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Japan GP - A chaotic race

Mount Fuji, 12th October - Championship pressures began to show today in Fuji as the Japanese Grand Prix got off to a chaotic start as Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro and its closest rivals ended up being too close for comfort on more than one occasion. In the end, the Prancing Horse came off better than the Silver Arrows, as Raikkonen finished third and Massa seventh to bring home enough points to retake the lead in the Constructors' championship, while its closest rivals failed to score. The result was certainly unexpected, with victory for the second consecutive time this season going to Fernando Alonso in the Renault, followed home by Robert Kubica in the BMW-Sauber, who got the better of an exciting battle with Raikkonen. Massa's race was all about fighting his way back up the order after a drive through penalty. In the end, he crossed the line in eighth place, but moved up to seventh after the Stewards decided that Bourdais, who spun Massa around as the Frenchman emerged from pit lane, should be penalised 25 seconds.

After a sunny start to the day, the skies clouded over at the Fuji Speedway and the temperatures dropped dramatically as the 1.30 start time approached.

As the lights went out, for the start of the 67 laps, Raikkonen from the outside of the front row, got the best start to go ahead of pole man Hamilton, but the McLaren man retook the lead at the first corner, pushing Raikkonen wide and leaving Massa stuck behind his team mate. But this caused a ripple effect through the bunched up pack with several spins and Coulthard crashing heavily. The order was instantly changed and not favourably for the Scuderia drivers, as Kubica, Alonso and Kovalainen now became the main trio, while Hamilton was now sandwiched between the two Ferraris. The Englishman and Massa made contact with the McLaren spinning and therefore dropping down the order.

On lap 9 the order was now Kubica, Alonso, Kovalainen, Raikkonen, Trulli, Bourdais, Massa, Piquet, Vettel with Webber completing the top ten. There were now only 17 runners with Coulthard, Glock and Sutil all out.

Massa had been given a drive through penalty for the incident with Hamilton, but the Englishman was also given one.
On lap 12, Raikkonen was 4,2 seconds behind the leader in fourth and Massa, seventh was 15.8 down. Having pitted after his spin, championship leader Hamilton was now in penultimate and 16th place. On lap 16, third placed Kovalainen parked his McLaren at the side of the track, moving Raikkonen and Massa up to third and sixth respectively. Kubica and Raikkonen refuelled on lap 17, but at this time the Stewards indicated Massa had been given a drive through penalty for the incident with Hamilton, but the Englishman was also given one. Alonso who had taken over the lead, was the next to pit followed in by Massa, handing the lead to Trulli, who had Bourdais behind him in second at this point., with Piquet third and Vettel fourth, while Raikkonen and Massa were now 7th and 10th, but Massa dropped further back to 14th, one place ahead of Hamilton as he took his drive through penalty on lap 19. As Trulli made his stop on lap 21, Bourdais inherited the lead, ahead of Piquet and Vettel, as Fisichella retired the Force India in the garage. Vettel refuelled on lap 23. When Bourdais came in next time round, it left a Renault one-two in the lead, with Piquet heading Alonso. Raikkonen was now fourth behind Kubica, with Massa twelfth still one place in front of Hamilton. At this point, of the top six, only leader Piquet and fifth placed Webber had not refuelled, with the Renault man eventually coming in on lap 28. This meant the order was now Alonso, 7.2 ahead of Kubica who led Raikkonen by 4.6. In 13th place, Massa passed Button to go eleventh on lap 30.

Ten laps later, Raikkonen still third was now 5.1 behind Kubica and 17.8 behind leader Alonso. Massa was now tenth over 13 seconds behind Rosberg. Lap 42 saw Massa up to ninth. Kubica was the new leader on lap 45 after Alonso pitted, so Raikkonen was second, followed by Trulli, Piquet, Bourdais, Alonso, Vettel, Massa up to eighth, putting in a quickest lap, with Webber and Heidfeld completing the top ten. Raikkonen then put in a fastest race lap as he pushed to close on the leader, who pitted on lap 46, so that Raikkonen led the race for the first time since the opening moments of the race. The Finn made his final pit stop on lap 48 rejoining in seventh place and but for a backmarker on his in lap, he might have got ahead of Kubica. Trulli and Bourdais came in from second and third on lap 50, but as the Toro Rosso man came out of the pits he tangled with Massa sending the Ferrari into a spin. Meanwhile, in fifth place, Raikkonen was right up Kubica's gearbox.

Piquet came in from the lead on lap 52, when Raikkonen nearly got alongside Kubica at the end of the main straight, but couldn't quite get past. He tried the same move one lap later, and out of Turn 1 he got alongside the Polish driver but was forced wide, dropping back a bit as he rejoined the track. Massa now made his final pit stop, as the Stewards announced that the incident between him and Bourdais would be investigated after the race.

With ten laps to go, the order was Alonso, Kubica, Raikkonen, Piquet, Trulli, Bourdais, Vettel, Webber, these eight all in the points, followed by Heidfeld and Massa in tenth. The Brazilian moved up a place when he dispensed with Heidfeld with seven laps to go, but he was a considerable 5.4 seconds behind eighth placed Webber. One lap later and the gap was already down to 3.9. Lap 62 and it was 2.5. Lap 63, 0.9! Then in a stunning move at the start of lap 65, Massa bravely squeezed the Ferrari between the pit wall and the Red Bull car to get into eighth place and one possibly very valuable point. At the front the order remained unchanged and Fernando Alonso took a second consecutive victory having won in Singapore a fortnight ago. Then came Kubica, Raikkonen, Piquet, Trulli, Bourdais, Vettel and Massa the last of the points scorers. However, the Stewards gave Bourdais a 25 second penalty for the incident with Massa, thus promoting Vettel, Massa and Webber to sixth, seventh and eighth places.

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