Grid penalties and mechanical setbacks were the story of this weekend’s French GP at Magny-Cours. Felipe Massa took the win after pole-sitter and race leader Kimi Raikkonnen's exhaust broke just before the midpoint, though he managed to hang on for second. Toyota driver Jarno Trulli brought home the team's first podium since 2005 followed by McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen, who climbed back up from a five-spot grid penalty incurred during Saturday's qualifying session.
Kimi Raikkonen would have won from pole, but ultimately he was lucky to nurse a broken exhaust to second place, as Ferrari dominated amid McLaren's penalty troubles. Winner Felipe Massa - the first Brazilian championship leader since the great Ayrton Senna in 1993 - admitted that, given the Finn's peerless pace, "it would have been hard for me to beat him on the track".
Jarno Trulli's strong third place, despite a late spirited attack by McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen, was a fitting tribute to Toyota's late team boss Ove Andersson, ending a podium drought of more than two years. Timo Glock struggled with handling and was a long way behind at the chequer, finishing 11th.
Like Montreal, Magny-Cours was another shocker for Lewis Hamilton, who incurred yet another penalty, this time for cutting a chicane after passing Sebastian Vettel. He finished just tenth and is now ten points behind in the championship. Kovalainen fared better, fighting back from his own grid penalty to be fourth at the flag, despite a spirited attempt to pass Trulli right at the end.
Robert Kubica, fifth and within sight of Trulli and Kovalainen at the end, lost his lead in the drivers' championship as BMW-Sauber's form dipped in France. "We now have to analyse what happened here and see how we can improve," said the Montreal winner. Nick Heidfeld, thirteenth and half a minute behind his teammate, only narrowly avoided being lapped.
With the two works cars behind him, sixth placed Mark Webber was the first Renault-powered contender past the flag, even surviving a big moment out of the last corner at one point that let Fernando Alonso past. "His strategy didn't work out as well, which was good for us," Webber said. David Coulthard finished 8 seconds behind Alonso in ninth.
Nelson Piquet's best showing in his difficult F1 career so far netted him 7th place ahead of his teammate Alonso, and the first points of his career. "It's the first time that everything has gone without any problems for me," he said. Alonso started third but lost positions on the first lap, and Piquet got past due to a mistake. "I was not able to find the pace I had shown yesterday," he said.
The junior Red Bull team titled its post-race media statement 'Rain dance failed', as the few rain drops failed to help Sebastian Vettel raise above his 12th place starting position. Local driver Sebastien Bourdais only led home the slow Force Indias.
Honda will be pleased to put another bad weekend behind them: Jenson Button was the only retirement, as he succumbed to damage sustained in first-corner contact with Bourdais. Rubens Barrichello started last, after a gearbox change penalty, and he fought back to be the first of the six lapped cars. "There is no escaping the fact that this has been a painful weekend for us," he said.
A fruitless race for the Grove squad, branded a "very mediocre performance" by team stalwart Patrick Head. Kazuki Nakajima finished where he started - 15th - and Nico Rosberg was never able to recover from his Montreal grid penalty. "The car simply didn't have the speed," he said.
The two Force India cars brought up the rear, and Giancarlo Fisichella's deficit to the next highest competitor was a hefty half a minute. "We have had some better races," said Adrian Sutil, another 20 seconds adrift.