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2008 Australian Grand Prix

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2008 Australian Grand Prix

Australia  2008 Australian Grand Prix
Race details
Race 1 of 18 in the 2008 Formula One season

Date 16 March 2008
Official name LXXIII ING Australian Grand Prix
Location Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit, Melbourne, Australia
Course Temporary street circuit
5.303 km (3.295 mi)
Distance 58 laps, 307.574 km (191.12 mi)
Weather Sunny
Attendance 108,000[1]
Pole position
Driver United Kingdom Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes
Time 1:26.714
Fastest lap
Driver Finland Heikki Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes
Time 1:27.418 on lap 43
First United Kingdom Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes
Second Germany Nick Heidfeld BMW Sauber
Third Germany Nico Rosberg Williams-Toyota

The 2008 Australian Grand Prix (formally the LXXIII ING Australian Grand Prix) was a Formula One motor race held on 16 March 2008 at the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit, Melbourne, Australia. It was the first race of the 2008 Formula One season. The race, contested over 58 laps, was won by Lewis Hamilton for the McLaren team after starting from pole position. Nick Heidfeld finished second in a BMW Sauber car, with Nico Rosberg third in a Williams, his first ever F1 podium.[2]

The race saw a very high rate of attrition, with only seven cars out of the 22-car grid running at the chequered flag – which reduced from seven to six after Rubens Barrichello's disqualification – with two other drivers being classified as they had completed at least 90% of the 307.574 km race distance in order for classification.



The Grand Prix was contested by 22 drivers, in 11 teams of two.[3] The teams, also known as "constructors", were Ferrari, McLaren-Mercedes, Renault, Honda, Force India, BMW Sauber, Toyota, Red Bull Racing, Williams, Toro Rosso and Super Aguri.[3]

Heading into the new season, several teams opted to keep the same line-up as they had in 2007, however some teams changed drivers for 2008. One of the main driver changes involved McLaren driver Fernando Alonso, who chose to move back to Renault for the 2008 season, with Heikki Kovalainen moving in the opposite direction to McLaren.[4] Defending Drivers' Champion Kimi Räikkönen stayed at Ferrari after his title-winning campaign, with the Finnish driver again being joined by Felipe Massa. As in 2007, eleven teams took to the grid for the start of the new season.

The final mass test session before the new season took place at the Circuit de Catalunya in Montmeló, just north of Barcelona over 25 February–27. All the teams, with the exception of Super Aguri attended this three-day test which was affected by rain on the first day. On day one, Lewis Hamilton of McLaren was fastest having recorded a lap of 1:22.276, followed closely by the Ferraris of Räikkönen and former seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher.[5] Hamilton continued to top the charts on the second day, with new team-mate, Kovalainen second. Räikkönen was third on a 1:21.722, having been joined at the track by his team-mate Felipe Massa. Massa's best lap of 1:22.513 was only good enough for fifth place, with Kazuki Nakajima's Williams splitting the Ferraris.[6] On the final day, the Toyota of Jarno Trulli topped the timesheets with the fastest lap of the test, recording a lap of 1:20.801 during a qualifying run. Second was the Red Bull mount of David Coulthard, having missed the previous day's running due to requiring treatment on a trapped nerve.[7]


“That wasn't too bad. There was probably a few different fuel loads out there so it's hard to know exactly where we are. There are definitely four cars that are quicker than us, so we'll get our heads down this evening and work on the race information before qualifying tomorrow. It's pretty windy out on the track, but it's an issue for everyone."

Mark Webber, after recording the second fastest lap in the second practice session.[8]

Three practice sessions were held before the race; the first was held on Friday morning and the second on Friday afternoon. Both sessions lasted 1 hour and 30 minutes with weather conditions dry throughout. The third session was held on Saturday morning and lasted an hour.[9] Räikkönen, the defending champion, set the fastest time in the first practice, posting a lap of 1:26.461, four-tenths of a second quicker than Hamilton and Massa, in second and third places respectively. Heikki Kovalainen completed the top four in the McLaren, with Mark Webber in the Red Bull and Fernando Alonso in the Renault rounding out the top six positions, two seconds off the pace. Rookie Nelson Piquet Jr. caused a brief red-flag in the session, spinning off at the Ascari corner.[10] Hamilton lapped faster than Räikkönen in the second practice session with a time of 1:26.559. Webber was second in the Red Bull, nine-tenths of a second behind Hamilton. Coulthard, Webber's team-mate, was fifth, three-tenths behind Kovalainen, who finished the session fourth. The Ferraris were third and sixth; Massa in 3rd and Kimi Räikkönen in sixth. Jarno Trulli in the Toyota and Nico Rosberg in the Williams completed the top eight positions.[11] In preparation for the qualifying session, many teams put their cars on soft tyres for the third practice session. The soft tyre gives better performance than the harder type of tyre but is less durable than the harder compound.[12] The BMW Sauber team topped the third practice session with first and second positions—Robert Kubica finishing the session ahead of team-mate Nick Heidfeld. Alonso was third in the Renault, with Rosberg rounding off the top four positions.[13]


"I am pleased to qualify third, but there is still room for improvement. It was a fairly smooth lap, and the balance of the car felt good. At the end I didn’t nail a perfect lap, but throughout the weekend I have just been taking things steady, not making any mistakes and keep pushing harder and harder. Last year I didn’t make the best start to the season, so today’s result is a great beginning to my career as a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver."

