Felipe Massa won his first grand prix here yesterday, but for 14 sweaty-palmed final laps all eyes were on a titanic battle for second place between the bitter rivals Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher.
Alonso kept his cool under the most intense pressure and the two extra points he gained may be crucial to the outcome in the world championship.
It was a dramatic race throughout. A first corner accident was triggered when Massa cut across on Alonso, who had beaten Schumacher off the line for second place. Trapped between the Ferraris as Schumacher sneaked back alongside him, Alonso had to brake, dropping to third and inadvertently short -braked his team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella, who spun. In the ensuing mêlée, Nick Heidfeld, Ralf Schumacher, Scott Speed and Kimi Raikkonen were all delayed.
Massa soon extended his lead over Schumacher and Alonso as, for reasons unknown, the safety car was not deployed even though there was debris all over the track. But any plans Ferrari might have entertained to "allow" Schumacher to inherit the lead during the first round of pit stops were scuppered when Tonio Liuzzi spun his Toro Rosso in turn one on lap 13.
The stalled car was a clear hazard and, by the time the safety car was finally deployed, all of the leaders headed for the pits. With both Ferraris arriving at once, Massa was serviced first as Schumacher sat and waited, so Alonso jumped him for second place.
By the time Massa and Alonso stopped again on the 39th laps, the Brazilian had opened up nine seconds over the Spaniard, who in turn was seven ahead of Schumacher, who had lost four seconds in one lap when he momentarily ran off the road on the challenging turn eight.
It was clear that the Renault had no answer to Massa's Ferrari even though their lap times were similar, but now it remained to be seen how much longer leader Schumacher could run. The answer was another four laps. When he finally pitted, Massa resumed the lead, and crucially Alonso went by into second place. But all of his advantage over Schumacher had gone. There is no love lost between these two and it was now war for the remainder of a nail- biting contest.
Schumacher came within inches of snatching second place on the 50th lap, but Alonso held his nerve and was able to open up a breathing space four laps later when Schumacher made a small error. By the finish, however, the the barest fraction of a second split them as Alonso just got the verdict.
"We were lucky with the safety car, as I overtook Michael there and managed to pull away," Alonso said, "but I was light on fuel in the second stint and Michael went wide in turn eight, and probably that was the key to maintaining second place after the second stop.
"I was confident I could hold him behind and was playing with the revs a little bit," he added. "In the last corner I just closed the door in case he tried a racing manoeuvre."
Schumacher admitted: "On my second set of tyres I didn't manage the speed I was supposed to go. There were some blisters on the rears because I had a pretty heavy fuel load. I lost significant time and had to make it up and probably overdrove the tyres a bit, but there was nothing else I could do. It was a nice fight towards the end, but overall congratulations to Felipe. He did a superb job."
Like Jenson Button - who finished a strong fourth here after gaining his first Formula One win at the recent Hungarian Grand Prix, Massa savoured an emotional triumph. "It's just fantastic," he said. "When you've been working so hard your whole career to get to this moment, it's just amazing. Now I'm here, I'm really happy. It's been a fantastic day for me."
It was not a bad day for Formula One, either.
Turkish Grand Prix details
Result: 1 F Massa (pictured) (Br) Ferrari 1hr 28min 51.028sec; 2 F Alonso (Sp) Renault 1:28:56.582; 3 M Schumacher (Ger) Ferrari 1:28:56.682; 4 J Button (GB) Honda 1:29:03.382; 5 P de la Rosa (Sp) McLaren-Mercedes 1:29:36.982; 6 G Fisichella (It) Renault 1:29:37.582; 7 R Schumacher (Ger) Toyota 1:29:50.382; 8 R Barrichello (Br) Honda +1min 1:29:51.082; 9 J Trulli (It) Toyota +1 lap; 10 M Webber (Aus) Williams-Cosworth +1 lap; 11 C Klien (Aut) RedBull-Ferrari +1 lap; 12 R Kubica (Pol) Sauber-BMW +1 lap; 13 S Speed (US) Scuderia Toro Rosso-Cosworth +1 lap; 14 N Heidfeld (Ger) Sauber-BMW +2 laps; 15 D Coulthard (GB) RedBull-Ferrari +3 laps. Not classified: 16 C Albers (Neth) Midland-Toyota (46 laps completed); 17 T Sato (Japan) Super Aguri-Honda (41 laps); 18 N Rosberg (Ger) Williams-Cosworth (25 laps); 19 S Yamamoto (Japan) Super Aguri-Honda (23 laps); 20 V Liuzzi (It) Scuderia Toro Rosso-Cosworth (12 laps); 21 K Raikkonen (Fin) McLaren-Mercedes (2 laps); 22 T Monteiro (Por) Midland-Toyota (0 laps).
Fastest lap: M Schumacher (Ferrari) 1min 28.005sec (lap 55).
Championship standings: Drivers: 1 Alonso 108pts; 2 M Schumacher 96; 3 Massa 62; 4 Fisichella 52; 5 Raikkonen 49; 6 Button 36; 7 J P Montoya (Col) 26; 8 Barrichello 22; 9 Heidfeld 19; 10 R Schumacher 18; 11 De la Rosa 14; 12 Coulthard 14; 13 Trulli 10; 14 J Villeneuve (Can) 7; 15 Webber 6; 16 Rosberg 4; 17 Klien 2; 18 Liuzzi 1. Constructors: 1 Renault 160pts; 2 Ferrari 158; 3 McLaren-Mercedes 89; 4 Honda 58; 5 Toyota 28; 6 -Sauber-BMW 26; 7 RedBull-Ferrari 16; 8 Williams- Cosworth 10; 9 Scuderia Toro Rosso-Cosworth 1.Reuse content