SPOILER ALERT: the new European Grand Prix at Valencia

Click above for high-res gallery of the European Grand Prix

There are many grands prix in Europe, but there is only one European Grand Pix. Although the title was originally awarded as a badge of prestige to one race on the continent each year, over the last quarter century the name has allowed a second round in the Formula One World Championship to be held in a country that already hosts a race under its own name. With the 2008 Spanish Grand Prix already behind us, this year's European Grand Prix was held at the new street course in Valencia, Spain.

Not to be confused with the Circuit de Valencia that is often used as an F1 test track, the new Circuito Urbano Valencia was designed by prolific track architect Hermann Tilke and is lauded for combining a highly challenging set of 25 turns with a Monaco-like atmosphere – complete with views of the Mediterranean and a marina – and a unique bridge straight. The new location made for a an exciting setting for this past weekend's race, jam packed with race action to throw this year's championship further into flux. Follow the jump to see how it unfolded.

View 7 Photos

Following the unparalleled disappointment that Felipe Massa suffered at the last race in Hungary, race day in Spain proved a red letter day for the young Brazilian. By the end of the race weekend, Massa had taken pole position, set the fastest lap and, to jump to the salient point, took the checkered flag as well. Massa led a commanding race, punctuated only by a minor incident that almost saw him collide in pit lane with Force India driver Adrian Sutil. That incident, investigated by the race marshals after the event, cost Ferrari $10,000 in fines, however Massa was able to keep his victory.

His teammate at Scuderia Ferrari had much worse luck. After managing to qualify only in fourth place, reigning champion Kimi Raikkonen was caught in traffic most of the race distance. Close to the end of the race, he caused a far more serious incident than his teammate's in the pits. Pitting right behind McLaren-Mercedes driver Heikki Kovalainen, who managed to fend off his fellow Finn most of the race, Kimi was evidently desperate to get out in front of the McLaren and jumped the gun leaving the pit, taking down one of his mechanics with the fuel hose still attached. Kimi's impatience did not pay off as he had to stop and wait for the hose to be disconnected while the rest of the Ferrari pit crew tended to their fallen comrade. Kovalainen, meanwhile, got away, and Raikkonen's engine blew out in a cloud of smoke only a few laps later as the defending champ tried desperately to make up for lost time and position.

The crowd in southern Spain were surely far more disappointed to see their home-grown hero Fernando Alonso retire far earlier in the race. The two-time champion was rear-ended by Williams driver Kazuki Nakajima, whose kamikaze driving took the Spaniard out of the race on the first lap as the Renault crew was unable to repair the damage done to the back section of the car.

While one of the Ferrari drivers pulled off a flawless performance and the other anything but, both McLaren drivers drove consistently to score valuable points in the championship. Lewis Hamilton took the second step on the podium while his teammate Kovalainen came in fourth, sandwiching BMW's Robert Kubica in third.

The biggest surprises came from farther down the field, however. Toyota made a surprisingly strong showing in Valencia as Jarno Trulli came in a solid fifth place while his rookie teammate Timo Glock followed up on his blitzschnell second-place finish in Hungary earlier this month with an entirely respectable 7th place finish, good for a couple of points.

Meanwhile the order of things in the Red Bull hierarchy was upset as Scuderia Toro Rosso embarrassed the senior Red Bull Racing team. Sebastian Vettel retained his sixth place from the grid while his teammate Sebastien Bourdais kept his tenth, compared to Red Bull's Mark Webber who took 12th place from 14th on the grid and David Coulthard who couldn't do better than his 17th spot on the grid.

Alongside fellow veteran Rubens Barrichello, who finished just ahead of Coulthard in 16th (from an even more dismal 19th place grid position), the pair raised questions as to how well aging drivers can do the first time on a new track as the newcomers adapted more quickly while the veterans couldn't take advantage of their pools of experience.

By the end of the day, Massa had passed his teammate in the drivers' championship – who is now in danger of dropping further behind as Robert Kubica trails close by – and closed the gap on leader Lewis Hamilton. Ferrari's eleven-point lead in the constructors' championship heading into Valencia was dwindled down to nine as the season closes its 12th round. Stay tuned for results from the Belgian Grand Prix in two weeks from Spa.

2008 European Grand Prix
1. Massa Ferrari
2. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes
3. Kubica BMW Sauber
4. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes
5. Trulli Toyota
6. Vettel Toro Rosso-Ferrari
7. Glock Toyota
8. Rosberg Williams-Toyota
9. Heidfeld BMW Sauber
10. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari
11. Piquet Renault
12. Webber Red Bull-Renault
13. Button Honda
14. Fisichella Force India-Ferrari
15. Nakajima Williams-Toyota
16. Barrichello Honda
17. Coulthard Red Bull-Renault

Fastest lap: Massa, 1:38.708

Not classified/retirements:
Raikkonen Ferrari
Sutil Force India-Ferrari
Alonso Renault

World Championship standings
(after 12 rounds)

1. Hamilton 70
2. Massa 64
3. Raikkonen 57
4. Kubica 55
5. Kovalainen 43
6. Heidfeld 41
7. Trulli 26
8. Alonso 18
9. Webber 18
10. Glock 15
11. Piquet 13
12. Barrichello 11
13. Vettel 9
14. Rosberg 9
15. Nakajima 8
16. Coulthard 6
17. Button 3
18. Bourdais 2

1. Ferrari 121
2. McLaren-Mercedes 113
3. BMW Sauber 96
4. Toyota 41
5. Renault 31
6. Red Bull-Renault 24
7. Williams-Toyota 17
9. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 11

View 7 Photos

[Photos by Bryn Lennon/Mark Thompson/RAFA RIVAS/JOSE JORDAN/ROBERT GHEMENT/AFP/Getty]

Share This Photo X