Kimi Raikkonen won the Belgian Grand Prix for a fourth time as he scored his and Ferrari’s first victory of the season at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit – one he rates as his favourite. Force India had a memorable outing as well as Giancarlo Fisichella lost the lead of the race to a KERS-equipped Ferrari but nevertheless hounded him throughout the 44 laps and eventually finished 2nd – his and Force India’s first-ever podium finish and first-ever points – all 8 of them! Well done Fisico!
Third place went to the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel as he made up a place in the drivers’ championship, with one of his title contender finishing low down in the points, one outside of the points and one did not finish at all! BMW also had a great race as Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld finished 4th and 5th with the McLaren of Heikki Kovalainen in 6th and the Brawn of Rubens Barrichello in 7th. The Williams of Nico Rosberg took the final point in 8th position.
I missed the most exciting part of the race – the start, as I was thinking it was a 6:20 PM start instead of a 5:20 one and hence was busy with other chores! And what do you think happened on the laps I missed? Well, nothing much except that Championship leader Jenson Button alongwith Lewis Hamilton, Jaime Algersuari and Romain Grosjean were all involved in an opening lap melee and crashed out of the race! And the Safety Car was out and on the restart, Kimi Raikkonen used his KERS to good effect and jumped pole sitter Giancarlo Fisichella to wrest the lead of the race.
Phew! Those opening laps were probably the most frenetic ones of the lot but the rest of the race also was exciting, if not as much as the start. There were notable incidents up and down the order and the melee at the start had a direct or indirect bearing on them. Fernando Alonso had a dink with Adrian Sutil which caused some damage to his left-front wheel casing which was not evident until he made a pit stop when it would just not come out…it took an almighty time to change that but even that wasn’t good enough as Alonso limped back into retirement.
Jarno Trulli, who had been tipped to score Toyota’s first win, also had an incident at the start of the race and continued on but eventually had to retire at the end of 31 laps. Another one to be affected was title contender Rubens Barrichello who dropped down the order and was running in seventh place and with 3 laps to go, his Mercedes engine gave way but he still drove it gingerly round to finish in seventh place . The only driver who made any sort of progress in the title fight was Sebastian Vettel who finished third and jumped teammate Mark Webber into third place in the standings.
But the driver of the race has to be shared between Kimi Raikkonen and Giancarlo Fisichella – probably a 40-60 bias towards the Force India driver. Kimi managed a good start and even though he had a biff with Robert Kubica, soldiered on and wrested the lead off Fisichella at the race restart, courtesy his kers button. But to his credit, Fisichella hung onto the tails of the Ferrari and was within touching distance of it but eventually ran out of time. The Force India matched the Ferrari’s pace and were even quicker than them but the fact that the car ahead had an additional horsepower and also that it had in it the master of the Spa circuit was enough of a deterrent to keep them off the top spot on the podium. Nevertheless, it was a great race for them and now that they’ve got the points bogey off their back, we can hope for better things to come from the team.
The title challenge had very little change as Jenson Button’s lead was reduced by a mere 2 points but in another race he might not be as lucky to have his challengers score low points as well. He and Brawn need to find the answers to their surprising loss of pace and with only five races remaining, time’s running out. The next race is at the fastest circuit on the calendar – Monza, which may again favour the Red Bulls a bit and another DNF could spell doom for Button’s title challenge.
Monza is Ferrari’s home track and if rumours are to be believed, it may be Giancarlo Fisichella who’ll be partnering Raikkonen in that race. Also one can expect the ‘Alonso-signed-for-Ferrari’ non-news to be made public there, so all the more reason to tune into the race in a fortnight’s time. Bring.It.On.