NASCAR & Auto Racing

Ferrari's Massa wins Turkish Grand Prix

ISTANBUL, Turkey – Felipe Massa will always remember Turkey.

“This is becoming a special place for me,” the Ferrari driver said after winning his second consecutive Turkish Grand Prix on the Istanbul Park circuit Sunday.

The Brazilian won his first Grand Prix victory here in 2006 after gaining the pole position, and did exactly the same this year.

“I love the track. This is where my career made a switch and I started winning races,” Massa said.

Massa beat teammate Kimi Raikkonen by just over two seconds as the Ferrari pair dueled from the opening turn.

Two-time defending Formula One champion Fernando Alonso of McLaren was third and kept alive his chances in the driver’s standings after teammate Lewis Hamilton punctured a front tire on the 43rd lap.

Hamilton had been in third place but dropped to fifth.

Hamilton said the tire cost him a place on the podium.

“I was pushing obviously,” Hamilton said. “Without a doubt we would have finished third. I still had six laps more fuel than the Ferraris. I was hoping in those six laps I could get Kimi. Then the tire went.”

Hamilton finished the first nine races in the top three. But the Briton has had problems in the last three races, including a crash in qualifying in Germany to come in ninth, a qualifying incident in Hungary – before going on to win the race – and now the tire failure.

Alonso was penalized five spots on the starting grid for the Hungarian GP after delaying Hamilton in the pits in the final minutes of qualifying, although Hamilton refused to let Alonso pass him earlier, contrary to McLaren team orders. Alonso finished fourth in the race.

Alonso, who was as far back as sixth in the early stages Sunday, benefited from the blowout.

“If someone told me on lap two you would be on the podium I would be very happy,” Alonso said. “At the end, the final result is the best thing of the weekend.”

After the 58-lap race, Massa was 2.2 seconds ahead of Raikkonen, with Alonso 26 seconds back. Hamilton was 45 seconds behind Massa. Nick Heidfeld was fourth.

With five races left, Alonso trails Hamilton 84-79 in the overall standings. Massa is third with 69 points and Raikkonen is next with 68.

The Ferraris and McLarens continue to divide the races. In the 12 races so far, Alonso, Hamilton Massa and Raikkonen have won three each.

Massa made a reversal after his last race. He finished 13th in the Hungarian GP on Aug. 5 after a disappointing qualifying run left him at the back of the starting grid.

“Three Grands Prix here, two wins. Can’t be better,” Massa said. “Starting from pole, good car, difficult race. I managed to keep my concentration.”

At the start Sunday, the two Ferrari drivers went to the top positions with Hamilton third. Alonso was beaten to the first turn by the two BMW-Sauber drivers and was sixth after the first lap. After five laps, he was more than seven seconds from first and, more important, almost five behind Hamilton.

“For sure, the start didn’t go as we planned,” Alonso said. “To be overtaken by two cars and find yourself in sixth was not great.”

At 10 laps Sunday it was still the two Ferraris ahead of Hamilton, with Alonso about 10 seconds back. Alonso was able to move into fourth past Heidfeld and Robert Kubica at the first pit stop, but he was still losing time.

By 25 laps, Massa was back in front of Raikkonen and Hamilton with Alonso fourth, about 18 seconds behind. Raikkonen closed to within a second.

“I made a small, small mistake and Kimi closed the gap,” Massa said. “Just a small mistake made my life difficult.”

Raikkonen said the result was predictable after Saturday when Massa was first, two places ahead of the Finnish driver.

“In Formula One these days the race is pretty much decided after qualifying,” Raikkonen said.

Things changed on the 43rd lap when Hamilton was flapping rubber from his shredded front tire while in third place. Hamilton managed to make it to the pits to change the tire, but Alonso moved into third ahead of Heidfeld.

“I saw some bits fly off the tire,” Hamilton said. “It was lucky I didn’t put the car in the gravel and managed to control it back to the pits as this meant that in the end I only lost two places.”

Renault’s Heikki Kovalainen was sixth, followed by Nico Rosberg of Williams and Kubica.

The next race is the Italian Grand Prix on Sept. 9, followed by the Belgian Grand Prix a week later.