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Felipe Massa takes the spoils in France

Ferrari’s Felipe Massa won the French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours, his third victory of the 2008 season.

Felipe Massa

The Brazilian now takes over the lead in the Formula One world championship for the first time in his short career, spanning six-seasons.

He also became the first Brazilian to top the drivers’ list since his hero, Ayrton Senna, dominated 15 years ago.

The other Ferrari driver, Kimi Raikkonen, started the race from pole and led into the first corner, before meeting exhaust problems.

Lewis Hamilton suffered from accumulated woes, going back to the Canadian Grand Prix. A drive-through penalty saw him starting 13th on the grid. Various factors wrecked his race and he finished predictably out of the points. He now trails Massa by 10 points.

Before the race he told ITV, “I found out that there was a lot of negativity in the media, and that’s to be expected. That’s what they do: they build you up and then they break you down, but they can’t break me. There’s a lot of crap coming out in the papers. I’m here to race, and I don’t want all this stuff. But I’m very strong mentally, and my belief in my own ability is stronger than ever and there’s nothing that can break me.”

Massa’s victory was the eighth of his Formula One career.

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Raikkonen comfortably takes Lewis Hamilton in French GP

Ferrari delivered an emphatic one-two victory in the French Grand Prix as Kimi Raikkonen returned to form in style in the last race to be held at Magny-Cours.

Raikkonen came home two seconds ahead of his Ferrari team-mate, Brazilian Felipe Massa, ending McLaren’s three race sequence of victories. It was his first win since the Australian GP in Melbourne on March 18, and the 11th of his career.

Massa, on pole, led for more than half of the race, and finished second ahead of 22-year-old British star Lewis Hamilton in his McLaren. The result meant nevertheless that Hamilton increased his lead in the drivers’ championship to 14 points with his home race, at Silverstone, coming up next weekend.

Team-mate, Fernando Alonso, who started from 10th position on the grid, was unable to make much progress through the field and finished seventh.

Hamilton was seeking a hat-trick of victories but, despite his disappointment, he posted his seventh podium finish in seven races in his first season in Formula One.

The full result was :

1. Kimi Raikkonen Finland Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro-Ferrari 70 01:30:54.200
2. Felipe Massa Brazil Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro-Ferrari +2.4
3. Lewis Hamilton Britain Vodafone McLaren Mercedes-Mercedes +32.1
4. Robert Kubica Poland BMW Sauber F1 Team-BMW +41.7
5. Nick Heidfeld Germany BMW Sauber F1 Team-BMW +48.8
6. Giancarlo Fisichella Italy ING Renault F1 Team-Renault +52.2
7. Fernando Alonso Spain Vodafone McLaren Mercedes-Mercedes +56.5
8. Jenson Button Britain Honda Racing F1 Team-Honda +58.8
9. Nico Rosberg Germany AT&T Williams-Toyota +68.5
10. Ralf Schumacher Germany Panasonic Toyota Racing-Toyota +1 lap
11. Rubens Barrichello Brazil Honda Racing F1 Team-Honda +1 lap
12. Mark Webber Australia Red Bull Racing-Renault +1 lap
13. David Coulthard Britain Red Bull Racing-Renault +1 lap
14. Alexander Wurz Austria AT&T Williams-Toyota +1 lap
15. Heikki Kovalainen Finland ING Renault F1 Team-Renault +1
16. Takuma Sato Japan Super Aguri F1 Team-Honda +2 laps
17. Adrian Sutil Germany Spyker F1 Team-Ferrari +2 laps
18. Scott Speed USA Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari 55 laps completed
19. Christijan Albers Holland Spyker F1 Team-Ferrari 28 laps completed
20. Anthony Davidson Britain Super Aguri F1 Team-Honda 0 laps completed
21. Jarno Trulli Italy Panasonic Toyota Racing-Toyota 0 laps completed
22. Vitantonio Liuzzi Italy Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari 0 laps completed.

Silverstone now beckons for the Englishman. It’s likely to be wet conditions so anything can happen.

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Lewis Hamilton behind Felipe Massa

Lewis Hamilton kept up his inaugural title challenge by posting second place on the grid for tomorrow’s French Grand Prix behind Ferrari driver Felipe Massa.

Felipe Massa in French qualifying

Main rival Fernando Alonso could do no better than 10th after mechanical problems and may start at 20th if he needs to change his engine.

Massa headed championship leader Lewis Hamilton of McLaren to pole with a lap of one minute 15.034 seconds. The second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen will start third.

Hamilton missed out to Massa by 0.07secs in Q3, although at least separated the Ferraris.

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Lewismania at Silverstone

Such is the success of Lewis Hamilton in winning both North American Grand Prix, after a string of podium finishes in his first season in Formula One, the commentators are forecasting “Lewismania” at Silverstone in early July.

The McLarens

He has already been likened to “a cross between Ayton Senna and Alain Prost” and remains the one to beat in Sunday’s French Grand Prix.

With a 10-point advantage over McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso, Hamilton is sure to start his home GP as leader in the Drivers’ Championship whatever the result in France. One British newspaper says, “He is the hottest ticket not only in motor sport, but arguably in any sport”.

Given the notorious lack of reliability of British sportsmen over the years, one might expect Hamilton to buckle under the weight of expectation. Somehow, though, we know he won’t. Temperament is everything at the top level, and those comparisons with Senna and Prost — two drivers known as Sr. and M. Cool — we expect Hamilton to sail through his biggest test yet.

Team boss Ron Dennis is well aware of his role : “It’s a new experience for all of us.I’m just trying to use common sense to make sure we handle everything the right way. We’ve all had a bit of skirmish in the early races. … They [Alonso and Hamilton] have to be extra careful how they talk about each other in the press. We want to be thinking about what a great achievement this is rather than waiting to put the next fire out.”

Hamilton was at Silverstone this week where the team will have three days of testing ahead of the two back-to-back GPs in France and Britain.

Dennis said, “It is going to be a great season for us. They will have every opportunity to compete. It’s stressful but manageable. Alonso is behind but in the fortunate position of being in a car that can win.”

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