Star of the Race
Jenson Button, McLaren 1st
You can’t help blaming the McLaren race engineers if they prefer Jenson Button to win races instead of Lewis Hamilton. Stupid tweets aside, when Jenson wins, Jessica Michibata makes a point of going round the garage and hugging the engineers. That’s got to be a pretty good incentive, hasn’t it.
And this time Jenson lucked into nothing. There were no changeable conditions, no inspired last-second strategy decisions to aid the win as in races gone by. It was all very Vettel-esque: pole position, storming away on the first lap and managing the gap from halfway. Where were the “guys, the tyres are going away” radio messages? His qualifying performance on Saturday was obviously the key and it was sensational – producing three laps good enough for pole. Obviously it’s a long lap at Spa, but to be almost 0.8 ahead of the next car in Q2 is staggeringly good when in some places a second will cover 15 cars.
Overtaking Move of the Race
Lap 34: Kimi Raikkonen on Michael Schumacher
As with Webber and Alonso last year, overtaking anyone on the run down to Eau Rouge has to be done with a high level of confidence between drivers. Raikkonen had already overtaken Michael the less-hard way going round the outside of the Bus Stop chicane, but it didn’t last long. He found that his car wasn’t geared to stay in front of the slippery Mercedes double DRS going back up the Kemmel straight. So he saved up his KERS energy and with newer tyres employed it on the traction out of La Source to get a run on Schumi.
It was another great race for Kimi, not that you could tell what sort of race it was from his post-race demeanour. There is a degree of autism in his behaviour. The lack of eye contact, the discomfort of face-to-face interviews, the failure to see the need for an answer to what is a blindingly obvious question is all part of it
Fernando Alonso unwittingly proved that F1 driver cockpit safety is pretty damned high, with just a bump on his helmet after Grosjean re-enacted a scene from the Dukes of Hazard using his car as the launch. We have a lot to be thankful for.
Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 2nd
The ‘Princess Stampyfoot’ of Hungary had benefited from a five-week break and was his natural, relaxed self again. The ‘Vettel Can’t Overtake’ badge has long been thrown into the bushes, but in this race he was probably the most combative we’ve ever seen him, making serial passes into the Bus Stop chicane. There was nothing tentative in the way he went about his business at Spa. Neither did he get any opening lap breaks, starting from P10 on the grid and ending up P12 behind the Safety Car. This was one of Vettel’s unsung great drives.
Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, 4th
If what Bernie has been saying this weekend is true, then Hulkenberg will be very pleased that he’s put himself in the front of F1’s shop window. He lucked into a great position at the start and unlike Paul DiResta, had KERS available during the race. His pass around Schumacher on the outside of La Source was an assured move executed with at least two wheels on the tarmac. Hulkenberg’s gain was DiResta’s pain – having outqualified his team-mate Paul could see exactly how many points he lost out on. The only cheerful aspect he can cling on to is that it would be really confusing to have two drivers in the Mercedes team called Nico.
Felipe Massa, Ferrari, 5th
A great result for Massa to get in front of Webber, but he didn’t really show up till the second half of the race.
Mark Webber, Red Bull, 6th
Like Raikkonen, his car simply wasn’t set up to take advantage of the DRS and lost out to Massa when Schumacher’s fading tyres allowed Felipe to close up.
Toro Rosso, 8th and 9th
One swallow doesn’t make a summer, but one swallow’s better than no swallows.
With some races, nobody does a thing wrong and you feel a bit guilty labelling someone as the ‘Mr.Stupid of the Belgian Grand Prix’. But in Spa we had people queueing up for the special hat.
Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, DNF
I know it’s none of my business, but I find it a bit odd that Lewis is going out with a woman who is almost seven years his senior. Contextualizing the McLaren drivers’ performance by referencing their partners is not something that’s going to happen a lot on these pages, but let’s face it, they are there at the races and there are cameras trained on their every reaction. And the thing is, although Lewis is an incredible driver and an immense talent, developmentally he’s even younger than his 27 years. Anyone who tweets the way he did after qualifying and thinks it’s a good idea to send out a picture of his and Jenson’s telemetry traces has got to have the naivety of someone barely out of their teens. Is it a mother and son thing?