Heikki Kovalainen, commenting on his qualifying performance.[14]

The qualifying session was split into three parts. The first part of qualifying runs for 20 minutes and eliminates the cars that finished the session 17th or lower. The second part of qualifying lasts for 15 minutes and eliminates cars that finished in positions 11 to 16. The final part of qualifying determines the positions from first to tenth, and decides who starts the Grand Prix in pole position.[9] Hamilton clinched his seventh career pole position of his career, with a time of 1:26.714 in the third session. He was joined on the front-row by Kubica, who was a tenth of a second behind Hamilton.[15] Kovalainen was third, with Massa fourth, four-tenths slower than Hamilton in the third part. In contrast to Massa's fourth place, his team-mate, Räikkönen finished qualifying in 16th place. His Ferrari car suffered a fuel pump problem at the end of part one, with the Ferrari team unable to fix the problem before the second session.[16] Räikkönen was not the only driver to suffer problems. Webber in the Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel in the Toro Rosso also suffered problems, with Webber spinning off in session two due to brake failure, leaving him down in 15th. Vettel was scheduled to be in the third session, but his Toro Rosso suffered oil pump failure, preventing him from setting a time in the session. Heidfeld, Trulli, Rosberg and Coulthard completed the top eight positions.[15] Timo Glock in a Toyota finished qualifying in ninth position, however, he was demoted to 19th after being given two five-place grid penalties. His first five-place penalty was a result of a gearbox change, while his second five-place penalty was for impeding Webber during the session.[17]


The conditions for the race were dry with the air temperature 37 °C (99 °F).[18] The race started at 15:30 AEDT (GMT +10). Hamilton, from pole position on the grid, held onto the lead into the first corner with Kubica behind in second position. Sebastian Vettel stalled his car on the grid and therefore pulled away very slowly, and lost several positions in the process. Behind the leading two, Massa spun coming out of turn one whilst racing Kovalainen, and damaged his front wing against the barriers, costing him a pit stop.

Nelson Piquet Jr. made contact with Italian Giancarlo Fisichella at the first corner, putting Fisichella out of the race. In another incident at turn three Mark Webber, Anthony Davidson, Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel came together, putting all four out of the race. Kazuki Nakajima drove into Vettel as he spun and lost his front wing and had to pit in for a new one. The safety car was deployed in response to the accidents. At the front Lewis Hamilton took the early lead, followed by Kubica and Rosberg. Massa's team mate Räikkönen elevated himself from fifteenth to eighth on the first lap.

The safety car came in on lap three and Hamilton quickly opened up a lead from Kubica in second. Räikkönen was stuck behind Rubens Barrichello, finally passing him lap 19 for sixth place. During the first set of pit stops Toyota driver Jarno Trulli was forced to retire due to electrical problems.

On lap 26 Massa attempted to pass David Coulthard. The two collided; Coulthard retired from the race with serious damage to his car. Coulthard was irate at Massa after the race for not apologising for the incident. The safety car came out for the second time. Massa retired on lap 29 with Ferrari's first engine failure of the race. Räikkönen, who had been about to pit, had to stay out. Despite this he did not pit when the pit was re-opened two laps later, preferring to move up the field as other drivers pitted.

The race restarted on lap 30, and immediately Räikkönen made an over-ambitious move on Heikki Kovalainen for second place and outbraked himself into turn 3, going right off the track and across the gravel, losing several places. Two laps later, he was chasing Timo Glock, but as he drifted to the outside of the track, he just put his left rear wheel onto the grass and spun 360 degrees, in exactly the same place as his earlier off . He went off the track again on lap 42.

On lap 44 Timo Glock ran wide onto the grass and the bottom of his car hit two substantial bumps, the second of which caused it to briefly fly up in the air and land with force sufficient to break the suspension, leaving the monocoque in contact with the ground and unable to be stopped, resulting in a sizable accident. Glock spun twice and came to rest against the wall further down the track. He was forced to retire and the safety car came out for a third time. On the same lap, due to a false signal from the chief mechanic, Barrichello left a pit stop before the fuel hose had been removed from his car. Several mechanics suffered minor injuries. He would also serve a ten second penalty for this pit stop as it was taken while the pit lane was closed. Ultimately he was disqualified for exiting the pitlane when the red light was on.

