Kovalainen takes dramatic maiden victory


McLaren‘s Heikki Kovalainen won his maiden grand prix in Hungary as Felipe Massa‘s leading Ferrari broke down three laps from the finish and Lewis Hamilton came in fifth after suffering a puncture.

FORMULA 1 2008 - McLaren driver Heikki Kovalainen from Finland after winning the Hungarian Grand Prix - 0

Timo Glock secured his first career podium for Toyota, holding off reigning world champion Kimi Raikkonen in third.

The result means that Hamilton retains his championship lead with 62 points, five more than Raikkonen. Massa, who would have led the standings had he coasted home – he was nine seconds ahead of Kovalainen at the critical moment – is third with 54.

Fernando Alonso ended in fourth, his Renault team-mate Nelson Piquet Jr sixth; Jarno Trulli completed a points double for Toyota with seventh ahead of BMW Sauber‘s Robert Kubica, Red Bull‘s Mark Webber and Kubica’s colleague Nick Heidfeld.

Behind them were Britons David Coulthard of Red Bull and Jenson Button of Honda.

Massa was lightning-quick at the start, bypassing Kovalainen and getting right up to pole sitter Hamilton before moving around the outside at turn 2.

Alonso also showed bravery to pass Raikkonen, the Finn again struggling for long periods before finding form in the latter part of the race; he had to fight off Webber in the opening laps.

Alonso’s Renault team-mate Nelson Piquet Jr, who took his first podium at the last meeting in Germany, immediately jumped two places ahead of Mark Webber and Jarno Trulli but ran wide at turn 2 to drop them again and settle into 10th.

Glock was another quick starter, taking a place for fourth, and fully deserved his result by the end following a hard drive in a contest featuring no major accidents and only two minor retirements: Toro Rosso‘s Sebastian Vettel and Force India‘s Adrian Sutil.

Once the dust had settled, the gap between the front two was four seconds with a further five between Hamilton and third-placed Kovalainen. Massa’s jump on Hamilton suggested a lighter fuel load, but they both came in after 17 laps.

The Brazilian had little trouble regaining his lead after everyone around him had pitted. Hamilton had four laps’ worth more fuel on board for the second stint and had to remain close to his rival for a shot of grabbing the lead during the second round of stops.

However he was unable to prevent himself slipping off the pace and would have remained second had a piece of debris not deflated his front left tyre with 33 laps left to race.

The Briton coaxed the McLaren around to the pitlane for an unscheduled stop after running off slightly with the problem at turn 5. He was fuelled to the end of the race, but there were doubts as to whether the super soft tyres would last that far. With everyone still to pit a second time, he found himself down in 11th just ahead of Coulthard.

A few laps beforehand three cars caught fire in the pits: Sebastien Bourdais’s Toro Rosso, Kazuki Nakajima‘s Williams and Rubens Barrichello‘s Honda; yet all three rejoined with little time lost, the flames at the rear doused by foam or air. It happened to Bourdais again later in the race.

Hamilton worked his way up to sixth by lap 53 behind former team-mate Alonso after Raikkonen had broken free of the Spaniard and began to sling the Ferrari around the Hungaroring, setting fastest race laps seemingly at will.

The move Raikkonen put on Alonso came as a surprise: not long before he had lost the car briefly and run off the track at turn 2. Perhaps the incident served as a wake-up call to his title chances.

With 12 laps remaining Glock, in third since Hamilton’s problem struck, ran wide and picked up some dirt. That meant he suddenly had a task to hold off Raikkonen, a task he performed admirably to the contest’s conclusion.

Hamilton’s team became worried that he might not last the race as he began to lose time on Alonso, while at the front Massa was content to coast home nine seconds ahead of Kovalainen.

However his weekend was ruined with only three laps left to race when his car began to billow smoke and came to a standstill on the track – the result of engine failure – allowing Kovalainen to snatch victory and Hamilton to retain the number one spot in the standings.

Jonathan Symcox / Eurosport

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