Belgium Grand Prix Review – Crash, Bang, Wallop

The summer break for the Formula 1 drivers is now over...

James Bale

Contributor

The summer break for the Formula 1 drivers is now over.  They have had their time to relax and are greeted by one of the most historic race tracks in the calendar. Spa Francorchamps.  The legendary circuit has been part of F1 for well over 60 years (in one form or another) and has always pleased the crowds with great racing, great overtaking and an occasional large incident.  The race at the weekend was certainly all of these.

Friday practice is one of those things that you rarely watch.  If there isn’t a good news breakfast show on or an early film you wouldn’t even know it was there.  Spa’s was utterly washed out.  Nothing massively interesting happened bar what could only be described as the longest pad I have ever heard a commentator do.  Top marks to James Allen and Jaime Alguersuari (former Toro Rosso driver from 2009 to 2011) who provided some good conversation even though there were no cars on track!  I really like how Jaime is giving some great insider knowledge into the inner workings of F1 and he is a brilliant asset to the BBC F1 team.  I also found out that he is a DJ.  What a multi-talented person he is.

Qualifying

The first round saw the usual suspects drop out; HRT, Marussia and Caterham, and a surprise as Nico Rosberg wasn’t quick enough to cross the line to start a last flying lap, so was therefore knocked out.  He also had a gearbox change which meant a 5 place grid penalty that sent him to the back row of the grid.

Round two saw a fantastic drift from Bruno Senna to stop him meeting the barriers but his quickest time only managed him 17th.  The two other big names dropping out in Q2 were Sebastian Vettel who only managed 11th after missing out by 0.07s to Paul Di Resta, and Mr 300, Michael Schumacher who qualified 13th fastest.

The final 10 saw Jenson Button put in another fantastic lap to secure pole position after topping the times in the previous session as well.  This was his first pole since Monaco in 2009 and his first for McLaren.  Button clearly showing that he definitely hasn’t given up on a second world title even though he has had a tough start this season.  The biggest kudos goes to Sauber who qualified 2nd and 5th.  Kamui Kobayashi getting his best ever qualifying result on the front row of the gird, with his Mexican teammate Sergio Perez getting 5th.  Webber qualified 7th but would start the race from 12th due to a 5 place penalty.  Another penalty for Pastor Maldonado sees him drop three places from 3rd to 6th after being seen to impede Nico Rosberg earlier in Q1.  Current leader Fernando Alonso qualified in 6th but started in 5th because of Maldonado’s penalty.

The Race

Well where do we start?  A jump start, a very serious crash and Force India doing very well to avoid the chaos.  The first thing that grabs your attention when watching the start is how much Kobayashi’s brakes were smoking and the really slow start he got.  On the faster end of things, Maldonado jump starts and dives straight down the middle of the pack getting into second before the first hairpin, La Source.  Behind all of that the drama unfolded as we saw Romain Grosjean move across on Lewis Hamilton causing the wheels of the two cars to touch.  Hamilton’s nose then latches onto the back of Grosjean’s Lotus, causing him to collide with an innocent Perez and then the Lotus uses the Sauber as a ramp to fly over the front nose of an equally innocent Alonso in his Ferrari narrowly avoiding Fernando’s head.  Hamilton was clearly not impressed with Grosjean’s driving as he had a heated discussion with him at the scene of the incident.  Alonso took a while to get out of the car with complaints of back pain but all the drivers walked away from the crash with no visible injury.  A lucky escape some might say…

Grosjean was given a one race ban for causing the crash and is the first driver to be banned from a race since Michael Schumacher in 1994.  Maldonado was given a 5 place penalty for his jump start, and another 5 place grid drop after colliding with Timo Glock at the restart.  This means he will have a 10 place penalty in total at Monza this coming weekend.

Apart from the pileup at the beginning, the race had (thankfully) very few incidents thereafter.  A small knock between Caterham and HRT in the pits was the only other main incident of the race.  Overall the race was superb from then onwards.  Sauber lost out on their brilliant qualifying performance due to the crash at turn 1 with only Kobayashi finishing the race in 13th place.  Jenson drove a stunning race to lead from start to finish all on a 1 stop strategy.  Vettel equally capitalised on a 1 stopper climbing 8 places to finish 2nd behind the Brit.  Kimi Raikkonen put in yet another consistent race finish taking the last spot on the podium ahead of Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg.  Schumacher was unstoppable on the straight as the Double DRS of his Mercedes kept him in contention for 3rd until his tyres gave out and he was forced to pit meaning he came 7th overall.  A good showing for Toro Rosso saw Vergne and Ricciardo come 8th and 9th ahead of Paul Di Resta who took the last championship point on offer in 10th.

Awards
This is where I say whether people were good, or bad…

Driver of the Day:
Nico Hulkenberg

Deserved to be on the podium after a fantastic drive to avoid the first corner drama and outshone his teammate to get his best career finish, and equalled Force India’s best ever finish of 4th.

Most Consistent:
Jenson Button

Flawless from start to finish and a well deserved win.

Best Commentary Quote:
David Coulthard

“and the result is a lot of expensive damage” (about the crash at turn 1)

Best Driver Quote:
Sebastian Vettel

“My start was s***. Sorry, start was poor” (post race interview on the F1 Forum)

Best Overtake:
Kimi Raikkonen on Michael Schumacher

Kimi’s fearless overtake around the outside of Michael as they entered Eau Rouge, was brave and sublime.  It showed off just how good they both are to not cause an accident going at speeds over 150mph.

Cars Are Not Designed To Do That Award:
Romain Grosjean

Grosjean caused the incident according to the stewards findings and was appropriately punished for his actions.  He has only raced in 19 races scattered across 3 seasons, so is still on a learning curve.  Once he has matured as a driver I could see him go far in F1.  He is a very talented driver (as his 3 podiums show) when he hasn’t had an accident…

 

Next time we’ll be looking at Monza.  One of the fastest tracks and one of my personal favourites.  Bring on the Tifosi and the home of Ferrari!

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