The race restarted on lap 47 and one lap later Kubica was forced out of the race after a collision with Kazuki Nakajima. Fernando Alonso was able to move up the field as a result of the high number of retirements and overtaking of Kovalainen and Räikkönen in a single move,[19] and was fifth with eight laps left. However Kovalainen threatened to pass him in the last few laps. Räikkönen retired with Ferrari's second engine failure of the race on lap 54, after driving slowly into the pit lane.

Sébastien Bourdais's first Formula One race ended on lap 56 after suffering an engine failure (Ferrari's third of the race). He was running 4th place in the Scuderia Toro Rosso at the time and had completed his final pit stop. At the end of the penultimate lap, Kovalainen finally passed Alonso coming out of turn 13, to take fourth place. But moments later on the pit straight, he went to tear a strip off his visor, and accidentally hit the pit lane speed limiter, allowing Alonso back through.

Seven cars finished the race, but Barrichello was later disqualifed for passing a red light at the pit lane exit. Lewis Hamilton won, having led all but 5 laps of the race. Nick Heidfeld came second and Nico Rosberg recorded his first podium in third. Kazuki Nakajima was the final car to finish, but was later given a ten-place grid penalty for the next race after hitting Kubica under safety car conditions.[20]


"Shortly after we called Rubens in for the second of two planned pit stops, Timo Glock had a crash and the safety car was deployed. We had no alternative but to continue to bring him in because he was out of fuel, although we realised that the pit lane was going to be closed due to the safety car and that this would result in a ten-second stop-go penalty. During the pit stop the lollipop was lifted just a fraction early while the fuel hose was just coming off the car. After the pit stop Rubens exited the pit lane when the lights were still red and obviously this is in breach of the regulations. A tough set of circumstances after an otherwise very committed drive by Rubens."

Ross Brawn, team principal of the Honda team.[21]

The top three finishers appeared on the podium and in the subsequent press conference, where Hamilton appeared relaxed, despite the tough physical conditions that the race was held in, and was already looking forward to the Malaysian Grand Prix: "I felt fantastic. I never thought it would have been as physically a breeze as it was. It is great preparation for Malaysia so bring it on, I am really looking forward to it."[22] He also commended the work of his McLaren team on both his scheduled stops,[23] on laps 18 and 43 respectively:

They did a fantastic job as always but perhaps a big and huge thank you to Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. The car was phenomenal. It really was the complete dream to drive compared to the car we had last year but pulling me in early on both my pit-stops really did help us in terms of safety cars and kept us out of trouble.[22]

Heidfeld picked up his first podium since the 2007 Hungarian Grand Prix – another race won by Hamilton – and was relieved to have kept Rosberg behind him, believing that his fellow German was fuelled longer than he actually was. "After the start I thought it was not going to be a very good race because I knew that Nico was quite long. Actually he came in earlier than expected on the same lap as myself. What we lost at the start we regained on the pit-stop, so our pit-stop crew, just did a fantastic job to just get me out of Nico. Then I was lucky on the pit-stops in terms of the safety car."[22]

Rosberg was delighted at his first podium finish, and was looking towards the rest of the year for similar results. "I think we have a solid car to start the season with. I am hoping to have a nice development through the season and I think we can have a good year.[22]

After his pit stop faux pas on lap 44, Rubens Barrichello was disqualified from sixth position after the race's conclusion. Barrichello was penalised by the race stewards, having exited the pit lane while the red lights were illuminated.[21] The Brazilian's pitstop was also the first of various instances throughout the season of drivers having to pit under stabilised safety car conditions. In the race classification, this moved Nakajima up into sixth position, Sébastien Bourdais into seventh and reigning champion Räikkönen into the final point-scoring position in eighth.

Also after the race, Nakajima received a ten-place grid penalty to be applicated in the following round in Malaysia, having collided with BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica on lap 48 of the race.[24]

As this was the first race of the season, Hamilton led the Drivers' Championship with 10 points, followed by Heidfeld on 8 and Rosberg on 6.[25] Meanwhile in the Constructors' Championship, McLaren picked up 14 points thanks to Hamilton's win and Kovalainen's fifth place, thus giving them a five point lead over Williams – their highest championship position since 2004 – who, like McLaren, had both drivers finish in the points, with BMW Sauber in third on 8.[25]



