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F1 2008, Round 17 - China // A less exciting race at Shanghai sees the championship go down to the wire

Published by Christine

This article was originally written for BellaOnline, but is republished here for posterity.

Although the championship decider will now be fought in Brazil, it looks like this weekend’s race in China was the real turning point of the title fight. As we entered the weekend, we had three drivers who could mathematically take the title, although only two appeared to be real candidates.

Robert Kubica fell at the first hurdle. As the least likely to get the glory, and with all of BMW’s hopes riding on his shoulders, he struggled with two qualifying sessions and could only line up on the grid in 11th place. He managed to maximise strategy during the race to pick up some points, but he fell out of the championship fight.

This left just Massa and Hamilton. From the opening minutes of the first Free Practice session, the McLaren looked like it was going to dominate. Hamilton had the car underneath him, and total confidence in the corners, meaning he was constantly posting fast lap times. He topped the timesheets for both FP1 and FP2, and was second in FP3 behind a last ditch effort from Nick Heidfeld.

Hamilton easily scored pole position and got a great start off the grid to pull out an early lead in the race. Behind him, Räikkönen had managed to outqualify Massa, but neither Ferrari could match the pace set by the McLaren. With teammate Kovalainen back in fifth, Hamilton was out on his own, but he didn’t need anyone else’s help. A small turn of front wing during the first pit stop was all he needed to make it an easy victory. He put in a flawless drive, took fastest lap, and the chequered flag. He now leads the championship by seven points, making his title chances at Brazil the strongest they could be.

Whilst Räikkönen didn’t have the pace on Hamilton, it was clear Massa didn’t have the pace on either of the front runners, and he spent the majority of the race in third. As we got into the last stint, Räikkönen slowed, and in a somewhat clumsy manoeuvre, handed his second place to his teammate. It had been destined to happen since the start of the race, and left Massa with two extra championship points. His deficit will be a tough one to overhaul, but anything can happen in a race. From the controversy at Fuji, to a pretty standard and predictable affair at Shanghai, you can never predict what will happen in Formula 1. That’s why, whatever happens, I’m just glad the championship battle will go down to the wire.