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Felipe Massa wins European GP ahead of Hamilton

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[August 25, 2008]  VALENCIA, Spain (AP) -- Ferrari's Felipe Massa won the European Grand Prix for his fourth Formula One victory of the season, leading Sunday's race wire-to-wire to finish comfortably ahead of championship leader Lewis Hamilton in second.

Massa easily held onto his lead after starting from the pole position and finished 5.6 seconds ahead of Hamilton's McLaren on the 3.4-mile street circuit. BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica was third.

Hardware"I'm so glad and happy, especially after such a disaster in Hungary," said Massa, who missed a certain victory at the last race in Budapest after his engine gave out shortly before the finish.

After the race, stewards investigated an incident in the pit lane where Massa nearly collided with Force India's Adrian Sutil as the two were leaving after their second stop. Ferrari was fined $14,800 for not releasing their driver safely, but Massa was not punished.

Hamilton kept the lead of the overall standings with 70 points, while Massa moved into second place with 64 with a win in his 100th GP.

Defending champion Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari retired from the race on the 45th lap after smoke started coming from the back of his car while he trailed in sixth place. He now sits third in the standings with 57 points. Kubica is fourth with 55 after getting his first podium finish since he won the Canadian GP in June.


"It was not a nice weekend but it is not the first time," Raikkonen said. "We are in a bit of a worse situation in the championship, but if we get all the things sorted then I think we still have a chance to come back."

Local favorite and two-time world champion Fernando Alonso of Renault was also forced to retire after Williams' Kazuki Nakajima crashed into him from behind during the first lap and snapped off the rear wing of the Spaniard's car.

"My mechanics did everything to try and allow me to continue, but my race was already compromised," Alonso said. "I am extremely disappointed because I was hoping to have a special race in my second home Grand Prix, and for all the supporters who came here this weekend to support me."


Renault managing director Flavio Briatore described it as "a weekend to forget."

Massa also won in Bahrain, Turkey and France this season, and now adds the inaugural title at Valencia's new circuit, which drivers said was an unforgiving course with little room for mistakes.

"I think it is amazing," the Brazilian driver said. "To come here to a new track ... we did a fantastic job. It was really difficult to choose the right tires, especially in qualifying, but we did a perfect job in that and then making the pole position, winning the race and making the fast lap. I think it is nothing more we can ask for."

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Hamilton, who also struggled with his car in Hungary, was pleased with getting the eight points.

"Can't complain about second place," he said. "We've had quite a strong weekend. Nice new circuit, got some good points, Heikki (Kovalainen) and the team got some good points. It was just overall a solid weekend for us."

Hamilton said he had to take painkillers before the race because of a sore neck, which he attributed to sleeping on a bad pillow.

In another pit lane incident, Raikkonen tried to pull out while his fuel hose was still attached and ran into a team mechanic, who appeared to escape without serious injuries.

"I left (the pits) a bit too early," Raikkonen said. "It was my fault and unfortunately I ran over the guy who was refueling. We need to look and see what really happened."

"We still have to work very hard because today we had other problems with Kimi, and another one in the garage, but our mechanic is fine," Massa said.

Organizers said 115,123 people attended the race held beneath a clear sky with a temperature of 82 degrees and humidity at 67 percent.

The next race is the Belgian GP in Spa on Sept. 7.

[Associated Press; By CIARAN GILES]

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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