella.

L36 – Kovalainen has a puncture! McLaren had been getting ready for him, we saw the mechanics already in the pitlane. They pushed it a little too far. Now he has to run the length of the long straight with it.
Ted: “This is brake-related. We saw them smoking on the grid. Then at the stop there was a lot of black dust, all the team breathed it in.”
Heikki pits and comes back out in 17th. Big news in the Constructors’ championship, McLaren needed him to score.

L37 – Alonso pits.
L38 – Massa is in, he switches to hard tyres. Webber gets on the marbles and runs through the car park.
L39 – Hamilton pits and switches to the soft tyres. Raikkonen is right behind him taking . He’s out just ahead of Massa. Hmmm I wonder if he’ll mysteriously begin to slow down soon and let Massa through..

L40 – Heidfeld is in, he’s out in 6th.
L41 – Kubica pits from 4th, he’s now behind Vettel again. There’s talk of McLaren turning the revs back a bit on Hamilton’s car, they need to take this engine to Brazil whereas Ferrari will have two new engines.

L42 – another ad break. Timing shows Vettel pitting.
L43 – back from ads, James says “this has not been a vintage grand prix”. No kidding. They are all driving away from each other.

L45 – 12 laps to go and I can’t believe Kimi won’t let Massa through. He’s letting him gain a couple of tenths each lap.
L46 – wow we’re going to another ad break already. Rumours on forums say they have to take 5 breaks per race.. Won’t miss this next year on the Beeb!
L48 – back again.
L49 – Kimi completely backs off into the hairpin, Massa is now 2nd. Sensible move given the title situation.

L50 – Kovalainen pits! Did he not take enough fuel when he had the puncture? Maybe not, he parks it in the garage. James and Martin speculate they may have decided to save the engine for Brazil. Ted gets on the phone and says “no, its definitely the brakes, it became undriveable. The man from the brake supplier is here looking very worried.”
Martin – when they get too hot the wear rate goes up exponentially.

L52 – Hamilton, Massa, Raikkonen, Alonso, Heidfeld, Kubica, Glock, Piquet
Alonso is catching Raikkonen. Kubica and Glock are catching Heidfeld. The gaps seem to have come down a little everywhere but nobody is close enough to do any racing.

L55 – Martin: “Interesting isn’t it, 33 starts but only 2 fastest laps for Hamilton.”
L56 – Good drive from Barrichello in 11th in that shitbox of a Honda. Martin suggests Bruno Senna will be testing for Honda soon, maybe he’ll be racing the car next year.

L57 – Hamilton Wins!

Massa 2nd, Raikkonen 3rd, Alonso 4th, Heidfeld 5th, Kubica 6th

Martin: “We’ve had some thrilling races this year, this wasn’t one of them, Hamilton won’t care will he?” He gives ‘driver of the day’ to Hamilton.

Congratulatory radio calls.

ITV sells us some more products as the cars head to parc ferme.

Drivers are in the little waiting room now having a bit of a chill out.
To the podium!
British anthem for Hamilton and McLaren. Dreary little ditty not suited to a celebration at all.

Trophy-giving, a bit fell off Hamilton’s trophy! Massa does not look happy, he’s very down. Martin: “Lovely man is Felipe Massa, a man you’d sit beside on an aeroplane or have around for dinner.”

Champagne!

Steve and Mark are in pitlane, behind Mark a throng of people pack out the start/finish straight.

After more adverts and a results review we go to the press conf.

Lewis: “Team have done a phenomenal job. I owe so much to the guys, the car is a dream to drive.” Peter Windsor suggests it was an easy win. “It was quite straightforward actually, made a great start, one of the best we had this year. Fortunately we were very consistent therefore I was able to create a gap. After my second stop we were just trying to look after the engine and tyres.”
Lewis seems quite quiet and understated today as well.

Felipe: “For us the hard tyre was not quick, difficult to drive, the soft was the only option. At the start I had a bit of wheelspin, then we just stayed in the same positions. Lewis was pulling away 3 tenths per lap, we were on the limit. Lewis had the better car. I think for the drivers championship it was not fantastic but for the constructors it was very good.”

Kimi: “We won as a team, its normal in these situations. The car was handling quite nicely but it wasn’t fast enough. Every time when I was faster it was too late. I got traffic three times and it cost me a lot of time. 2nd and 3rd was the best we could do but hopefully next race we can challenge a bit more.” Pete asks the inevitible team order question. “I know what the team expects, I have nothing to lose I’m driving for the team.”

Lewis again. Peter says: “7 points was your lead last year, 7 points is your lead this year into the last race in 2008*”
Lewis: “I know going to Brazil will be much different to last year, we know we’ve got to do a good job, these two will be pushing hard.”

Long conference today, longer than I’ve written down, thanks to ITV for sticking with it.

Steve & Mark briefly review the race with replays. A crowd has gathered to watch them! That’s funny!

Results
01. Hamilton 56 laps in 1h31m57.403s [10 pts]
02. Massa +14.925s [8]
03. Raikkonen +16.445s [6]
04. Alonso +18.370s [5]
05. Heidfeld +28.923s [4]
06. Kubica +33.219s [3]
07. Glock +41.722s [2]
08. Piquet +56.645s [1]
09. Vettel +64.339s
10. Coulthard +74.842s
11. Barrichello +85.061s
12. Nakajima +90.847s
13. Bourdais +91.457s
14. Webber +92.422s
15. Rosberg + 1 lap
16. Button + 1 lap
17. Fisichella + 1 lap
DNF Kovalainen (brakes)
DNF Sutil (engine?)
DNF Trulli (crash damage)

Fastest Lap: Hamilton 1m36.325

(results from Autosport.com who had them online unbelievably quickly)

World Drivers’ Championship
01. Hamilton 94
02. Massa 87
03. Kubica 75 (eliminated from title race)
04. Raikkonen 69
05. Heidfeld 60
06. Alonso 53 [+1]
07. Kovalainen 51 [-1]
08. Vettel 30
09. Trulli 30
10. Glock 22 [+1]
11. Webber 21 [-1]
12. Piquet 19

Hamilton extends the gap by 2 points and now leads by 7. All of the top six scored today. That top six now includes Alonso who has passed Kovalainen.

World Constructors’ Championship
01. Ferrari 156
02. McLaren 145
03. BMW 135
04. Renault 72
05. Toyota 52
06. Toro Rosso 34
07. Red Bull 29
08. Williams 26
09. Honda 14

Ferrari have a 9 point lead with 16 available in Brazil. McLaren will need Kovalainen to bring a better game to that race to pick up as many points as possible on a track were Ferrari are always strong.
Red Bull will need to score well to avoid the embarrasment of being beaten by the B-team!

The title-deciding race will be at Interlagos, Sau Paulo, Brazil on November 2nd. Not only is a Brit in the running, this will be ITV’s last race for the forseeable future so their coverage may be a little emotionally charged.

Bernie and ITV will be happy that it has gone to Brazil because that race gets away at 6pm here – prime time Sunday ratings!

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