Hamilton takes thrilling Spa victory
|By Matt Beer||Sunday, September 7th 2008, 13:30 GMT|
Lewis Hamilton snatched a dramatic victory from Kimi Raikkonen as a late rain shower prompted an incredible finish to the Belgian Grand Prix.
Raikkonen had looked set to end his long barren period and take another win, having led the majority of the race. But when the early rain returned in the final three laps, Hamilton caught and passed Raikkonen as both tried to stay out on dry tyres on an increasing slippery track.
While Hamilton managed to keep going and win the race, Raikkonen lost control and spun into the barriers, allowing his Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa into an unexpected second place.
Nick Heidfeld (BMW) gambled on a last-gasp change to intermediate tyres to snatch third place on the last lap, ahead of Renault's Fernando Alonso and Toro Rosso's Sebastian Vettel.
Rain had already affected the start of the race, with the circuit initially damp from the Bus Stop to the Kemmel Straight, yet virtually dry elsewhere - meaning that everyone started on slick tyres, but had to tread very carefully off the line.
Raikkonen moved up to second on the opening lap, having made a fast start and then vigorously rebuffed teammate Massa's attempt to re-pass on the Kemmel Straight.
Hamilton opened up a commanding advantage during the first lap, only to spin at La Source as he started lap two. Raikkonen had to go wide to avoid the McLaren, allowing Hamilton to quickly spin-turn and rejoin in front. But the Ferrari had much more momentum and swept through into the race lead at Les Combes.
The lead pair then stayed together for the first stint, pulling away from Massa at a rapid rate in the process.
However Hamilton lost ground at the first stops - pitting before the rest of the field then losing time behind Sebastien Bourdais and Robert Kubica until they pitted, by which time Raikkonen's once slender advantage had grown to five seconds.
The situation remained static until the final stint, when the McLaren came alive on the harder compound Bridgestones and rapidly closed in on the leading Ferrari. Once Raikkonen had got fully up to speed, he briefly edged away, but as further rain began to threaten in the final laps, Hamilton raised his pace again and reduced Raikkonen's lead to less than a second.
Then when the rain returned with three laps remaining, Hamilton was all over the back of the Ferrari, diving down the outside into the Bus Stop chicane. Raikkonen stayed narrowly ahead as the two cars banged wheels, but the McLaren then dived ahead into La Source to grab the lead.
It looked like Hamilton's advantage would be short-lived however, as he slid onto the grass at Fagnes later in the same lap, allowing Raikkonen back in front - only for the Ferrari to spin on the exit of the corner. Hamilton managed to rejoin and this time would keep the lead to the end of the race, as Raikkonen lost control for a second time on the way out of Blanchimont and slammed into the barriers.
Hamilton and Massa, who had gained ground by running much longer stints than the two leaders, then had to tip-toe around to the flag to claim first and second places after a heart-stopping finish to the race.
In their wake, many drivers chose to pit for intermediates, and duly lapped up to half a minute quicker than those struggled on slicks.
That speed advantage allowed Heidfeld to charge through to an unexpected third place, ahead of Alonso, who had run a comfortable fourth until the late confusion, but regained the place after pitting for intermediates.
Vettel and BMW's Robert Kubica completed the top six, ahead of the unfortunate Sebastien Bourdais - who stayed out on slicks and briefly moved up to third, only for a train of intermediate-shod cars to cruise past him on the last lap. Timo Glock completed the points scorers for Toyota.
McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen had a disastrous race. After a poor start from third on the grid, he was forced wide in the first corner chaos caused when Bourdais hit the back of Jarno Trulli's extremely fast-starting Toyota, with both cars understeering across the track and causing the rest of the field to take avoiding action.
That left Kovalainen down in 13th. He made assertive progress through the field at first, only to tangle with Mark Webber at the Bus Stop chicane and then receive a drive-through penalty for punting the Red Bull into a spin.
That plunged Kovalainen back down the order, and although he got back up to seventh, he then pulled off and retired on the final lap.
PROVISIONAL RACE RESULTS The Belgian Grand Prix Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium; 44 laps; 308.052km; Weather: Cloudy. Classified: Pos Driver Team Time 1. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes (B) 1h22.44.933 2. Massa Ferrari (B) + 14.461 3. Heidfeld BMW Sauber (B) + 23.844 4. Alonso Renault (B) + 28.939 5. Vettel Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) + 29.037 6. Kubica BMW Sauber (B) + 29.498 7. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) + 31.196 8. Glock Toyota (B) + 56.506 9. Webber Red Bull-Renault (B) + 57.237 10. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes (B) + 1 lap 11. Coulthard Red Bull-Renault (B) + 1 lap 12. Rosberg Williams-Toyota (B) + 1 lap 13. Sutil Force India-Ferrari (B) + 1 lap 14. Nakajima Williams-Toyota (B) + 1 lap 15. Button Honda (B) + 1 lap 16. Trulli Toyota (B) + 1 lap 17. Fisichella Force India-Ferrari (B) + 1 lap 18. Raikkonen Ferrari (B) + 2 laps Fastest lap: Raikkonen, 1:47.930 Not classified/retirements: Driver Team On lap Barrichello Honda (B) 21 Piquet Renault (B) 14 World Championship standings, round 13: Drivers: Constructors: 1. Hamilton 80 1. Ferrari 129 2. Massa 72 2. McLaren-Mercedes 123 3. Kubica 58 3. BMW Sauber 105 4. Raikkonen 57 4. Toyota 42 5. Heidfeld 47 5. Renault 36 6. Kovalainen 43 6. Red Bull-Renault 24 7. Trulli 26 7. Williams-Toyota 17 8. Alonso 23 8. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 17 9. Webber 18 9. Honda 14 10. Glock 16 11. Vettel 13 12. Piquet 13 13. Barrichello 11 14. Rosberg 9 15. Nakajima 8 16. Coulthard 6 17. Bourdais 4 18. Button 3 All timing unofficial