That, my friends, is what we call an event-filled race.
Fernando Alonso, two-time world champion and my favorite won! It was the first time he’s had back-to-back wins since 2006. I am so happy.
He actually qualified fourth. Lewis Hamilton was on pole, with Kimi Raikkonen second and Hamilton’s teammate Heikki Kovalainen third.
Hijinks ensued in the first corner. Hamilton had a bad start and Kimi got the jump on him, but Hamilton tried to barrel through the field, locked all four tires and ended up taking himself, Kimi and Kovy wide. BMW’s Robert Kubica managed to slip through in first place with Alonso close on his tail.
Hamilton’s antics put him behind his title rival Felipe Massa. When he tried to overtake the Ferrari Massa refused to give way and there was contact. Hamilton ended up spinning and had to wait for the entire field to pass before he could rejoin the action. Oops.
Both Hamilton and Massa were slammed with drive through penalties for their behavior.
Meanwhile back at the pointy end, Alonso leap-frogged Kubica during the first set of pit stops to take the lead. Woo hoo! Kubica couldn’t close the gap and Alonso came out ahead after the second round in the pits. From there it was smooth sailing.
Massa managed to bring home two points after the racing stewards hit Sebastien Bourdais with a 25 second penalty for making contact with Massa while leaving the pits. That seems a bit harsh to me. I do think cars leaving the pits are supposed to give way to the guys on the racing line, but it looked like a straight up racing incident to me, and SeaBass probably didn’t deserve that.
I suspect Hamilton is choking again. He said after the Singapore Grand Prix that he hates just driving for points, and I think that showed in the last race. If he had conceded the place to Kimi and just concentrated on keeping Massa behind him the race would have had a much different ending. Instead he tried to keep the lead, then ended up behind Massa. The one place he really doesn’t want to be.
Later, in the closing laps he was, in my opinion, getting awfully racy with Alonso trying to unlap himself. I’m not sure what purpose that served. Alonso wisely just let him by, but Hamilton probably shouldn’t have been doing that.
Only two races remain, with three drivers still in the hunt for the WDC. Hamilton has the lead but Massa is only 5 points behind him. The championship last year was decided by one point, so those two points Massa scraped together in Japan could prove critical. Watch this space, and Go Massa Go!