Pos No Driver Constructor Part 1[26] Part 2[26] Part 3[26] Grid
1 22 United Kingdom Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:26.572 1:25.187 1:26.714 1
2 4 Poland Robert Kubica BMW Sauber 1:26.103 1:25.315 1:26.869 2
3 23 Finland Heikki Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 1:25.664 1:25.452 1:27.079 3
4 2 Brazil Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:25.994 1:25.691 1:27.178 4
5 3 Germany Nick Heidfeld BMW Sauber 1:25.960 1:25.518 1:27.236 5
6 11 Italy Jarno Trulli Toyota 1:26.427 1:26.101 1:28.527 6
7 7 Germany Nico Rosberg Williams-Toyota 1:26.295 1:26.059 1:28.687 7
8 9 United Kingdom David Coulthard Red Bull-Renault 1:26.381 1:26.063 1:29.041 8
9 12 Germany Timo Glock Toyota 1:26.919 1:26.164 1:29.593 19[1]
10 15 Germany Sebastian Vettel Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:26.702 1:25.842 no time[2] 9
11 17 Brazil Rubens Barrichello Honda 1:26.369 1:26.173 10
12 5 Spain Fernando Alonso Renault 1:26.907 1:26.188 11
13 16 United Kingdom Jenson Button Honda 1:26.712 1:26.259 12
14 8 Japan Kazuki Nakajima Williams-Toyota 1:26.891 1:26.413 13
15 10 Australia Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:26.914 no time[3] 14
16 1 Finland Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:26.140 no time[4] 15
17 21 Italy Giancarlo Fisichella Force India-Ferrari 1:27.207 16
18 14 France Sébastien Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:27.446 17
19 20 Germany Adrian Sutil Force India-Ferrari 1:27.859 22[5]
20 18 Japan Takuma Sato Super Aguri-Honda 1:28.208 18
21 6 Brazil Nelson Piquet Jr. Renault 1:28.330 20
22 19 United Kingdom Anthony Davidson Super Aguri-Honda 1:29.059 21
  • ^1 Timo Glock was demoted to 19th place due to two five-place grid penalties, for a gearbox change and for impeding Webber during qualifying.
  • ^2 Sebastian Vettel suffered an oil pump problem and did not take part in Q3.[15]
  • ^3 Mark Webber suffered a right front brake failure and was unable to continue with the session after spinning into the gravel.[15]
  • ^4 Kimi Räikkönen suffered a fuel pressure problem in Q1 and was barred from the rest of session for stopping on-track.[16]
  • ^5 Adrian Sutil started the race from the pitlane after he was forced to change chassis after severe damage during qualifying.


Pos No Driver Constructor Lap Time/Retired[2] Grid Points
1 22 United Kingdom Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 58 1:34:50.616 1 10
2 3 Germany Nick Heidfeld BMW Sauber 58 +5.478 5 8
3 7 Germany Nico Rosberg Williams-Toyota 58 +8.163 7 6
4 5 Spain Fernando Alonso Renault 58 +17.181 11 5
5 23 Finland Heikki Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 58 +18.014 3 4
6 8 Japan Kazuki Nakajima Williams-Toyota 57 +1 lap 13 3
7 14 France Sébastien Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari 55 Engine 17 2
8 1 Finland Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 53 Engine 15 1
Ret 4 Poland Robert Kubica BMW Sauber 47 Collision 2
Ret 12 Germany Timo Glock Toyota 43 Accident 18
Ret 18 Japan Takuma Sato Super Aguri-Honda 32 Transmission 19
Ret 6 Brazil Nelson Piquet Jr. Renault 30 Collision damage 20
Ret 2 Brazil Felipe Massa Ferrari 29 Engine 4
Ret 9 United Kingdom David Coulthard Red Bull-Renault 25 Collision 8
Ret 11 Italy Jarno Trulli Toyota 19 Electrical 6
Ret 20 Germany Adrian Sutil Force India-Ferrari 8 Hydraulics 22
Ret 10 Australia Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 0 Collision 14
Ret 16 United Kingdom Jenson Button Honda 0 Collision 12
Ret 19 United Kingdom Anthony Davidson Super Aguri-Honda 0 Collision 21
Ret 15 Germany Sebastian Vettel Toro Rosso-Ferrari 0 Collision 9
Ret 21 Italy Giancarlo Fisichella Force India-Ferrari 0 Collision 16
DSQ 17 Brazil Rubens Barrichello Honda 58 Disqualified 10
  • Rubens Barrichello was disqualified from 6th for ignoring a red light at the pit exit.

Standings after the race

  • Note: Only the top five positions are included for both sets of standings.


Previous race:
2007 Brazilian Grand Prix
FIA Formula One World Championship
2008 season
Next race:
2008 Malaysian Grand Prix
Previous race:
2007 Australian Grand Prix
Australian Grand Prix Next race:
2009 Australian Grand Prix

Coordinates: 37°50′59″S 144°58′06″E / 37.84972°S 144.96833°E / -37.84972; 144.96833

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