Kimi Raikkonen wins French GP

Kimi Raikkonen led a Ferrari 1-2 with Felipe Massa at the French Grand Prix on Sunday, ending McLaren's winning streak at three Formula One races.

updated: July 03, 2007 08:45 IST
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Magny Cours, France:

Kimi Raikkonen led a Ferrari 1-2 with Felipe Massa at the French Grand Prix on Sunday, ending McLaren's winning streak at three Formula One races.

Raikkonen, who won the season-opening Australian GP, won his second race this year - and the 11th of his career - after starting third on the grid.

It was the first Ferrari victory since Massa won at Spain in May.

"It's nice, we (have) had a bit of a hard time," Raikkonen said. "I kind of expected to have a hard time and don't always expect to have good results.

"It took longer than expected. We knew what our problems were and the works are paying off now."

The Finn timed 1 hour, 30 minutes, 54.200 seconds on the 4.41-kilometer (2.74-mile) circuit.

Lewis Hamilton was third for McLaren. Robert Kubica, who survived an horrific crash at the Canadian GP and missed the following United States GP, which Hamilton both won, took fourth for BMW-Sauber.

Last year, Michael Schumacher and Massa led a Ferrari 1-2 in qualifications and the race.

Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, who won the Monaco GP before Hamilton's two wins, finished 56.5 seconds behind Raikkonen in seventh place after starting from 10th following gearbox problems with his McLaren in qualifying.

Hamilton now has eight straight podium finishes in his rookie F1 season - two wins, four seconds and two thirds - to lead the drivers' standings with 64 points.

Alonso remains second with 50, followed by Massa with 47 and Raikkonen with 42.

Despite morning rain, the track was dry for the start and Raikkonen had overtaken Hamilton by the first corner to be just behind pole-sitter Massa.

"Finally, the start worked for me and it helped a lot," Raikkonen said. "It helps that we got a quick start and got that second place. We just improved our start system and it worked this time."

Alonso had moved up to seventh by the third lap, but he remained stuck behind Nick Heidfeld's BMW-Sauber until he pitted.

At halfway through the race on the 35th lap, after the first pit stops, Massa was two seconds ahead of Raikkonen with Hamilton about seven seconds behind.

"I tried to keep up because I knew I would pit later," Raikkonen said.

The situation changed after the 43rd lap.

Massa's pit stop took 9 seconds. Raikkonen drove for three further laps, gaining a second as his car carried less fuel, and then took only 7.8 seconds to refuel at the end of the 46th lap to forge ahead.

With 22 laps to go, Raikkonen led by about two seconds and was never threatened.

However, Massa blamed slower cars for getting in his way and not allowing him to build on his lead.

"I lost the race today because of the traffic," Massa said. "I was so disappointed with the traffic. I lost so much time. You lose so much downforce and then you lose speed.

"When I was alone, I had the speed. As long as I passed the traffic, I was all right."

Raikkonen agreed - to an extent.

"For sure, the traffic didn't help anyone today," he said. "Sometimes you are lucky and sometimes you are not."

Hamilton didn't like his position after the first turn.

"I don't like being overtaken. It is the first race I was overtaken," he said. "But the fact is I finished on the podium again. I extended my lead in the championships, so I couldn't be happier."

The 22-year-old Englishman can't wait for the British GP on next Sunday.

"I am looking forward to Silverstone as it is my home race and it is an extra buzz," Hamilton said.

Raikkonen is also looking forward to Silverstone.

"We had a good test there," he said. "A test is always a test, but we are pretty confident we will have good speed there."

Kubica was cleared to race Thursday after hurting his ankle when he crashed hard into two walls in Montreal.

Heidfeld finished fifth, followed by Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella. Honda's Jenson Button was eighth.

Sunday's race could be the last in Magny Cours due to financial difficulties with the French Automobile Sports Federation making a final decision on July 19 whether it will be staged in 2008.