Belgium GP – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Pure opinion. None of this is said with any malice, although I’m sure there are some who will take it as such! Enjoy it for what it is, and by all means, let me know your thoughts and opinions as to why I am right or wrong. The Good:
I am an unashamed fan of Jenson Button, but I am not blind to his faults. However, when he is 100% happy with the cars setup, he can be almost unbeatable. Buttons performance in qualifying was the key to this race win for two reasons – firstly, it was imperious. The lap in Q2 was good enough for pole, never mind the two he pulled out in Q3. Secondly, it meant that he didn’t start in his usual 6th or 7th position. Had he have done, his race could have been over by the first corner. As it was, Button took his first pole for McLaren in his 50th start, and celebrated by giving us the first lights to flag victory of 2012. As usual, the media have exaggerated everything of late – before the race, the talk was of Button settling into his number 2 role for the remainder of the season, now all of a sudden he is back in title contention. In my humble opinion, neither was ever true. As Jenson himself said, no driver ever gives up half way through a season, but at the same time despite this result, there are still 5 drivers ahead of him in the standings. Back in contention? Unfortunately I think not, principally because it is a situation that is out of his control.
McLaren began the second half of the season the way that they ended the first. Another race win, perfect pit stops and a driver completely at ease with everything going on throughout the weekend. All this meant that the Woking team consolidated their second place in the Constructors championship. Obviously, they would have liked a better result for Lewis Hamilton, but no one at McLaren was to blame for that. The saga involving Lewis and Twitter was potentially damaging though, and raises all manner of questions. What exactly was Lewis thinking, and what did he hope to achieve? Most interestingly though, is how will McLaren deal with this internally, and what bearing will this have on the forthcoming contract negotiations?
For those who think that Sebastian Vettel lucked in due to the incident in front of him, I can accept your point. For those of you who think that the incident in front of him is the reason he finished in 2nd place, you could not be more wrong. Vettel started in 10th place, and then when the race restarted on lap 4 found himself in 12th. From there, Vettel produced a drive worthy of a World Champion. The irony was that early on, Vettel asked his team to try and find a gap for him to pit and come out into, as he felt he wasn’t going to have much joy navigating his way through the traffic ahead of him. He then proceeded to make the Bus Stop chicane his own, overtaking Massa, Webber and Senna with carbon copy passes. He then attempted the same manoeuvre on Schumacher before displaying superb reactions to avoid a collision as Schumacher entered the pit lane. He rejoined in 6th after his own stop and proceeded to make the same move on Massa again. Vettel was the major winner this weekend, displaying pace, nerve and no little racecraft to close his championship points deficit to less than that given for a race win.
The Iceman continued his serene progress with his 4th podium finish in 5 races. He has quietly moved up to 4th in the standings, is now a solitary point behind Webber in 3rd, 9 behind Vettel in 2nd, and just 33 behind championship leader Alonso. To top it all off, his pass on Schumacher at Eau Rouge was simply spectacular.
Terrific race for Hulkenberg. After the restart we were all amazed to see the Force Indias in 3rd and 4th, but whilst his teammate slipped back, Hulkenberg overtook Raikkonen for 2nd position. He was unable to hold the position for too long, but it is a measure of the confidence that Hulkenberg is building. He has now finished in front of his teammate in the last 5 races, and has just leapfrogged him in the Championship standings.
Better from Massa, infact his best result of the season. What will have pleased his team more though, is the fact that he finished in front of Mark Webber.
Doubled their seasons points tally in one race. Both drivers undoubtedly benefitted from the carnage in front of them but still, credit where credit is due, they both finished ahead of a Force India, a Mercedes, a Sauber and a Williams.
God I love the Belgian Grand Prix. The Bad:
And one of the most amazing streaks comes to an end. Alonso finally failed to finish a race, and you just knew that when it happened it was going to be through no fault of his own or Ferraris. Calmly negotiating his way around La Source, a flying Lotus brushed past his nose before a hefty thump from behind saw his chassis slam down onto the concrete. Alonsos lead has now been cut to just 24 points, and with a home race to come at Monza, it will be interesting to see how both he and his team prepare for the challenge. On the plus side though, Alonso should be ok to race, which is a huge nod to the various safety measures that F1 has in place these days. Lets be clear, Alonso is very fortunate to have escaped unscathed from what must have been among the most terrifying few seconds of his career.
After Webbers race win at Silverstone 4 races ago, he was 16 points ahead of his teammate and 33 clear of Raikkonen. He now finds himself 8 points behind the former and a solitary point ahead of the latter. Webber did not have the weekend he would have liked, but more importantly, he did not have the weekend that he needed.
