Spa-Francorchamps: Race Report

This. Is. SPA-taaaa!!!

That was Belgium!!!!!!!

Taking a cue from Gerhard Butler’s impassioned cry, the race in Belgium was a out and out battle for supremacy. It’s a tough track where the brave and talented profit, or fall amid the oft uncertain circumstances. When they line up at the bottom of the valley, with the green of the forest and the grey of the sky reflecting off their visor they know it is anyone’s game. A massive set of cojones will get you some way towards your dream of taming the beast of Spa, but relax along the 7km of track and it bites. Hard.

The madness at La Source

The seconds that followed the extinguished lights should get it’s own report, it was here that the tempo of the race was confirmed and where the first victims were found. Webber was the first to make a mistake, a ‘shocking’ start scattered the line behind him, dropping the lever he sent the car into anti-stall and 8th. Behind him lay a smoking Rosberg who had the presence of mind to avoid him and capitalise to chase down Vettel, then lead into Les Combe. Senna misjudged his braking distance into La Source slams into Alguersuari and ends the Spaniard’s race by breaking his left track rod. What started as a great day for the Spaniard, a career best qualifying performance was ruined by a race rusty Senna. Glock smokes his way down the inside into di Resta and the two Lotus driver get into each other. Button has a chunk taken out of his rear wing and has to change a damaged front wing on lap 3, he also lost his right wing mirror to a shard of flying body work.

The intensity doesn’t let off for a moment until the flag falls 44 laps later, after the threat of inappropriate touching dies down tyres become the next pressing issue. Going into the race we know Red Bull have an issue, and while Webber is the first to pit for a new set on the 3rd lap, it isn’t long until Vettel follows. Tyre strategies differed up and down the pit lane, the most notable perhaps being Webber’s double stint on the medium compound which looked disastrous but worked in the favour of a man who prefers the harder rubber. In the closing stages we was able to take several seconds out of Vettel’s lead, just leaving that persistent question lingering in the air, could he have won it with a better start?

Hamilton destroying the advertising

The most curious element of the race in Belgium was Ferrari, they started brilliantly. Massa had outqualified Alonso which certainly cheered some up, and the Brazilian started the day with some excellent and genuine pace. But as the 44 laps were eaten up something happened to both Ferraris, we’ve seen it before where the stint on the harder compound damaged their podium hopes, and today was no different. Their switch to medium (when Pirelli retired the hard tyre some suspected this was to boost the flagging Italian outfit) saw the pace evaporate out of the car, and Massa’s day was ruined by a late race puncture which forced him to pit on successive laps leaving him in 8th. The eventual winning team highlighted the struggles of Ferrari, and McLaren to a degree, with 2 out of 3 sectors focused on traction and straight line speed the oldest teams on the grid were on the back foot. Hamilton looked strong early one, but he added a fourth accident to his retirement tally instead when he failed to give Kobayashi enough room going into Les Combes. The weekend hadn’t been an easy one for Hamilton, and as both driver took Les Combes side by side Kobayashi turned in before a late turning Hamilton did.

The race executed by Rosberg and Schumacher with their oft disappointing Merecedes was one to behold. Rosberg’s blistering start was proof of his natural talent and promise of something better in a car capable of winning a race, without the right (consistent) car underneath him he’s going to find it hard to make an impact on the front runners. And maybe next time they’ll give him enough fuel to push until the end. Another race where Rosberg is in line for a solid result but he’s asked to conserve fuel on the last few laps. Else where Toro Rosso had a very disappointing double DNF, Daniel Ricciardo was running in 16th before a mechanical failure ends his day, but both Lotus’ finished ahead of Barrichello.

The Race:

Penalties: Glock – causing a collision (drive through), Senna – causing a collison with Alguersuari (drive through), Perez – causing a collison with Buemi (drive through).

Retirements: Alguersuari (0) – accident damage, Buemi (6) – accident damage, Hamilton (12) – accident, Ricciardo (13), Perez (27).

