Sunday, August 3, 2008

Kovalainen takes first F1 race after Massa bows out

BUDAPEST, Hungary -- McLaren driver, Heikki Kovalainen won his first Formula One race Sunday after an engine problem forced Felipe Massa out of the Hungarian Grand Prix with three laps to go.

Massa overtook Kovalainen and pole sitter Lewis Hamilton at the start and was heading for his fourth win of the season after Hamilton dropped out of contention with a tire puncture. But the Brazilian's Ferrari engine overheated toward the end and Kovalainen took an 11-second victory over Timo Glock of Toyota.

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen was third ahead of Renault's Fernando Alonso.

Hamilton came in fifth for McLaren and stretched his lead over Raikkonen in the overall standings to five points.

Kovalainen -- greeted by chants of "Heikki" from the large Finnish contingent in the stands -- became the 100th driver to win a Formula One race.

When Kovalainen crossed the line, team boss Ron Dennis told him over the radio: "Welcome to the world of winning. The first of many. Well done."

Kovalainen's win allowed Hamilton, coming off two dramatic victories at the British and German GPs, to stay atop F1's standings -- and eight points ahead of Massa, whose confident start left the McLaren drivers stranded.

Kovalainen said this week that he wouldn't help Hamilton even with his British teammate leading the title challenge, and that showed in his limp start that allowed Massa to pass easily on the outside.

Massa and Hamilton raced side-by-side into the first turn -- Massa even locking up his brakes at one point -- before the Brazilian stuck to his position to pull ahead and nudge out Hamilton around the second corner.

The two were out front on their own. Massa and Hamilton pitted within a lap of each other with Massa enjoying a three-second edge after the first round of stops at the 113-degree track.

Massa's lead was around three seconds as he edged Hamilton over the final two sectors of the twisting circuit before Hamilton's puncture left the race Massa's to lose. Hamilton had most of the 2.722-mile circuit to navigate before a tire change and re-emerged 10th.

Kovalainen, who will partner with Hamilton again in 2009, moved to within 7.5 seconds with laps running down on the 70-lap race.

Glock secured his first podium after overtaking Robert Kubica of BMW Sauber at the start. Kubica, with at least 25,000 Polish fans cheering him on, crossed the finish line in eighth for his worst result of the season to trail Hamilton by 13 points.

The teams and drivers have three weeks before the next race Aug. 24 -- the inaugural Valencia GP.


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