Felipe Massa led a Ferrari one-two to win the French Grand Prix today and take the lead in the Formula One championship for the first time.
Massa’s third victory of the season, and eighth of his career, made the 27-year-old Sao Paulo driver the first Brazilian to lead the standings since the late triple champion Ayrton Senna in 1993.
Team mate Kimi Raikkonen, the world champion who won at Magny-Cours last year, led from pole but was overtaken by Massa just after the halfway mark when his Ferrari slowed with a broken exhaust.
Massa took the chequered flag 17.9 seconds clear of Raikkonen on an overcast and damp afternoon at the circuit in the heart of rural France.
“I didn’t expect that, sometimes you need a little bit of luck,” said Massa after Ferrari’s third one-two of the season.
“The championship is still 100 percent open and we still have many races to go.
“It’s nice but my dream is not to lead the championship, it is to win the championship. And I’m going to do my best to achieve that.”
Raikkonen could not hide his disappointment but, with his car almost stopping in the closing stages, accepted the second place.
“I’ll take the eight points and it looks much better in the championship,” he told reporters.
Italy’s Jarno Trulli gave Toyota, mourning the recent death of former team principal Ove Andersson, their first podium finish since the Australian Grand Prix of April, 2006, after holding off McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen in a thrilling chase to the line.
The two cars came close to banging wheels on the penultimate lap as Kovalainen tried in vain to pass.
“I don’t think we touched, just wheel-to-wheel like we did in go-karting,” said the Italian, whose last podium finish was with Toyota in May 2005. “I’d love to fight every race like that.”
Poland’s Robert Kubica, the championship leader for BMW-Sauber before Sunday’s race after winning in Canada, finished fifth with Red Bull’s Australian Mark Webber sixth.
Renault’s Brazilian rookie Nelson Piquet finally took his first point in Formula One, at the eighth attempt, with seventh place ahead of team mate and double world champion Fernando Alonso in eighth.
Massa, the fourth driver to lead the championship in the space of four races, now has 48 points to Kubica’s 46 with Raikkonen ending a two-race barren run to move up to third place with 43.
McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, who had been level with Massa in second place, finished 10th after starting 13th due to a 10-place penalty on the grid incurred for colliding with Raikkonen in the Canadian Gp pit lane.
The 23-year-old Briton suffered a further blow when he picked up a drive-through penalty after 13 laps that dropped him from ninth to 16th place.
Honda’s Briton Jenson Button was the only driver to retire from the race.