Results:

Position Driver Team Time
1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:26:44.893
2 Mark Webber Red Bull 1:26:48.634
3 Jenson Button McLaren 1:26:54.562
Fastest Lap Mark Webber Red Bull 1:49.883

Read: Full race results for Spa-Francorchamps

Best Driver:

Another exemplary race from Jenson Button in Belgium gives him top billing here. His start from 13th (miscommunication between him and his engineer saw him lift off on his last qualifying lap) was made harder by a stilted start which pushed him further behind, but with a strategy magnified by inspired overtaking his pace quickened throughout the race and he took advantage of a missing team mate and struggling Ferraris. His pass on Rosberg was described as one young drivers could learn from, exhibiting his expansive race craft knowledge, he pulled out to slow momentarily for the right moment and tucked into the slipstream at the right time. And he did it in the dry.

Michael Schumacher’s day started badly, his worst starting position in 20 years of racing looked to put a dampener on the day but ever the wily old fox, he showed us the character that brought him 7 titles. Yet another fantastic start, making up 10 places allowed him the opportunity to dig his heels in and get the job done on the day. With a spare set of options left from a disappointing qualifying wheel nut malfunction, he overhauled his team mate (who was on the mediums) and got a very good result of 5th. Who thought we would consider 5th a great result for Schumacher? Times, they are a-changing.

Best Team:

They’ve not been having the best season of late, but today they chased down Red Bulls and thrashed Ferraris, so this is well deserved. Nico Rosberg shone brightly and hearts were in mouths when he executed a beautiful overtake on Sebastian Vettel on the first lap, inevitably Vettel took the position back but Rosberg remained in touch for some time. Michael Schumacher battled valiantly from a 24th position start, his meteoric rise through the field was rewarded with a 5th place. And it was in the closing stages that the pair fought between themselves, Rosberg was ahead but on the harder compound leaving him open to attack from a determined Schumacher.

Special mention: Red Bull prospered with a 1-2 finish at a track considered a weakness. What can they do in Italy?

Eddie Jordan moment of inappropriateness:

Perhaps Eddie Jordan himself could take this for the totally boring outfit he wore, close, but this goes to something that came to light after the race. As the cars lined up on the grid word circulated that Red Bull wanted to switch their blistered tyres, without any other information this seemed to be a ‘toys out the pram’ moment however upon speaking to Adrian Newey we discovered exactly why they asked. Describing the day he said, “It was one of the scariest races I’ve been involved in, it was heart-in-the-mouth stuff.” The blistering that happened in qualifying lead to fears it could put their drivers in danger, Pirelli explained a lack of running and going past the ‘limits of our recommendations’ created the issue. The recommendation being camber, Pirelli prescribe a maximum of 4° and Red Bull had it at ‘just a hair over four’.  But not wanting to compromise their chances of success, the team turned down an offer to start from the pitlane after making the changes they wanted, upping the pressure instead they pitted Webber on lap 3 and Vettel on lap 5.

Rookie Mistake:

This isn’t a hard one as Bruno Senna went and admitted it. He puts the collision with Jaime Alguersuari at Le Source after the start down to a lack of experience and running in a heavy fuelled car. All practice sessions were disrupted by rain, so he first taste of life in the dry in the Renault was on race day. Senna explained, “I didn’t do the first corner with high fuel, ever, and unfortunately I misjudged the braking area. There was no way for me to avoid Jaime and I am really sorry about his race.”

Rookie of the Race:

Pastor Maldonado secured his first championship point as a Formula One driver, and considering the success he’s had in previous series and the team he joined this has been a long time coming. And considering the 5 place grid drop for his scuffle with Lewis Hamilton on Saturday, this was a good recovery and about time!

Banzaiiii!!!!!:

Mark Webber’s pass on Fernando Alonso through Eau Rouge was not only easily the best overtake of the race, but of the season and will be remembered for some time to come. Going flat out through Eau Rouge in years gone by was a test of character and how big your cojones were, but now the levels of downforce cars carry now make it possible, this is not to say Webber wasn’t brave to make the move. Sweeping up towards Eau Rouge, on lap 9, Webber moves to Alonso’s outside, and with just a cars width between the Ferarri and the grass the Aussie doesn’t lift and makes it stick racing up the hill. It’s the respect between the drivers that stopped a collision.

The 1000 word picture:

Say what?:

“Seb pulled it out when he needed to.” – Is there something you’re not telling us Coulthard?

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