Ouch. The high hopes that everyone had for Sauber this weekend were justified, but both their cars were caught up in the first corner incident through no fault of their own. One stopped a few corners later, the other rejoined at the back of the grid and eventually limped home in 13th. The gap behind them to Force India is now smaller than the gap in front to Mercedes.
The initial excitement of Williams’ season continues to die down. They lost a place to Force India this weekend, and they have two drivers who don’t seem able to find the results that the cars pace appears to deserve – albeit for vastly differing reasons.
Paul Di Resta
A month ago, after Hungary, I wrote: “Another one that the mid season break is timed perfectly for. Di Resta has been outperformed by his teammate in each of the last 4 races, and outqualified in 3 of those. It has not been a wonderful couple of months for the Scotsman, and he needs to arrest the decline. Coupled with the news that his former manager will be taking him to court over his dismissal, the break gives Di Resta a chance to straighten everything out and begin again in 4 weeks time with a clear, uncluttered mind.” As mentioned earlier, the two Force Indias found themselves in 3rd and 4th behind the safety car, but while Hulkenberg scrapped away to finish in a superb 4th, Di Resta gradually sank through the order to finish 10th, just behind the two Toro Rossos. Now also behind his teammate in the standings, Di Resta has considerably less time to sort things out before Monza. The Ugly:
Oh Romain. I can only imagine what must have gone through his head when he first saw the incident on screen. No-one wants to be the cause of such a big incident and in reality, Grosjean was right in saying that it was a small mistake. It just so happened that the effect of the small mistake snowballed onto much bigger things. He has received a hefty penalty (50,000 Euros and a one race ban), and whilst the severity of the penalty is understandable, you have to wonder whether it has been decided on the consequences of his error rather than the error itself. The FIAs official notification of the sanction stated that Grosjean had ‘eliminated leading championship contenders from the race’, which shouldn’t even have made it into the reasoning. Does this imply that had Grosjean started at the back of the grid, caused this incident with a Marussia and taken out both Caterhams and a Toro Rosso, that he would have received the usual grid place penalty instead? There is another side to this however, and that is Grosjeans penchant for first lap shenanigans. After Canada, I listed his results so far this season as being – Retired (2nd lap), Retired (3rd lap), 6th, 3rd, 4th, Retired (1st lap), 2nd. Since then he has – Retired (40th lap), 6th, Retired (1st lap), 18th (after 1st lap collision), 3rd, Retired (1st lap). Grosjean appears to be struggling to learn how to navigate the first few laps in an F1 car, and need look no further than across the garage for some solid advice. The one thing that is in his defence however, is that none of the incidents have been caused due to brazen malice or stupidity. Unlike…
“Maldonado will continue to be in this section until he learns to drive a whole weekend withough hitting anyone. I trust that I need not justify this any further.” I wrote this last time out, but even this does not do justice to what Maldonado ‘achieved’ in Spa. Three separate penalties. THREE. One for blocking Hulkenberg in qualifying (3 place grid penalty), one for blatantly trying to make up those three places with the most ridiculous jump start in recent memory (5 place grid penalty) and one for depositing his car into a Marussia (another 5 place penalty). Someone please explain to me why this man is consistently able to flout the rules with relatively small penalties? Grosjeans penalty seems harsh in comparison when you look at Maldonados long list of transgressions in this season alone, never mind last year. At the moment a vicious circle of penalties, then trying to make up for penalties and then more penalties is just making a mockery of the system. Maldonado has to be sanctioned in a way that will make him realise that his driving is utterly unacceptable, because therein lies the other problem – he doesn’t appear to realise that he has ever done anything wrong.
A wonderful qualifying performance which showed the pace of the Sauber on the Saturday saw KK start on the front row. And that was as good as it got. Yes, he was collected by the first corner melee, but even without that, he had started so poorly as to have lost a few places by that point anyway. From then on, a succession of pit lane trips put paid to any hopes that Kobayashi and Sauber had of taking anything tangible from the weekend.
I know Rosberg started in 23rd, but he was running 13th behind the safety car. From there, the only cars he finished ahead of were the Caterham of Kovaleinen and the Williams of Senna as he struggled to an 11th place finish. Watching two Toro Rossos overtake him at the same corner must have made his heart sink even further. Rosberg has now scored 2 points in 4 races, whilst his teammate has found a level of consistency with three 7th place finishes for 18 points.
Couple of spins (which didn’t involve other cars) and an unsafe release that saw him slide into an HRT. A race that Heikki will want to forget. Want to be a guest writer on VitalF1.com?
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