Tyre wear dominated the pre-race paddock chat in Istanbul, but in the end the Turkish Grand Prix will be remembered for two fantastic human performances. Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton were a class apart.
No-one expects Massa to dominate his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen this year. We’ve got used to seeing him struggle without traction control and make unforced errors, but he proved at Istanbul Park that he refuses to lie down.
Such was his pace over one lap that Raikkonen didn’t bother challenging him for pole position. Kimi opted for a heavier fuel load in Q3, hoping to eke out an advantage in the race, which never materialised when he made a poor start. Thereafter, Felipe never looked seriously threatened. Hamilton was quick on the prime tyre, but as soon as Felipe was informed that 'Our Hero' was on a three-stop strategy, he relaxed and even let him pass.
In the end, Felipe beat Lewis by 3.7sec, but the gap could have been more had he needed to push harder in the final stint. It was his third consecutive win in Turkey and made him only the fourth driver in history to score more than 200 points for Ferrari.
You only had to watch Lewis in the post-qualifying press conference on Saturday to realise that he was building up to something special in the race. He was disappointed to be third on the grid and wore that fake, fixed grin that we last saw at Interlagos ’07, when he’d just lost the World Championship. He knew there was more performance in his MP4-23; it was just a question on unleashing it.
Lewis carried that same determined demeanour into raceday. As he walked past me in the pitlane after his customary pre-race pee, his gaze was fixed; he looked like a man on a mission and he delivered, dragging the maximum from his McLaren on a circuit that he’s loved since first coming here in 2006 in GP2.
McLaren’s strategists predicted that Lewis would finish fifth, yet he surprised them and probably even himself in finishing second. As he high-fived his mechanics in parc ferme, he looked like a man rejuvenated.
Turkey 2008 was the Felipe and Lewis show.
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