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#801 2008 Japanese Grand Prix

2023-01-29 23:00

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#2008, Fulvio Conti,

#801 2008 Japanese Grand Prix

In the end he took note, Kimi Raikkonen.  "It's not my year.  The World Champion's admission comes three Grands Prix from the end of the season, as he

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In the end he took note, Kimi Raikkonen. 

 

"It's not my year". 
 

The World Champion's admission comes three Grands Prix from the end of the season, as he is fourth in the standings, 27 points behind Lewis Hamilton. Mathematically he would still be in the running for the title, with 30 points still to be awarded, but with three drivers ahead of him (in addition to Lewis Hamilton there are Felipe Massa and Robert Kubica), it is only a statistical hypothesis. Logical, then, that the Finn would give up and make himself available to the team, not least because in the Constructors' World Championship standings Ferrari has just been overtaken by one point by McLaren. 
 

"It's hard to find the words: whether you run at night or during the day, it just doesn't go". 

 

Kimi Raikkonen still thinks back to the Singapore finale, and he is not at peace: 

 

"I ended up against the wall when there were only a few laps to go. There was no victory at stake but a few important points for the team". 

 

Instead it ended up like in Belgium: 

 

"It seems that the more we strive to improve the situation, the less we reap. It is clear that I am very sorry for this situation, I cannot find an explanation for such a dark period and there is nothing I can do to change what has happened". 
 

All that remains for him is a wish for the future: 

 

"At this point I can only hope for a weekend where, for once, everything goes right. The knowledge remains that we have what it takes to fight for victory in all three remaining Grands Prix".

 

That's what everyone in Maranello is hoping for, from Felipe Massa to President Montezemolo. Lewis Hamilton, on the other hand, feels ready to make history. The youngest World Champion in the history of Formula 1, on the highest throne at the age of 24. No one has ever achieved such a feat, not even his arch-enemy Fernando Alonso, who won when the 24-year mark was almost three months ago. Lewis Hamilton, former debutante prodigy, now a certainty in the McLaren team, is sure he can do it. This time he will not waste the advantage he has over Felipe Massa. This time he won't betray himself, his team, which has raised him on wheels and engines since he was a little boy, his fans. This time he will do well.

 

"Because now I'm mature, ready to conquer the World Championship, the pressure on me doesn't scare me and it won't affect me. In twelve months everything has changed, my attitude, my mental strength, even my physical fitness, which is better than last year. In 2007 it all seemed like a game to me, I didn't understand what dimension I was in, the importance of what was at stake. I was excited about the debut, I was only aiming to win races, without thinking that the final victory is also made up of intelligence, of right moves, of subtle tactical games. I was immersed in the rivalry with Alonso, my team mate, there was the controversy over the spy story, I went on track and pushed hard, but I didn't realise that with a little more cunning I could have won the title at the first attempt. Here in Japan I won, but I had arrived exhausted, exhausted, so much so that afterwards I got it all wrong in China and Brazil. Now instead I feel in top form, at the top of my career. I think I've also grown a lot as a driver, I've learnt a lot, I consider myself much stronger, but above all I've learnt to manage tension, in the top moments of the race I'm more lucid. I think I have made it to the top. And that I deserve the best success". 

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The British driver leaves no room for Felipe Massa's hopes of a comeback. He wants to win, and through his words makes it clear how motivated he is. Lewis Hamilton speaks of a different approach, and as an example he does not take a triumph, but the third place gained in Singapore. 

 

"At the start I tried to win, but after being 20 laps behind Coulthard, with loss of traction and the constant risk of crashing, I took the hint and preferred to settle. I could have tried to overtake Rosberg, but the risk of ruining everything was very high and I told myself: take these six points home, Massa is behind you and they are gold. It's Ferrari that has to attempt the feat, not me. What exalts me is my calmness, nothing to do with the nervousness of last year. This time I won't leave anyone a chance". 

 

Felipe Massa, the rival, however, believes. 

 

"I have chances and I want to play them". 
 

He knows that the Japanese Grand Prix, to be held at the Fuji circuit, could be favourable to McLaren, and he also asks Kimi Raikkonen for help. 

