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F1 2008, Round 16 - Japan

Following the spectacular Singapore Grand Prix, and remembering the washout that was the Japanese race last year, I wasn’t expecting great things at the Fuji Speedway this past weekend.

The weather forecasts suggested there might be rain on Saturday, but as Fuji is situated directly underneath the mountain of the same name, conditions can be unpredictable. Thankfully, in this instance, the meteorologists were correct, and all we saw was a wet session on Saturday morning, but no actual rain.

The Free Practice sessions and Qualifying all played out as expected, which added to the concerns about a boring race. The only notable thing from qualifying was Heidfeld not managing to drag his BMW out of the first session. The team made a mistake with their tyre choice and Heidfeld was left in the bottom five, whilst team mate Kubica managed to qualify sixth.

Hamilton had pole position but made a terrible start and allowed Raikkonen past him. He braked very late, almost wildly, into the first corner and this ran the front runners wide, missing the apex. Kubica and Alonso breezed past them, whilst the Ferrari’s and McLaren’s recovered. Massa then chased Hamilton around the next few corners and after bungling an overtaking manoeuvre, ended up knocking into him and spinning the McLaren round. Hamilton was last, and damaged, and came into the pits for a new strategy. For their respective mistakes, both Massa and Hamilton were given drive through penalties.

The rest of the race was pretty straightforward, although we kept an eye on Alonso taking the lead from Kubica due to a super fast pit stop, and Massa trying to make his way through the field and back into the points. Hamilton had a very difficult afternoon and couldn’t progress through the pack very far.

Alonso managed to take his second victory in a row, with Kubica and Raikkonen joining him on the podium. An incident between Bourdais and Massa that saw the Toro Rosso receive a post-race 25 second penalty, meant that the Ferrari picked up two vital points. The team retake the lead in the constructors, whilst Hamilton remains in front for the driver’s title. Raikkonen and Heidfeld are no now longer able to win the title with only two races remaining.

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