Jenson Button claimed his second win of the season as he utterly dominated the Belgian Grand Prix. Button’s inspired performance saw him leave the chasing pack behind and lead the race from lights to flag.
Sebastian Vettel overcame his qualifying difficulties by coming through the field to finish second. With Alonso being eliminated at the first corner, Vettel slashed into the championship leader’s points gap. He trails Alonso by 24 points after today’s race.
The race began began with a huge start-line crash in which title contenders Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton were eliminated as Romain Grosjean’s Lotus got airborne and narrowly missed Alonso’s head as the cars collided and spread shards of carbon fibre everywhere.
The accident started when Lotus driver Romain Grosjean moved across the track on the approach to La Source and squeezed Hamilton’s McLaren. The two made contact and ploughed into the cars ahead. Alonso and Sergio Perez were also eliminated on the spot, while slow-starting front-row man Kamui Kobayashi and Pastor Maldonado (who had jumped the start) both picked up damage in the incident. They both rejoined, but Maldonado was to be quickly out of the race as he clashed with Timo Glock on the restart after the safety car period to clear debris from the first corner crash.
The accident caused a bit of a reshuffle at the front of the pack as Button lead Raikkonen, with the Force India duo Nico Hulkenberg and Paul di Resta closely behind. Michael Schumacher’s Mercedes had managed to get up to 5th spot from his lowly grid slot. The Toro Rosso pair of Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne followed him and were looking in with a chance of points following their recent struggles.
Other than Raikkonen, the only title contenders that survived the first corner incident were Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel. Vettel had to stop early due to damage to his tyres and was placed 12th at the restart.
Following a brief challenge at Blanchimont upon the safety car being withdrawn, Button charged away from the pack. He made his one-stop stategy work perfectly as he continued his resurgence in form since the German Grand Prix. Button was delighted as he followed up his maiden McLaren pole position with his first win since the season-opening win in Australia.
Raikkonen didn’t seem to have pace or grip early on in the race and was passed by Hulkenberg and Schumacher. An early first stop and switch to the hard compound tyres helped the Lotus regain ground as he set fastest laps initially before encountering traffic. Unforunately for the Lotus driver it turned out that a one stop strategy was the way to go this weekend.
Schumacher also tried to follow Button’s lead by just pitting once, but found himself under pressure from two-stoppers Raikkonen and Hulkenberg as they tried to recover places following their second stops. This led to some spectacular racing, including Raikkonen making a move on Schumacher around the outside into Eau Rouge. Schumacher had twice managed to fight back past Raikkonen and Hulkenberg using DRS but with his tyres degrading and him losing time; he had to pit a second time for some fresh tyres.
By then Raikkonen was well up the road and heading for the final podium spot having lost out to Sebastian Vettel in the battle for second as the German showed his racier side. He’d cut through the field and managed his tyres extremely well to keep pace with Button.
It was a great day for Nico Hulkenberg who claimed fourth spot for Force India. Hulkenberg has been linked as a possible replacement for 5th place man Felipe Massa. The young German once again beating his team-mate Paul di Resta following having lost the qualifying battle with his team-mate.
Massa will be happy with claiming points for Ferrari following a difficult weekend. He’d been one of the fastest drivers in the middle of the race and finished just ahead of the second Red Bull of Mark Webber. Webber will be disappointed with 6th as he has lost 2nd place in the drivers championship but will be consoled by the fact that he has closed the gap to championship leader Fernando Alonso.
Schumacher salvaged seventh on his 300th Grand Prix weekend. He had to overcome some late difficulties with his car as he lost sixth gear. He managed the gap to the chasing Toro Rossos of Vergne and Ricciardo in the late stages of the race. Toro Rosso claiming their first double points finish of the season.
Nico Rosberg and Bruno Senna can feel hard done by as they were both forced to make late tyre stops, leaving them outside the points in 11th and 12th respectively.
Caterham briefly looked like they might achieve an upset as Heikki Kovalainen emerged in 10th on lap one. But he soon fell back and would later have two spins and a pitlane clash with Narain Karthikeyan.
Following the race it was announced that Romain Grosjean will receive a one race ban for his part in the first corner crash. Pastor Maldonado will receive a ten spot grid penalty at the next race in Monza. He was penalised 5 places for his jump start and another 5 spots for his collision with Glock.
With just a week between Belgium and the trip to Monza in Italy, there’ll be massive pressure on Alonso at Ferrari’s home circuit. As he’ll be looking to regain some of his advantage lost in today’s race.
PROVISIONAL RACE RESULTS
Pos Driver Team Time
1. Button McLaren-Mercedes 1h29:08.530
2. Vettel Red Bull-Renault + 13.624
3. Raikkonen Lotus-Renault + 25.334
4. Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes + 27.843
5. Massa Ferrari + 29.845
6. Webber Red Bull-Renault + 31.244
7. Schumacher Mercedes + 53.374
8. Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 58.865
9. Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1:02.982
10. Di Resta Force India-Mercedes + 1:03.783
11. Rosberg Mercedes + 1:05.111
12. Senna Williams-Renault + 1:11.529
13. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari + 1:56.119
14. Petrov Caterham-Renault + 1 lap
15. Glock Marussia-Cosworth + 1 lap
16. Pic Marussia-Cosworth + 1 lap
17. Kovalainen Caterham-Renault + 1 lap
18. De la Rosa HRT-Cosworth + 1 lap
Fastest lap: Senna, 1:52.822