 

"We have spoken little, but the ranking speaks for itself. He knows the good of the team and will act accordingly".
 

The Japanese Grand Prix will be a two-man affair, as evidenced by the practice held on Friday 10 October 2008: Lewis Hamilton versus Felipe Massa. Unless other variables come into play. Like the rain, for example. Like tyres, for another. Admits Lewis Hamilton, mindful of his success in 2007 in the deluge:

 

"I do the rain dance, if it rains better for us. If not, we will be closer and we will play it out".
 

Because, in the opinion of the British pilot:
 

"The Ferrari is faster in a straight line". 
 

Nobody looked too much at the stopwatch: in fact, the engineers' delivery order was to find the set-ups for the race. Ferrari, with Felipe Massa, is ready to take advantage of any mistakes by the rivals, something that happened last year. But not this time. He immediately anticipates Hamilton.
 

"I made mistakes last year that I will not repeat this time". 

 

The young British driver would love to repeat the outcome of the race held at the deFuji circuit in 2007, and then go to Shanghai to play for the first match point. However, the Maranello team's fans are hoping for an uncertainty, otherwise they are relying on something else, and remembering that this Japanese circuit is known to be aggressive with the tyres, and McLaren usually has a problem with tyre wear, especially the rear ones. In the event of rain, then, Lewis Hamilton would be favoured (the results show this) but with the safety cars around no one can feel confident about anything. Another factor, another role, could finally be played by the two teammates: Kimi Raikkonen and Heikki Kovalainen are jokers to be used, a bit like Nelson Piquet jr. did for Fernando Alonso in the Singapore Grand Prix. 

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Felipe Massa is at the crossroads of his career. He can become World Champion, the first Brazilian since Ayrton Senna, or remain a splendidly unfinished, excellent driver, with ten victories with Ferrari out of fifty races, half of which ended on the podium, but unable to achieve the final triumph. Massa is at the crossroads of his own existence. On the one hand there is the immortal glory, the possibility of being remembered forever in a country that has been waiting for Formula 1 for seventeen years, since 1991, since that last title won by Ayrton Senna, and on the other there is the disappointment of someone who as a child dreamed of becoming a steering wheel ace and for one reason or another has so far failed to do so. Massa must take a path. Defining his destiny will be Lewis Hamilton, his great rival, the one who from the height of his seven-point lead can either drive him into despondency or open the way to his apotheosis, allowing him a fantastic comeback. In Japan, at his Fuji circuit, the atmosphere is grey, the volcano is in the background, the sky is constantly threatening rain. How does Felipe Massa feel a few hours away from the final squeeze? 

 

"Very well. Serene, calm, surrounded by the affection of my family, my wife, my parents, and the support of Ferrari. The pressure is there, I feel it on me, but it doesn't scare me, I've been living with it since I started racing. It's my destiny, always proving something to someone, once more is not a problem". 

 

If it goes wrong here, however, it is over. 
 

"I hope not, I'm counting on playing it to the end, but in any case it was worth living such a moment, the moment I've been dreaming of all my life, me fighting to win the World Championship, having the chance to put everyone behind me, to emulate an idol like Senna. Certain moments deserve to be experienced, regardless of the final outcome". 

 

Are you ok with Japan as a last resort or would you have preferred another track? 

 

"I like the circuit, I feel comfortable, I can give my best here and the car has great potential, it is capable of winning. It's even better: we Brazilians have a certain feeling with this country, São Paulo, my city, is full of Japanese, the largest colony away from Tokyo". 
 

There is an interesting tradition here for Brazilian pilots. 
 

"In this respect it gets even better. At Suzuka Senna won three World Championships, in 1988, 1990 and 1991, all his triumphs had Japan as a decisive backdrop and this country also brought luck to Nelson Piquet, World Champion in 1987. I hope the story continues for me too. Of course, I can't win the World Championship here, but if I finish ahead of Hamilton I rekindle hope. Then I'll stake everything on Shanghai and my Sao Paulo". 

 

Felipe Massa calls winning the World Championship a big dream. However, Ferrari sometimes seems to enjoy turning its ambitions into nightmares. The broken engine in Budapest, the fuel filler neck in Singapore...

