Raikkonen leads Ferrari 1-2 in France

Kimi Raikkonen revitalised his troubled season by beating teammate Felipe Massa to victory in the Ferrari-dominated French Grand Prix

Raikkonen leads Ferrari 1-2 in France

Lewis Hamilton maintained his championship lead with third place, the McLaren driver unable to take the fight to the Ferraris at Magny-Cours.

His McLaren teammate Fernando Alonso made determined attempts to progress from 10th on the grid after his gearbox problem in qualifying, but despite a number of bold overtaking moves in the early stages, a mid-race switch from a three to a two-stop strategy backfired and he could only manage seventh place.

Ferrari had asserted their authority at the start of the race, with Raikkonen immediately passing Hamilton to run second behind Massa.

Further back, Alonso gained two places when Jarno Trulli ran into Heikki Kovalainen at the Adelaide hairpin - ending the Toyota's race and forcing the Renault to pit for repairs.

This was the less dramatic of the two opening laps incidents, as Anthony Davidson had already tagged Vitantonio Liuzzi into a spin at the first corner. The Toro Rosso slewed back across the track and speared the Super Aguri mid-corner, heavily damaging both cars.

The top three rapidly edged away from Robert Kubica's BMW, with Giancarlo Fisichella running fifth ahead of Nick Heidfeld. Alonso quickly passed Nico Rosberg and closed in on Heidfeld.

He overtook the BMW into the penultimate corner on lap five, only to run wide and lose the place again.

The McLarens then turned out to be the lightest cars in the top ten, with both Hamilton and Alonso coming in on lap 16 - Alonso having already lost so much ground in traffic that Hamilton was clear of the pit box by the time he stopped.

Massa stayed out another three laps before pitting, with Raikkonen running a further two laps before his first stop.

Some rapid in-laps had allowed Raikkonen to halve Massa's four-second lead during this pitstop sequence, and he then matched Massa's times throughout the middle stint.

That left him perfectly placed for the second stops, when Raikkonen again ran two laps longer than Massa. Both Ferraris switched to the less favoured soft tyres, and Massa lost time on his out-laps, allowing Raikkonen to overturn his advantage and emerge from the pits 1.8 seconds ahead.

By then Hamilton was out of contention for victory. He was on a unique three-stop strategy, and did not have the speed to capitalise. His final stop left him half a minute behind the Ferraris, but third allowed him to stretch his championship lead to 14 points.

Alonso passed both Fisichella and Heidfeld during his middle stint, taking the BMW with a particularly brave pass into the fast Imola chicane. The McLaren had carried much more speed out of the preceding 180 corner, and then determinedly claimed the inside for Imola, leaving Heidfeld to drive across the kerbs to give Alonso space.

McLaren then fuelled Alonso to the finish when he made his second stop on lap 35, but he did not have sufficient pace on full tanks to make the strategy work.

Several errors showed how hard Alonso was pushing, but it was to no avail. By the time Heidfeld and Fisichella made their own second stops a dozen laps later, they had pulled far enough ahead to emerge in front of Alonso in fifth and sixth, with Kubica taking a lonely fourth nine seconds clear of his teammate.

Jenson Button scored Honda's first point of 2007 in eighth. A very long first stint allowed him to run as high as fifth, and the Honda was quick enough on light tanks to vault past Rosberg.

Button's teammate Rubens Barrichello had been significantly slower on the same strategy and had a queue of cars behind him for most of the afternoon.

Ralf Schumacher managed to jump the Honda in the first stops and consequently took 10th, with 11th-placed Barrichello leading the Red Bulls and Alex Wurz home.

PROVISIONAL RACE RESULTS

The French Grand Prix
Magny Cours, France;
70 laps; 308.586km;
Weather: Cloudy, dry.

Classified:

Pos  Driver        Team                      Time
 1.  Raikkonen     Ferrari              (B)  1h30:54.200
 2.  Massa         Ferrari              (B)  +     2.414
 3.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes     (B)  +    32.153
 4.  Kubica        BMW Sauber           (B)  +    41.727
 5.  Heidfeld      BMW Sauber           (B)  +    48.801
 6.  Fisichella    Renault              (B)  +    52.210
 7.  Alonso        McLaren-Mercedes     (B)  +    56.516
 8.  Button        Honda                (B)  +    58.885
 9.  Rosberg       Williams-Toyota      (B)  +  1:08.505
10.  R.Schumacher  Toyota               (B)  +     1 lap
11.  Barrichello   Honda                (B)  +     1 lap
12.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault     (B)  +     1 lap
13.  Coulthard     Red Bull-Renault     (B)  +     1 lap
14.  Wurz          Williams-Toyota      (B)  +     1 lap
15.  Kovalainen    Renault              (B)  +     1 lap
16.  Sato          Super Aguri-Honda    (B)  +    2 laps
17.  Sutil         Spyker-Ferrari       (B)  +    2 laps

Fastest lap: Massa, 1:16.099

Not classified/retirements:

Driver        Team                      On lap
Speed         Toro Rosso-Ferrari   (B)    57
Albers        Spyker-Ferrari       (B)    29
Davidson      Super Aguri-Honda    (B)    2
Trulli        Toyota               (B)    2
Liuzzi        Toro Rosso-Ferrari   (B)    1


World Championship standings, round 8:                

Drivers:                    Constructors:             
 1.  Hamilton      64        1.  McLaren-Mercedes     114
 2.  Alonso        50        2.  Ferrari               89
 3.  Massa         47        3.  BMW Sauber            48
 4.  Raikkonen     42        4.  Renault               28
 5.  Heidfeld      30        5.  Williams-Toyota       13
 6.  Kubica        17        6.  Toyota                 9
 7.  Fisichella    16        7.  Red Bull-Renault       6
 8.  Kovalainen    12        8.  Super Aguri-Honda      4
 9.  Wurz           8        9.  Honda                  1
10.  Trulli         7       
11.  Rosberg        5       
12.  Coulthard      4       
13.  Sato           4       
14.  R.Schumacher   2       
15.  Webber         2       
16.  Vettel         1       
17.  Button         1       
       
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