Massa romps to French win

Brazilian takes Championship lead after third victory of season

Massa: New Championship leader

Ferrari's Felipe Massa has won the French Grand Prix ahead of team-mate Kimi Raikkonen and Toyota's Jarno Trulli.

McLaren Mercedes driver Heikki Kovalainen finished fourth ahead of BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica and Red Bull's Mark Webber.

Renault's Nelson Piquet Jr. finished seventh ahead of team-mate Fernando Alonso.

Meanwhile, after starting 13th on the grid, Lewis Hamilton finished in 10th place, the McLaren driver's attempt to come through the field hampered by a drive through penalty.

However, Hamilton was not the only driver whose afternoon at Magny-Cours was compromised: although Massa took the chequered flag some 18 seconds ahead of Raikkonen, the defending World Champion had led comfortably until suffering a fractured exhaust pipe midway through the race.

Nevertheless, he still finished second and claimed eight valuable Championship points - the 18-second gap he in turn had over Trulli demonstrating Ferrari's advantage over their rivals.

That much was evident from the lights, with polesitter Raikkonen leading Massa off the line, Trulli assuming third place and Kubica - for a few corners at least - getting ahead of Alonso.

Having both straightlined the quick Imola chicane to pass Sebasatian Vettel's Toro Rosso and also clipped the back of team-mate Kovalainen, Hamilton was up to 10th at the end of lap one.

He then passed the heavily-fuelled sister McLaren into the Adelaide Hairpin on lap five with lap seven seeing Hamilton duelling with former GP2 adversary Piquet over eighth place.


However, his progress was frustrated by the Renault, with lap 13 seeing his earlier raciness - specifically the move on Vettel - catching up with him in the form of a drive through penalty.

Hamilton pitted immediately and rejoined where he started - almost 46 seconds behind race leader Raikkonen.

Alonso became the first of the frontrunners to stop on lap 16, rejoining in 12th. The Spaniard then fell back a place three laps later when Hamilton passed him - McLaren touching Renault in the process.

But Hamilton was soon moving backwards once more, his opening fuel stop coming one lap later and seeing him drop back to 18th place and, briefly, one lap behind.

Holding a 4.3-second lead, Raikkonen stopped on lap 22 and retook first place when Massa - who shook his fist at Hamilton when trying to pass the McLaren at the Imola chicane - made his first stop two laps later.

Trulli reclaimed third place when Red Bull's David Coulthard stopped on lap 27 with Vettel and Nick Heidfeld respectively up to fourth and sixth places prior to their first stops on lap 30.

Raikkonen now led Massa by 6.6 seconds, the latter having pulled some 26 seconds clear of Trulli who, in turn, led Kubica, Alonso, Webber, Kovalainen and Piquet.

However, the halfway stage of the race suddenly saw Massa halve the gap to his team-mate - Raikkonen lapping one second per lap slower - with the gap coming down to 1.7 seconds by lap 37.

With Raikkonen's engine down on power because of a broken exhaust, Massa took the lead at the Adelaide Hairpin on lap 39. The question now was whether, with 30 laps to run, the World Champion could bring the car home in the points.

His cause was helped by the 25-odd second lead he held over Trulli. Meanwhile, from fifth place, Alonso also became the first driver to make his second stop on lap 43.

Once more, he dropped back to 12th and, once more, he found himself fending off Hamilton, who made his second pass of the afternoon at the Adelaide Hairpin on lap 48.

He then climbed to 10th after Vettel and Heidfeld again pitted in tandem on lap 50, with third-placed Trulli making his second stop on lap 52.


Despite his handicap, Raikkonen had stabilised and was lapping on a par with the lead Toyota - rejoining comfortably ahead of Trulli after his own second stop on lap 53.

Race leader Massa made his second stop with 16 laps remaining - Hamilton by now down in 12th and lapped by the Ferrari having made his own final stop.

But Kovalainen was, at last, having a strong afternoon, the Finn climbing to fourth place ahead of Kubica after both had pitted.

Massa was now leading Raikkonen by 14.6 seconds, the second Ferrari in turn over 18 seconds ahead of Trulli. With light rain briefly falling, Kovalainen and Kubica then closed right up to the Toyota.

The gap between the three was now visible but, the shower having passed, Trulli soon regained his pace and, despite Kovalainen's close attentions over the closing laps - the McLaren running wide trying to pass at the Imola chicane on lap 70 - the Italian stood his ground to score Toyota's first podium in over two years.

Meanwhile, Piquet scored his first points of the season, the Brazilian running eighth prior to passing Alonso in the closing stages - Renault's team leader running wide attempting to lap a Force India.

Jenson Button was the afternoon's only retirement, the Honda driver calling it a day after a collision with Toro Rosso's Sebastien Bourdais caused damage to his front wing.

The result means that Massa now leads a four-way title race by two points from Kubica with Raikkonen three points further back. Hamilton now trails by 10 points.

French Grand Prix, result:

1. Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari 1 min 31:50.245 secs
2. Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari +00:17.984
3. Jarno Trulli (Italy) Toyota 00:28.250
4. Heikki Kovalainen (Finland) McLaren 00:28.929
5. Robert Kubica (Poland) BMW Sauber 00:30.512
6. Mark Webber (Australia) RedBull - Renault 00:40.304
7. Nelson Piquet (Brazil) Renault 00:41.033
8. Fernando Alonso (Spain) Renault 00:43.372
9. David Coulthard (Britain) RedBull - Renault 00:51.072
10. Lewis Hamilton (Britain) McLaren 00:54.521
11. Timo Glock (Germany) Toyota 00:57.738
12. Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Toro Rosso - Ferrari 00:58.065
13. Nick Heidfeld (Germany) BMW Sauber 01:02.079
14. Rubens Barrichello (Brazil) Honda 1 lap
15. Kazuki Nakajima (Japan) Williams - Toyota 1 lap
16. Nico Rosberg (Germany) Williams - Toyota 1 lap
17. Sebastien Bourdais (France) Toro Rosso - Ferrari 1 lap
18. Giancarlo Fisichella (Italy) Force India - Ferrari 1 lap
19. Adrian Sutil (Germany) Force India - Ferrari 1 lap
r. Jenson Button (Britain) Honda 54 laps
(rank: r = retired)
Fastest Lap: Kimi Raikkonen, 1:16.630, lap 16.

Pos---Driver--- Pts

1 Felipe Massa 48
2 Robert Kubica 46
3 Kimi Raikkonen 43
4 Lewis Hamilton 38
5 Nick Heidfeld 28
6 Heikki Kovalainen 20
7 Mark Webber 18
8 Jarno Trulli 18
9 Fernando Alonso 10
10 Nico Rosberg 8
11 Kazuki Nakajima 7
12 David Coulthard 6
13 Sebastian Vettel 5
14 Rubens Barrichello 5
15 Timo Glock 5
16 Jenson Button 3
17 Sebastien Bourdais 2
18 Nelson Piquet Jr 2
19 Adrian Sutil 0
20 Anthony Davidson 0
21 Takuma Sato 0
22 Giancarlo Fisichella 0