 

"Confidence in the team is always the same, at the highest level. I understand the provocation, but I don't take it. We are a team, we win together, we all lose. It happens that you make mistakes, like in the last race, and it's infuriating, it's atrocious, especially when you have a car that is flying undisturbed towards the finish line; but recriminating doesn't make sense, you just have to get back to work, like we did, and act so that certain mistakes don't happen again. And then here at the pit stops we put the lollipop back in place of the traffic light…". 

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Regret remains for the many points lost. 

 

"That wouldn't be there if the car wasn't competitive and didn't put me in a position to fight for the win. Even here at Fuji we are fast and I can finish ahead of everyone. I am optimistic. In the team there is a great desire for revenge, that spirit that has always animated my career and brought me here". 
 

At the most important crossroads. 

 

"To an exciting moment. I never believed in the title so much. Three races to go and I'm still in the running. It's fun".

 

Fernando Alonso said that Felipe Massa will win the World Championship. Does he expect help on the track? 

 

"With his performance he could give me a hand, who knows, finish ahead of Hamilton, he would be a real friend. But I don't have to think about such things, just work".
 

Kimi Raikkonen, however, cannot exempt himself. 

 

"He runs for the good of the team. And right now it's me who can win". 

 

The start is about to be given, make a wish. 

 

"May it not rain like last year. That would be a disaster".

 

Three free practice sessions take place before Sunday's race: two on Friday and a third on Saturday. The Friday morning and afternoon sessions last 90 minutes each. The third takes place on Saturday morning and lasts one hour. The Friday sessions are held in dry and sunny conditions. Lewis Hamilton is fastest in the first session, with a time of 1'18"910, which is less than 0.2 seconds faster than the time set by Felipe Massa. Heikki Kovalainen set the third fastest time, followed by Kimi Räikkönen, Fernando Alonso and Nelson Piquet Jr. In the second free practice session, Timo Glock set the fastest time of 1'18"383, followed by Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton, Felipe Massa, Kimi Räikkönen and Mark Webber. The top seventeen drivers set times within a second of Glock's fastest lap, showing how close the fight for victory will be. Honda tests the new traffic light system for the first time, replacing the classic lolly-pop. The Saturday morning session takes place on a damp track, so grip is poor and many drivers are forced to use the escape routes after slipping off the track. Robert Kubica sets the fastest time, lapping in 1'25"087. Timo Glock, Nelson Piquet Jr., Nick Heidfeld, Kazuki Nakajima, David Coulthard and Felipe Massa follow. Lewis Hamilton does not go beyond the 11th best time, but is ahead of Heikki Kovalainen and Kimi Räikkönen, in P16 and P17 respectively. Both Adrian Sutil and Giancarlo Fisichella spend most of the session in their pits, experiencing numerous mechanical problems. In the afternoon, in qualifying, Lewis Hamilton takes his sixth pole position of the season with a time of 1'18"404. Kimi Räikkönen is second, while Felipe Massa, who was third towards the end of Q3, climbs to fifth place after Heikki Kovalainen and Fernando Alonso complete their final lap and take the second row of the grid. Robert Kubica will start sixth, ahead of the Toyota of Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock, and the Toro Rosso of Sebastian Vettel and Sébastien Bourdais. David Coulthard overtakes his teammate, Mark Webber, and qualifies in eleventh position. Nelson Piquet is twelfth, splitting the two Red Bull Racing drivers. The only Japanese driver present, Kazuki Nakajima, will start in P14, ahead of his teammate, Nico Rosberg. Nick Heidfeld is in P16, ten places behind his teammate. 

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The German driver had spent most of the first session struggling with the set-up of his car. The Hondas of Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button do not go further than the ninth row, while Force India closes the grid, with Adrian Sutil ahead of Giancarlo Fisichella by 0.8 seconds. A year lived on the sidelines, only enhanced by the triumph in Singapore. The desire to be a protagonist again right away, in a Formula 1 that the public will like more and more because the new rules decided in recent years favour balance and spectacle. Fernando Alonso, 27, the driver with the most successes in his career, is sure of it. The future of his sport is on the right track. 

 

"The same tyres for everyone, restrictions on aerodynamics, with further restrictions in 2009, many standard parts, elements that tend to bring the teams closer together, to reduce the gap. Of course, Ferrari and McLaren remain the teams to beat, they have something more, it was seen in 2008, it will be the same next season. But in this World Championship seven different drivers representing five teams have won. That hasn't happened for years. There has been glory for BMW, Renault, Scuderia Toro Rosso, strategies have become fundamental, the luck component has a lot to do with it, and this is because at the start many cars are close in terms of performance. If you reason on the hundredths of a second, then anything can happen. And if some external factor, as happened to me with the safety car in Singapore, gives you a hand, here comes the unexpected triumph". 

 

For Fernando Alonso, more drivers vying for success rhymes with excitement. The equation is easy, it exalts unpredictability. The problem is finding himself firmly in the circle of those who can dream. The Spaniard suffered in 2008 at the beginning, now he is beginning to reap the results of his hard work with Renault. In the last two months, apart from the victory in Singapore, he has finished at the foot of the podium in Hungary, Belgium and Monza. 

 

"The car has grown so much. It started from a misconception, but has managed to improve considerably, to the point where it can trouble Ferrari and McLaren".

 

Now, however, Alonso demands more. He says he has already decided his future and it seems to be with Renault, even if Honda, through manager Fry, says it is ready to welcome him with flowers and champagne. The Spanish press would like him immediately at Ferrari, but that seems destined to remain a dream, given that Kimi Raikkonen has extended his contract until 2010. In Japan, meanwhile, the non-qualifying Spaniard slotted in between Kimi Raikkonen (second) and Felipe Massa (fifth) and only surrendered to the two McLarens (Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen, third). The Japanese Grand Prix will therefore start with Felipe Massa forced to chase. Watching him from the pits will be Jean Todt, the former Ferrari boss, whom a rumour credits as the new FIA vice-president in place of Marco Piccinini, a preamble to the replacement of president Max Mosley, when his term expires at the end of 2009. Jean Todt does not comment, but in the meantime in his sabbatical year he remains in close contact with Formula 1, attending half of the Grands Prix live. On Sunday 12 October 2008, at the start of the Japanese Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton got off to a bad start, being overtaken after a few metres by Kimi Räikkönen. The British driver immediately tries to attack his rival at the first corner, making a practically impossible braking on the inside of the corner, blocking (and destroying) his tyres and taking Kimi Raikkonen to the outside of the corner. Heikki Kovalainen also arrives from behind and, also long into the first corner, pushes the Ferrari driver off the track, forcing him to line up with Felipe Massa. Coming out of a corner David Coulthard, with a broken suspension in contact, smashes his Red Bull Racing car against the wall. Lewis Hamilton is passed by Robert Kubica and Fernando Alonso and goes wide at the next corner, finishing behind Felipe Massa, between the two Ferraris. On lap two the Englishman attacks Felipe Massa with determination, who, in order to defend himself, delays his braking and goes long; on the next change of direction the Brazilian has no room on the inside, jumps over the kerb and rams Lewis Hamilton's car; while the two Ferraris pass, the latter is forced to queue up inside the group, before making a pit stop. 

