'Unfair' penalty cripples Hamilton as Massa rejoices

The French Grand Prix could have been worse for Lewis Hamilton. Kimi Raikkonen, arguably the man most likely to beat him to the title, could have won. Instead, victory went to his team-mate Felipe Massa, who became the fourth driver in four races to take over the lead of the World Championship on a day when 10th place following a controversial penalty left the Englishman with his second consecutive finish outside the points.

This was always going to be a difficult weekend for Hamilton, who was obliged to start 10 grid places lower than his qualifying position thanks to the punishment from Canada where he eliminated himself and Raikkonen. That meant 13th place after he qualified third behind Raikkonen, on pole, and Massa.

The two Ferraris sped straight into the lead, while Hamilton charged his way up to ninth place after 12 laps. But then he was informed that he had been adjudged a drive-through penalty for "gaining an advantage" over Sebastian Vettel on the opening lap when he overtook the German but missed a chicane.

McLaren team principal Ron Dennis argued with race director Charlie Whiting that Hamilton had completed his move before running wide. "I think he was past him," he told ITV after the race. "I don't think he got any track position. That's my opinion; obviously it's not an opinion held by other people. There's really nothing to be gained from saying anything else."

Later, Hamilton told BBC Radio Five Live: "I did everything I needed to do to stay out of trouble, and drove what I thought was a fair race and just missed the points.

"There were four people abreast in front of me, and I was able to overtake a few of them in Turn Five. I thought I did it reasonably fairly into Turn Seven. I don't particularly think I did anything.

"I believe I was ahead on the outside, I couldn't turn in on the guy from there and lost the back end on the marbles and went over the kerb. I continued, and I don't believe I overtook by going over the kerb, I actually did it before that."

The drive-through marked the end of any real chance of scoring points, and as Hamilton dropped back to 13th place, Raikkonen was leading Massa by four and a half seconds, with Toyota's Jarno Trulli heading lightweight qualifier Fernando Alonso and Canadian victor Robert Kubica. The race began to unfold in the Brazilian's favour when Raikkonen's car began to fade around the 33rd lap. "The engine just lost power," the Finn reported. "Sometimes it lost it all, then it came back. I was slow in a straight line and out of the slow corners. It was a little bit like having a bad traction control.

"Luckily I went fast enough in the beginning to pull away from the others. But a few more laps and we wouldn't have finished the race. The car was almost stopping over the last three laps." The gap to Massa shrank from 6.6 seconds to less than a second, until the Brazilian swept by on the 39th lap and immediately began to pull away to his third win of the season.

"Sometimes you need a little bit of luck," he conceded. "Kimi [Raikkonen] had a very quick pace and it would have been very difficult for me to pass, so that was a nice present. I ran two laps longer on the fuel, but in two laps you can't be three-tenths [of a second] slower, you need to be within a tenth. So he had great pace, and maybe a little bit better balanced car. Second was already gonna be a great result, but first is even better."

Massa's sole problem was a brief flurry of rain towards the end, which made the track slippery in places.

"That was very difficult because sometimes there were coming some drops and you could see straight away that the track was not the same any more. I was slowing down more than I needed to, as I had a very good gap over Kimi. But it was not raining very heavily, so we certainly weren't thinking of changing the tyres or anything."

Raikkonen clung on for second place, and got as close to waxing philosophical as he ever can in his staccato style. "It's disappointing," he said. "We had a good car all weekend, I got the pole, and I was dealing with the race quite easily, but unfortunately it happens this way sometimes. In one way I was still lucky to finish the race, and I still take the eight points and I'm in a more comfortable position in the championship. It was just an unlucky situation." Luck is always relative, of course.

Massa's 10-point haul moved him to first place with 48 points ahead of Kubica whose relatively undramatic fifth place in a BMW Sauber that, for the first time this season, appeared to lack bite, left him second on 46, three clear of Raikkonen. Hamilton, stranded on the 38 points he had garnered up to the Montreal race, trails as he heads into his crucial home circuit in two weeks.

At a time when there is as much talk about moving the French Grand Prix to Paris as there is of revamping its current home, Magny-Cours did itself no favours thanks to a crushingly dull race which was really only enlivened in the closing stages as Trulli battled to fend off Hamilton's McLaren team-mate Heikki Kovalainen. The Finn got a run on the Italian on the penultimate lap and was alongside when Trulli took his line for the upcoming curve and they rubbed wheels.

Dedicating his podium finish to the late Toyota rally star and former team principal Ove Andersson who died last week, Trulli added: "I did my job and kept a decent line. I didn't want to lose a position. Everybody knows me, I am hard to pass and fight to the end."

Massa's triumph makes him the first Brazilian since the late Ayrton Senna after the Monaco Grand Prix in 1993 to head the world championship points table. "My dream is not just to lead the championship but to win it, and I'm gonna do the best I can to achieve that," he said. "But for sure it's a nice feeling."

Magny-Cours race details

1 F Massa (Br) Ferrari 1hr 31:50.245 sec

2 K Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari +17.984sec

3 J Trulli (It) Toyota +28.25sec

4 H Kovalainen (Fin) McLaren +28.929sec

5 R Kubica (Pol) BMW-Sauber +30.512sec

6 M Webber (Aus) RedBull-Renault +40.304sec

7 N Piquet (Br) Renault +41.033sec

8 F Alonso (Sp) Renault +43.372sec

9 D Coulthard (GB) RedBull-Renault +51.072sec

10 L Hamilton (GB) McLaren +54.521sec

11 T Glock (Ger) Toyota +57.738

12 S Vettel (Ger) Toro Rosso-Ferrari +58.065sec

13 N Heidfeld (Ger) BMW Sauber +1:02.079sec

14 R Barrichello (Br) Honda +1 lap

15 K Nakajima (Japan) Williams-Toyota +1 lap

16 N Rosberg (Ger) Williams-Toyota +1 lap

17 S Bourdais (Fr) Toro Rosso-Ferrari +1 lap

18 G Fisichella (It) Force India-Ferrari +1 lap

19 A Sutil (Ger) Force India-Ferrari +1 lap

Retired: J Button (GB) Honda 54 laps completed

Fastest Lap: Raikkonen, 1:16.63sec, lap 16.

CONSTRUCTORS' CHAMPIONSHIP

1 Ferrari 91pt

2 BMW Sauber 74

3 McLaren-Mercedes 58

4 RedBull-Renault 24

5 Toyota 23

6 Williams-Toyota 15

7 Renault 12

8 Honda 8

9 Toro Rosso-Ferrari 7

10 Force India-Ferrari 0

11 Super Aguri-Honda* 0

*Super Aguri-Honda have withdrawn from the 2008 Formula One championship

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot