Masterful Massa

After three GPs and two wins here, it's a really special circuit for me. -- FELIPE MASSA-AP

The Brazilian's second successive win at the Istanbul Park has left Team Ferrari with buoyed optimism going into the next Grand Prix at Monza (Italy), writes Alan Henry.

Felipe Massa helped Ferrari stay in McLaren's rear-view mirror with a decisive victory in the Turkish Grand Prix (August 26), successfully fending off the challenge from his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen to finish just 2.2sec clear.

With Lewis Hamilton's World Championship momentum being checked by a spectacular front tyre failure, a setback which dropped him from a strong third behind the Ferraris to fifth at the chequered flag, it was left to Fernando Alonso to save the day for McLaren, the world champion vaulting through to take third place after Hamilton limped into the pits on three wheels to fit a replacement right front tyre at the end of lap 43.

This was Massa's second successive win here. The success left Ferrari with buoyed optimism going into the Italian team's home race at Monza on September 9, although most Formula One insiders believe that the Ferrari F2007 and the McLaren MP4-22 will be even more closely matched than usual when the title battle moves on to the high speed, low downforce parkland circuit near Milan. The outcome of the Turkish GP, a largely processional event, left Hamilton, who said that he planned to move away from Britain to escape the pressure on his personal life, still leading the championship battle with 84 points, five clear of Alonso who is in the second place. Massa is next with 69 points followed by Raikkonen on 68.

"After three GPs and two wins here, it's a really special circuit for me," said a delighted Massa as he descended from the podium. "It was certainly a difficult race, but I kept my concentration. At one point Kimi began running two-tenths quicker, then I made a small, small mistake going into turn seven, which made my life a little bit more difficult. But I managed to pull it back and get things under control again."

Massa also confessed that he had an uncomfortably turbulent ride for five or six laps when a cooling vent on the top of his helmet worked loose and he spent some time grappling to tear it off before continuing on his path to the chequered flag. "I am also proud to win here again in front of my father and my mother too," he said with obvious emotion.

Having dominated last year's race here in flawless style ahead of Alonso's Renault and Michael Schumacher's Ferrari, the 26-year-old from Sao Paulo once again show? cased his ability on the Istanbul Park circuit by prising pole position from Hamilton's grasp in the final moments of the final qualifying top-10 shoot-out.

"Yes, it was tough, qualifying was very tight," said the Brazilian. "You could see that every single (sector) was always a big fight between all four drivers, and in the last one, I managed to put together a great lap and I'm very proud, especially after a very bad result in Hungary."

Hamilton added: "The car feels very good. I think, again, we've had two and a half weeks or three weeks to improve the car and the team has been working extremely hard. They've been pushing quite hard to come here again with another (technical) step. I think we have a very strong package."

Hamilton hung on gamely, losing a fraction here and there, but it soon became clear that he was going to need some ill-fortune to strike the scarlet machines if he was going to have a chance of bettering third place at the chequered flag.

The Ferraris reliably and remorselessly pulled away, maintaining their advantage through two rounds of routine refuelling stops to deliver the perfect result at the chequered flag.

For his part, Alonso freely admitted that his third place had been pretty fortunate. "It was not the plan to lose two places at the start, and so my race was pretty much over when I came into the first corner in sixth place," he said.

Behind Hamilton, Renault's Heikki Kovalainen drove a good race to claim sixth place after being forced to back off coming through the first corner when Heidfeld pushed him wide in the jostling throng. The final points were claimed by Nico Rosberg's seventh-placed Williams and Kubica in the other BMW Sauber, while David Coulthard trailed home 10th for Red Bull and Jenson Button 13th in the struggling Honda.

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2007