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That it's a peculiar day is evident shortly afterwards when the race officials penalise Lewis Hamilton with a drive-through for the manoeuvre at the start, and Felipe Massa for contact with the Englishman. Meanwhile Kimi Raikkonen climbs the leaderboard, passing Jarno Trulli on lap eight, while Felipe Massa, seventh behind Sebastien Bourdais, struggles to climb back up. On lap 15 Robert Kubica is in first position, followed by Fernando Alonso, Heikki Kovalainen and Kimi Raikkonen with the top four packed within just over four seconds. Soon afterwards the Mercedes engine of Heikki Kovalainen's McLaren gave out; it had not happened for about two years that an engine from the German company broke down. So it comes down to the decisive moment of pit stops: first to stop are Robert Kubica and Kimi Raikkonen on lap 17. Fernando Alonso stops a lap later, takes on less petrol and overtakes the Pole. Felipe Massa, having refuelled and served his penalty, via drive trough, is thirteenth, ahead of Lewis Hamilton. Jarno Trulli briefly leads the race, then passes Sebastien Bourdais in first position until lap 25, then Nelson Piquet Jr. leads the pack for another three laps. Fernando Alonso then returns to the lead, who at this stage extends his lead knowing he has to stop earlier, until he has 13 seconds on Robert Kubica when he comes in for his second stop on lap 43. Kimi Raikkonen only shows a pace to match the situation in the latter part of the stint, but he stops in the pits on lap 48, narrowly behind Robert Kubica, who had refuelled two laps earlier. Again Jarno Trulli leads the pack for a couple of laps, before relinquishing the lead to Nelson Piquet Jr. who, after the pit stop, is fourth, ahead of the Italian driver. On lap 5 1Felipe Massa, having climbed to seventh place, collides at the first corner with Sebastien Bourdais, who comes out of the pits and spins out. Three laps later the Brazilian refuels for the second time, dropping to tenth place. In the final laps he unleashed a series of fast laps and, passing Nick Heidfeld and Mark Webber, climbed to eighth place. Up front, with Fernando Alonso out of reach, the finale is animated by the duel between Robert Kubica and Kimi Raikkonen. Despite the Ferrari's clear superiority in terms of top speed, the Pole manages to hold on, with a tough but within limits defence. Fernando Alonso wins the Japanese Grand Prix and takes his second consecutive victory of the season, consolidating Renault's fourth place in the Constructors' World Championship standings.

 

"Well, again difficult to believe... I cannot believe it right now but obviously back to back wins is a very nice feeling and the team did a great job to improve the car. We are now maybe just behind Ferrari and McLaren and this is completely amazing".

 

Robert Kubica and Kimi Räikkönen complete the podium. Nelson Piquet Jr. is fourth, and with this performance he probably earns his reappointment in the team for 2009. Jarno Trulli, Sebastien Bourdais, Sebastian Vettel and Felipe Massa follow. The French Scuderia Toro Rosso driver will then be penalised 25 seconds for the spin he caused against Felipe Massa, who therefore climbs to seventh place overall, gaining a further point over Lewis Hamilton. Says the French driver:

 

"I did everything I could not to run into him and he just squeezed and turned and behaved like I didn't exist, like I wasn't there. What am I supposed to do? It's just a little bit of respect, you give each other room and then everything goes right, but if you don't for sure it's going to be an incident".

 

In the drivers' classification the race marks Kimi Räikkönen's definitive farewell to the title, as the Finn is now 21 points off the top of the World Championship with two races to go. Leading the way is still Lewis Hamilton with 84 points, followed by Felipe Massa at 79 and Robert Kubica at 72 (the only two who could still challenge the Englishman for the title). As far as the Constructors' World Championship is concerned, McLaren is again overtaken by Ferrari, which goes to 142 points, 7 points ahead of the British, who are still on 135 points; third again is BMW with 128 points. Fernando Alonso is starting to get the hang of it. Waiting for a whole year, the pious Spaniard has posted a one-two of those that remain in the memory, marking this season finale, even becoming the judge of the World Championship. A non-biased judge. 

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"If I can, I will certainly help Massa, after all I went through last year at McLaren".

 

Words that make Ferrari fans happy, and all those who would like him at Maranello. Statements that confirm Spanish rumours that the move will take place in 2010. 

 

"In general there are people who love me and people who hate me, as happens in all sports. I always try to do my job as professionally as possible, I always try to be one hundred per cent in the car. I just say that I want Ferrari to win and, I repeat, if I can help Massa this year, I will do my best". 

 

Enough to continue the controversy, but after all, the World Champion's thinking is the same as that of Renault's CEO, Flavio Briatore: 

 

"Clearly we are now tipping the scales, logically for Ferrari". 

 

And he enjoys the great moment:

 

"So much for those who said we were finished. Instead, after a year like that, we have shown that we are a great team. Because it's the car that goes, as well as Fernando: have you seen Piquet, fourth?"

