Force India’s debut ends early; Hamilton wins

March 16th, 2008 - 6:58 pm ICT by admin  

Melbourne, March 16 (IANS) Force India’s debut on the Formula 1 circuit came to a premature end as both their cars failed to finish the crash-ridden race that saw just seven of the 22 starters complete the Australian Grand Prix, the first race of the season Sunday. Force India, owned by Indian industrialist Vijay Mallya, saw its experienced driver Giancarlo Fisichella, a winner here with Renault in 2005, drop out in the very first lap. Adrian Sutil too exited before the tenth lap.

Lewis Hamilton in a McLaren-Mercedes won a crash-marred race, which saw the safety cars come into action three times. Germany’s Nick Heidfeld in a BMW-Sauber was second ahead of his compatriot Nico Rosberg in a Williams.

Fisichella found himself locked between Glock and Piquet in the first corner and it ended in trouble for him. The young German, Sutil, managed to move to the 13th place by the eighth lap, before he was pushed out by a hydraulic pressure failure.

“I am very disappointed as I lost the race at the first corner because another driver came in like a kamikaze into my car and it was very frustrating, especially considering a race like this where there was a possibility to score lots of points. It was a good opportunity,” Fisichella said.

DPA adds: Hamilton grabbed the maximum points to take the early lead while Heidfeld and Rosberg were behind him.

Several cars were involved in a collision on the first lap. As a result the safety car had to come out for the first time. Many cars including the Honda of Jenson Button, Mark Webber’s Red Bull and the Force India of Fisichella had to withdraw.

Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso in a Renault was fourth, while the second McLaren of Hekki Kovalainen finished fifth. Rubens Barrichello in a Toyota was sixth, ahead of Kazuki Nakajima in a Williams.

The final point in the championship went to Rookie Sebastien Bourdais in a Torro Rosso, who had to pull out two laps from the end because he was lying fourth, but had by then completed enough laps to be considered a finisher.

World champion Kimi Raikkonen retired in ninth place near the end of the race, while his team mate Felipe Massa pulled out on the 30th lap after a collision.

Hamilton continued putting a gap between himself and the challengers after the safety car withdrew and when Robert Kubica, who started from second in the second BMW-Sauber pitted, Kovalainen managed to overtake.

Kubica then fell behind as Raikkonen, Heidfeld and Rosberg also found themselves in front of the Pole after their first petrol stop.

On the 26th lap, Massa in the Ferrari attempted to overtake David Coulthard but crashed into the side of the Red Bull, prompting the safety car to come out for a second time.

Coulthard, whose car was a virtual write-off, later blamed Massa for the accident. “His car is faster than mine, but just like everybody else, he needs to pass me. I think it was his fault.

“The rear-view mirrors also made things no better as I can only see cars that are far behind, not close. The positioning is done for aero-dynamic reasons and that makes no sense.”

Raikkonen, who started 15th, but had worked his way up to third by the 30th lap, attempted to overtake Kovalainen at the end of the second safety car phase, but slipped off the track and had to rejoin the race as 11th.

The safety car had to come out for a third time with 12 laps to go after Germany’s Timo Glock in a Toyota slipped off the track and flew into the air as he came back onto the track and drove over a barrier and badly damaged the car.

Heidfeld benefited from the safety car phase as he had just come out of the pits after a petrol stop and managed to close the gap immediately and then took over as second once Kovalainen went into the pits for petrol.

The Finn also lost ground on Rosberg and Alonso.

Kubica and Kazuki Nakajima in a Williams touched after the safety car pulled off and Kubica had to retire as a result.

There were no further incidents in the race as Hamilton comfortably maintained his position to give him the lead in the drivers’ standings with 10 points from Heidfeld on eight and Rosberg on 6.

The next race is the Malaysian Grand Prix on 23 March in Kuala Lumpur.

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