Forget the rear wing fuss, in qualifying he could have been a lot closer to Jenson but made a mistake in Q3 which buried him back down the grid. Our Crash.log has already highlighted that anyone starting the race in the environs of Maldonado, Grosjean and Senna has to be on their guard and this was the case at Spa. And his start wasn’t particularly good – thus because he was slow away from the line, Grosjean saw there might be a gap he could exploit. There’s always that little nicety of being in front of another car before you move over but had Hamilton got away quicker than he did, then there wouldn’t have been that opportunity. Just saying.
Romain Grosjean, Lotus, DNF
Nikki Lauda was clear that Grosjean should now sit out a couple of grands prix to bring home the point that he has to calm down at the start of races. With seven incidents in the first 12 races (though you have to say at Silverstone it was hardly his fault) it’s not bad luck that’s ruining his races. Flicking back to PF1 (after writing this) it seems that Grosjean has now been given a one-race ban, which is fair enough, but that should be for the car and driver. The weight of responsibility should be amplified by the team only being able to run one car. That might make him think. At Spa his actions meant that three cars and three drivers had to sit out the race.
Pastor Maldonado, Williams, DNF
There have been false starts in F1 races before now but Pastor Maldonado’s false start at the Belgian Grand Prix must be close to the all-time-best-false-start. Brundle was still doing his gridwalk as Pastor let the clutch go. As Fernando Alonso wryly commented, he was “up to P2 or P3” before anyone else thought about starting their race. Maybe he was subconsciously claiming back the three grid places he’d been demoted on Saturday.
Maldonado’s grid penalty itself was a bit odd. When you impede in qualifying the standard penalty is five places. Kovalainen got five places in France for marginally blocking Mark Webber a few years ago. Perez got a five-place deduction this season, so where does the ‘three places’ come in? Three put him behind Alonso but in front of Hamilton. Maybe that was it.
Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, DNF
It’s my fault and I take all the blame. In the preview I wrote: “While other drivers have had a Maldonado incident to cope with, debilitating punctures or alternator failures, Alonso has kept on finishing. This kind of luck has got to end sooner or later.” Little did we know that he’d come close to losing the championship at the first corner. A bigger blow on the head would have sidelined him for Monza and maybe beyond. Dios mio, it was close.
To qualify both cars in the front two rows and see both effectively eliminated in the first corner was an extreme blow for a team that is still not clear of financial struggles. Perez got away well, but Kobayashi was already back to 5th or 6th before Grosjean came bounding through. The chance may not come again this year.
After the race the BBC analyst Gary Anderson was keen to nominate the Sauber team as the one which had made the most progress after the summer break. This was very amusingly countered later on by Sauber CEO Monisha Kaltenborn who said no, they hadn’t particularly developed the car over the summer months, they had just maximised the set-up in the limited time they had available on Saturday. At the moment, race performances are being restricted by a lot of wet Fridays – think Britain, Germany and Hungary.
Michael Schumacher, Mercedes, 7th
Another race that had an early prospect of a good finish, but one which steadily slipped away. Like so many over the last three years. You can only guess that Schumacher had forgotten he was coming into the pits on Lap 19 when he decided to defend on the outside against Vettel into the Bus Stop then realised he needed to be on the inside of his countryman to get into pitlane. Vettel did well to avoid him cutting across and if they’d touched it would have been Schumacher in the dock.
Speaking to Eddie Jordan Bernie revealed that “it’s a pity Michael’s stopping without winning a race”. Was this information or disinformation? Bernie’s let the odd thing slip out before which he’s subsequently regretted saying (apparently Hitler was very good at making the trains run on time) but it might be that Mr.E wants Michael to continue while the Schum wants to hang up his gloves. Bernie could be doing a little bit of media manipulation.
Question of the Day
Eddie Jordan likes to torment drivers with his ambiguous Joyceian meaning. Try picking the bones out of this question to Sergio Perez before the race: “Sergio, is this a strategy that you’ve thought up, how the team should behave between you?” Only people with a Grade ‘A’ GCSE in Applied Bollocks could work that one out.
Brundle: He [Alonso] keeps saying he’s driving a red shed, but it’s a fast red shed
Crofty: I’d keep my lawnmower in there
Brundle: How’s it feeling out there?
Brundle: (After Hamilton was asked to remove a tweet about telemetry by his team): Never tweet when you have had a drink or are unhappy about something
Andrew Davies and Frank Cook (Quotes)