 

The French toast, but it is Fernando Alonso himself who preaches caution: 

 

"In China? I don't know, with my heart I hope to be competitive. We'll have to see. But if in Singapore there was a stroke of luck, here we deserved it, taking advantage of the favourable situation".

 

Not only that: the secret of this victory, the 21st of his career, also lies in his ability to communicate with the team via radio. 

 

"I said we had to come out of the pit first, because being behind Kubica the tyres were wearing out. They put less fuel in and we did it. Then I managed to keep a winning pace".

 

There remains the obviously welcome surprise. 

 

"I still can't believe it, kudos to the team who improved the car, working hard after realising which areas to work on". 

 

Renault's exploit unsettles Honda, which is expecting the Spaniard for 2009. Unnecessarily, according to Briatore: 
 

"In January he was with Ferrari, in February with BMW, then Scuderia Toro Rosso: Fernando and I have an agreement, we will say at the end of the season". 
 

And then he lets it slip:

 

"We let the apples ripen, but if you have a little imagination it's easy enough to understand...". 

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If the Italian manager plays at throwing jokes, the Spanish driver remains impassive: 
 

"No market. I said we would talk about it after Brazil and that is how it will be. The announcements will come in November".

 

Alonso prefers to close with a couple of dialectic hits, all of course for Hamilton. First the whim: 
 

"I always ask for the blue flag for lapped drivers, and when I saw that it was Hamilton, I said to myself: this is perfect". 

 

Finally, nastiness: 
 

"Was the penalty for him fair? When it comes to Hamilton it is always fair…".

 

Fernando Alonso is as explicit as ever: 

 

"After what I went through at McLaren, I will give my all to make Massa win the World Championship".
 

Investigative stuff and without, at least on the surface, any ulterior motive, as he tells the Spanish press: 
 

"There is zero chance that I will end up at Ferrari, as they have already announced their drivers for next season". 

 

Of course, 2010 is a different matter, it is still a long way off, and by that date his dream, with its messages of love to the Ferrari fans, has by no means waned. But for the present, Fernando Alonso is keen to point out, the offer of help is absolutely disinterested. It is all the fault of his dislike for Lewis Hamilton, a resentment that shows no sign of subsiding after the torrid bond of 2007. Throughout the year, the Spaniard has not hesitated to poke at his former team-mate, and in recent times the rivalry instead of subsiding has intensified. Alonso does not forget, and on the track he will prove it. 
 

"I root for Ferrari. And if I can, I will give Massa a helping hand". 
 

It remains to be seen how, because blatant help is not allowed under the regulations. Drivers' behaviour is closely monitored and telemetry could nail those who purposely lift their foot, but an alliance can still be useful. On the other hand, Fernando Alonso would not be the first. It was he, still wearing the McLaren overalls, who helped Lewis Hamilton lose his head last year in Brazil, failed to let him pass at the start, forced him off the track, and then grinned happily at the finish line in front of Kimi Raikkonen's jubilation. And many will remember 1997, with Jacques Villenueve getting the better of Michael Schumacher in a collision and then with his damaged Williams being escorted to the finish line by McLaren friends Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard. Covert alliances in F1 have always existed and could enliven even this fiery finale. They arise from interests of various kinds (Scuderia Toro Rosso receives its engines from Maranello and could have a special eye on them, Force India has the same engines, but could become a Mercedes customer next year) and often also involve the character of the driver. When Michael Schumacher was racing, many disliked him, but he had such a personality that he overpowered almost everyone. Lewis Hamilton, at the moment, is liked by a few, but does not (at least yet) have the same charisma. Many would have enjoyed his misstep last year and the atmosphere has not changed. Maybe it won't count for anything, because at the end of the day the real duel is between the two rivals vying for the World Championship. 

