Tom Clarkson's 2008 Chinese Grand Prix race report

Published: 20 October 2008

Got a feeling of déjà vu? Lewis Hamilton has a seven-point lead going into the final round of the World Championship, as he did last year, and the balance of power between Ferrari and McLaren is much as it was in 2007.

There’s one fundamental difference, however, and that’s Lewis. He was indestructible in yesterday’s Chinese Grand Prix and it’s hard to believe that he’ll let the magnitude of the occasion get to him in Brazil. He’s simply too cool for that this year; too focused and calm.

Such was Lewis’s dominance in China that Felipe Massa goes to Brazil on the back foot. Neither he nor Kimi Raikkonen got a look in at the Shanghai International Circuit. Lewis’s first flying lap on Friday morning was one second faster than anything the Ferrari drivers had managed up to that point in first practice and he played with that advantage for the remainder of the weekend.

Kimi’s only hope of challenging Lewis was at the start of the race, when the Briton – who had more to lose – would have relented his position into Turn 1. As it was, Lewis made the perfect get-away and was gone. He drove his MP4-23 like he’d stolen it: flat-out all the way. His fastest lap was one second faster than team-mate Heikki Kovalainen, the only other guy in the field driving the same equipment.

Some journalists made a fuss in the post-race press conference about the Ferrari drivers swapping places on lap 49. A breach of Article 39.1 of the sporting regulations, which states: 'team orders which interfere with the outcome of the race are prohibited'. Common sense prevailed, thank goodness, because Kimi handing second place to Felipe was nothing more than a passing of the baton; it was no worse than Heikki letting Lewis through during the closing stages of the German Grand Prix earlier in the year.

Expect Ferrari to be more competitive in Brazil than they were at Shanghai because Interlagos is one of their ‘pet’ circuits. They’ve won there for the last two years and their motor, the most powerful in F1, will give them an advantage on the long climb towards the start-finish straight. Massa will no doubt rise to the occasion as well, in front of his jingoistic fans.

'You always play better at home,' Massa said last night. 'But winning won’t be enough; I’m now dependent on Lewis as well.' Don’t bank on Lewis screwing up, Felipe.

2008 Chinese Grand Prix race results

1 Lewis Hamilton
2 Felipe Massa
3 Kimi Raikkonen
4 Fernando Alonso
5 Nick Heidfeld
6 Robert Kubica
7 Timo Glock
8 Nelson Piquet

2008 World Championship standings

1 Lewis Hamilton 94pts
2 Felipe Massa 87pts
3 Robert Kubica 75pts
4 Kimi Raikkonen 75pts
5 Nick Heidfeld 60pts
6 Fernando Alonso 53pts

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By Tom Clarkson

F1 correspondent, BBC pitlane man, accesser of all areas, head beans-spiller