Felipe Massa made it three in a row at Istanbul after sealing his third successive victory at the Speed Park despite intense pressure from Lewis Hamilton who led an awe-inspiring charge to second place on an avant-garde three stop route to the chequered flag.
“Its fantastic to have got the hat trick here in Istanbul,” wallowed Massa after notching up his second win of the season and the seventh of his career. “It might really almost be worth asking for a Turkish passport!”
The Brazilian was locked in a fierce on-track battle with Lewis Hamilton throughout the race, the duo trading blows in the early laps before going their separate ways on strategy – McLaren opting to put their man on an unconventional three-stop strategy to delay and minimize the use of the soft tyres which hampered the MP4-23 in qualifying.
Hamilton led a formidable assault on first place the Briton forcing his way past the Ferrari at one point to give himself a whiff of victory but it wasn t quite enough to eclipse Massa; Hamilton emerging five seconds adrift of the Brazilian after his third and final pit-stop.
“I am so thrilled with today s result, and I think this is the best race ever for me,” declared Hamilton, who had got the absolute maximum out his skittish and understeering MP4-23.
“It s not about winning, it s about feeling that you extract 100% from yourself and the car and I did that today. Before the race our prediction was that all being well I would finish fifth, so second is such a bonus.”
Championship leader Kimi Raikkonen had to settle for third after a nearly moment with Heikki Kovalainen at the first corner put him out of position in the opening laps behind both Robert Kubica and Fernando Alonso.
“It was a difficult weekend for me but six points are definitely better than nothing,” mulled the Ferrari ace afterwards. “At the start, I was almost alongside Heikki but then he slowed and I had to brake too to avoid a heavy crash.”
“We touched just enough to damage the end plate of the front wing on my car: it was not a very serious problem, but it definitely didn t help my race.”
Kovalainen, who started on the front row alongside Massa, came off worse from the contact with Raikkonen and was forced to do things the hard way after dropping to the rear of the pack as he pealed into his McLaren garage for repair. The Finn recovered and charged through the field but with so many cars finishing he was unable to progress beyond twelfth.
“Not a lucky race for me as I made a bad start from the dirty line on the grid,” rued the 26-year-old. “After the start Kimi and I touched slightly which caused a slow puncture to my left-rear tyre. “That was almost it for me, because with my heavy fuel load and the traffic it is extremely difficult to gain any places during the race. However, I did my best but no points.”
The BMW Sauber drivers of Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld followed the red and silver cars home in fourth and fifth, Kubica unable to keep a heavier Raikkonen at bay and Heidfeld taking advantage of his own hefty fuel load to scythe his way through to sixth.
Fernando Alonso who had managed to catapult ahead of Kimi Raikkonen at the start only to give way to the charging Finn a few laps later was one the first drivers to stop for fuel making it nearly impossible for Renault to mount a challenge on BMW. Alonso managed to keep seventh place Mark Webber at bay though, the Australian unable to leap-frog the Renault at the pit-stops emerging right on its gearbox in fact despite carrying more fuel.
David Coulthard in the sister Red Bull meanwhile stayed out of trouble for the first time this year but was unable to progress much beyond his tenth place starting position, the Scott finishing ninth behind Nico Rosberg in the final points paying position.
The biggest drama at the rear of the field came on the opening lap when Giancarlo Fissichella overcooked it at the first corner and ploughed into the back of Kazuki Nakajima, ripping the rear wing off the Williams and inflicting irreparable damage on his own Force India. The safety car immediately pealed out onto the track as a result of the incident.
In the mid-field race, Honda were locked in battle with Toyota, the Cologne based outfit emerging Triumphant with Jarno Trulli finishing tenth ahead of Button and Glock in thirteenth in front of Rubens Barrichello the Brazilian s record breaking 257th grand prix by no means his finest hour.
Nelson Piquet s race was effectively over before it started having failed to escape the first round chop in qualifying, the Brazilian winding up fifteenth ahead of Adrian Sutil and a disappointed Sebastian Vettel.
Turkish GP result – 58 laps
1. MASSA Ferrari 2. HAMILTON McLaren +3.7s 3. RAIKKONEN Ferrari +4.2s 4. KUBICA BMW +21.6s 5. HEIDFELD BMW +38.7s 6. ALONSO Renault +53.7s 7. WEBBER Red Bull +64.2s 8. ROSBERG Williams +71.4s 9. COULTHARD Red Bull +75.2s 10. TRULLI Toyota +76.3s 11. BUTTON Honda +1 lap 12. KOVALAINEN McLaren +1 lap 13. GLOCK Toyota +1 lap 14. BARRICHELLO Honda +1 lap 15. PIQUET Renault +1 lap 16. SUTIL Force India +1 lap 17. VETTEL Toro Rosso +1 lap R. BOURDAIS Toro Rosso +34 laps R. NAKAJIMA Williams +57 laps R. FISICHELLA Force India +58 laps