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But the impression is that Lewis Hamilton is alone against everyone, with the exception of Heikki Kovalainen and a few old friends, like Nico Rosberg, who, like Fernando Alonso with Ferrari, is winking at his team for the future. Felipe Massa, on the other hand, is close friends with Robert Kubica, they speak Italian to each other, he has the support of Brazilians Rubens Barrichello and Nelson Piquet jr. and he knows that BMW (Mercedes' German competitor) would never ask Nick Heidfeld to do McLaren a favour. These are games under the table that should not be underestimated in a World Championship that fills every race with twists and turns and where the big names (Hamilton has not won a Grand Prix since Sunday 20 July 2008, Massa since Sunday 7 September 2008) have often ended up at the back. In a fight on the brink of the points, a small gesture of friendship (an easy overtaking move, an overtake suffered without too much doggedness) can be worth a lot and the two rivals also have to reckon with everything that does not fit into the vivisection of the telemetry. Lewis Hamilton, faced with such talk shrugs his shoulders, except to complain afterwards, Felipe Massa on the other hand smiles slyly. In the meantime, he enjoys Fernando Alonso's declaration of vote. Two races remain, sprinting with three Ferrari drivers is not bad. And in Japan Felipe Massa beats Lewis Hamilton two points to zero. 

 

But not in a regular race, a win against a second place, but in a lottery, full of twists and turns, forbidden exchanges, accusations, anger and regrets. The World Championship of lost chances finds its sublimation on the Fuji track, the circuit at the foot of the volcano beloved by the Japanese and with the longest straight in the championship. Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton continue their tenacious battle of wasted chances. The Brazilian driver, who faltered in qualifying because of his tyres, with poor grip, qualified in fifth position, with a car that in the Japanese Grand Prix showed it could shred the competition. Lewis Hamilton, on the other hand, gets caught by Kimi Raikkonen at the start, forgets to brake, takes the first corner at full throttle, closes in on the two Ferraris, ends up with them on the run-off roads, and opens the door for Fernando Alonso and Robert Kubica to succeed. But it didn't end there. The Englishman doesn't like to settle and on the second lap he gets carried away, not hesitating to fight with Felipe Massa. He has a seven-point lead, he could wait. And, instead, last year's lesson (17 points lead over Kimi Raikkonen squandered in two races) evidently did not serve him well. Sure, in the opinion of the judges the Brazilian was unfair, and takes a penalty, but Lewis Hamilton is the author of a spin. His race, in fact, ends at that moment. The pack passes him and, when the Englishman regains his bearings, he is eighteenth. He already knows that he will not take a single point from Japan. Says Stefano Domenicali, Ferrari's team principal, one who prefers reasoning to instinct: 

 

"The last two races will be breathtaking, the winner will be the one who can handle the pressure better, who makes fewer mistakes, who does not let nerves get in the way". 

 

In other words, who will prove that they deserve the noble title of World Champion. Because the aftermath of the tormented race, in the statements afterwards, especially by Hamilton, shows that the adrenalin level is high and the (undeniable) pressure risks going over the guard level and bursting your head. Says the British driver: 

 

"I made a mistake, but I wanted to take back the lead, to win. Nothing serious happened, I only lost two points, a limited damage, now we will take the last two races home. We don't need two wins, we need less, but we want them at all costs". 

 

So be it, he never learns. Only to be offended if the irreparable happens: 

 

"I didn't hit Raikkonen, Massa touched me, how can you take the same penalty? The cases were different, mine less serious, they want to make the World Championship exciting to the last at all costs. But it doesn't matter, this will be my year". 

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By managing the sacred fury better, perhaps it would be easier, but it is precisely on this inability to withstand the pressure that Ferrari is betting heavily, in addition to a track, the next one in China, that sees it as the favourite, because it is supposed to be hot (25 °C) and it is a circuit for hard tyres, worn evenly by the Maranello cars, while McLaren is in trouble with the management of the rear tyres. The problem is that on the other side they think the same as Felipe Massa, because he too is a debutant driver in the title race. At Fuji, after the opaque Saturday, he translated everything into aggressiveness and considering the drive-through it went well for him, but even the Brazilian, Stefano Domenicali's message does not come at random, has to keep the frenzy at bay, especially in the epilogue in his Sao Paolo, where he has always been one gear ahead of his rivals. Even winning causes stress, as well as possibly ruining relationships. Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa have always sworn to be friends, but after the race the Englishman does not hesitate to accuse him. And the Brazilian responds: 

 

"I don't bring the problems of the track into my private life, our relationship is in no danger". 

 

But at stake is a World Championship, the first for both of them.


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