Massa silences his critics

Raikkonen takes title lead as Hamilton has a Middle East shocker

Ferrari's Felipe Massa has finally opened his 2008 Formula One World Championship account with victory in the Bahrain Grand Prix at Sakhir.

The Brazilian had failed to score points in the opening two races and came in for heavy criticism after spinning out of second place two weeks ago in Malaysia.

However, starting second on the grid, Massa outdragged polesitter Robert Kubica at the lights and then fended of a mid-race challenge from team-mate Kimi Raikkonen to take his second successive victory in the Middle East.

Raikkonen finished second and now assumes the lead in the World Championship thanks to a disastrous race for Lewis Hamilton.

Starting third on the grid, the McLaren-Mercedes driver fell to 10th place on the opening lap before driving into the back of former team-mate and adversary Fernando Alonso.

He eventually finished one lap down on the leaders in 13th place.

Kubica took the final podium position ahead of BMW Sauber team-mate Nick Heidfeld, with McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen, Toyota's Jarno Trulli, Red Bull's Mark Webber and Williams driver Nico Rosberg all scoring points.

The big question before the race was whether Kubica, who had scored both his and BMW Sauber's first pole position in qualifying, was lighter on fuel than his rivals.

If so, then a fast start and opening stint would have been vital; as it transpired, it was Massa who made the quicker getaway on the run down towards turn one.


Besides Kubica, the other big loser off the line was Hamilton, whose tardy getaway saw him fall to 10th before recovering one place by the end of lap one.

It then got worse for Hamilton, however, when he hit the back of Alonso on lap two, the McLaren losing its front wing in the process.

As Raikkonen passed Kubica for second place around the outside of turn one at the start of lap three, Hamilton had to pit for a new wing and fuel.

Team-mate Heikki Kovalainen - briefly in third place on the opening lap - was also going backwards, the Finn being passed by Heidfeld at the start of lap four.

The top four thus became Ferrari-Ferrari-BMW-BMW, with rivals McLaren in fifth courtesy of Kovalainen and Hamilton way down in 18th behind Super Aguri's Anthony Davidson.

At least he was ahead of David Coulthard and Jenson Button - the Red Bull and Honda drivers also pitting after both suffered right-rear punctures on a fraught opening lap for British drivers.

Massa, who had a bit of a 'moment' understeering wide on lap nine, had pulled out a five-second lead over Raikkonen three laps later, with Kubica holding on, only 1.3 seconds behind the Finn.

Meanwhile, Hamilton was struggling with a car whose aerodynamics had been knocked askew by his collision - his McLaren lapping over two seconds slower than the race leader and making no impression whatsoever.

Kubica then pitted on lap 18 - later than many had predicted - and promptly ran wide at turn 11, with Button losing his front wing and subsequently retiring when disputing 19th place with Coulthard moments later.

Massa held a 4.8-second lead by lap 20 but a repeat of the Malaysian Grand Prix was not on the cards - Raikkonen instead being the first to pit. His team-mate, together with Heidfeld, stopped one lap later.

With Massa holding a similar advantage, the top four thus remained as they were, with Kovalainen still fifth ahead of Trulli, Webber and Rosberg. Meanwhile, Hamilton had climbed to 14th place by lap 25.

Raikkonen took one second out of Massa's lead during the next five laps, while Hamilton shadowed the Force India of Giancarlo Fisichella - the McLaren taking 13th into turn one at the start of lap 31.


He pitted again one lap later and rejoined in 16th place between the Ferraris, whose burgeoning battle was reflected in the fastest laps traded between Massa and Raikkonen.

The latter went quickest on laps 31 and 32, while Massa responded with a fastest lap of his own on lap 34 - Raikkonen going better still one lap later before being trumped yet again on lap 38.

Raikkonen made his second stop on the same lap, with Massa stopping on lap 39 and rejoining comfortably ahead of his team-mate. Kubica and Heidfeld respectively pitted on laps 41 and 45 to retake third and fourth.

Kovalainen's rather lonely race continued as the Finn dropped from third back to fifth following his own second stop on lap 48.

As Ferrari eased their pace out front - Massa's 7.6-second lead being insurmountable - that same lap saw Heidfeld go quickest, demonstrating that BMW Sauber now have the race pace to compete with the likes of the world champions and McLaren.

Kubica backed this up by finishing just 1.6 seconds behind Raikkonen, with another indicator of changing times in F1 coming with the sight of Honda's Rubens Barrichello tailing the 10th-placed Renault of Alonso late in the race.

Raikkonen now leads the drivers' championship with 19 points, three ahead of Heidfeld, with Hamilton, Kubica and Kovalainen tied for third place on 14.

Meanwhile, the emergence of BMW Sauber is rewarded by the lead of the constructors' championship, one point ahead of Ferrari with McLaren one point behind in third.

FIA Formula 1 Bahrain Grand Prix, Manama, Bahrain

Leading Positions after Race (57 Laps):

1 Felipe Massa (Bra) Ferrari 1hr 31mins 06.970secs, 2 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 1:31:10.270, 3 Robert Kubica (Pol) BMW Sauber 1:31:11.870, 4 Nick Heidfeld (Ger) BMW Sauber 1:31:15.370, 5 Heikki Kovalainen (Fin) McLaren 1:31:33.670, 6 Jarno Trulli (Ita) Toyota 1:31:48.270, 7 Mark Webber (Aus) Red Bull 1:31:52.370, 8 Nico Rosberg (Ger) Williams

1:32:02.770, 9 Timo Glock (Ger) Toyota 1:32:16.470, 10 Fernando Alonso (Spa) Renault 1:32:24.070, 11 Rubens Barrichello (Bra) Honda 1:32:24.770, 12 Giancarlo Fisichella (Ita) Force India at 1 Lap, 13 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) McLaren at 1 Lap, 14 Kazuki Nakajima (Jpn) Williams at 1 Lap, 15 Sebastien Bourdais (Fra) Scuderia Toro Rosso at 1 Lap, 16 Anthony Davidson (Gbr) Super Aguri at 1 Lap, 17 Takuma Sato (Jpn) Super Aguri at 1 Lap, 18 David Coulthard (Gbr) Red Bull at 1 Lap, 19 Adrian Sutil (Ger) Force India at 2 Laps

Not Classified: 20 Nelson Piquet Jr. (Bra) Renault 40 Laps completed, 21 Jenson Button (Gbr) Honda 19 Laps completed, 22 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Scuderia Toro Rosso 0 Laps completed