Lewis Hamilton took victory for McLaren at the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa Francorchamps in what turned out to be a real topsy-turvy and incident-filled race, where the changeable conditions came into play but not enough to dictate the race outcome. Mark Webber was on pole position in his Red Bull but he finished a fortuitous 2nd, ahead of the much improved Renault of Robert Kubica.
Ferrari salvaged a 4th place finish for Felipe Massa, who incidentally was on the dry-weather setup compared to Alonso’s wet-weather setup. Adrian Sutil finished 5th for Force India ahead of Nico Rosberg in 6th and Michael Schumacher in 7th. Kamui Kobayashi took the 8h place for BMW Sauber, with Vitaly Petrov and Jaime Algersuari rounding off the top ten.
Red Bull’s failure to convert pole positions into race wins continued here as pole-sitter Mark Webber had a dreadful start and dropped down to sixth by the end of the first lap. Lewis Hamilton took full advantage and sped into the lead, with teammate Jenson Button slotting into second place, after passing the fast-starting Renault of Robert Kubica. As a few spots of rain began to fall, almost all of the lead drivers slid wide at the bus stop chicane and Rubens Barrichello got his braking wrong and ploughed into the back of Fernando Alonso, bringing to an end his 300th Grand Prix. Ferrari took a huge gamble by putting out Alonso on the intermediate tires but it didn’t pay off as the rain eased off and he had to make another stop to get back onto the slicks, effectively ruining his afternoon.
The Safety Car was called in as Barrichello’s car was removed from the track and with no further rain expected, the drivers settled in, with Button holding up the rest of the pack behind him as Hamilton opened up a gap at the head. But with a damaged front wing and a fast-closing Sebastian Vettel behind him, Button had his task cut out as he held the pack of four-five cars including Kubica, Massa and Webber behind him. It all came undone on lap 16 as Vettel in attempting to pass Button, ran one way and then the other and ended up smacking his front end into the left-side of Button’s car, putting the McLaren into instant retirement. Vettel had to go through a pit-stop for a new wing and then had a drive-through penalty served upon him, effectively ending his involvement in the points.
There were several passing and re-passing manoeuvres up and down the pack, with Alonso, Liuzzi, Schumacher, Rosberg, Petrov et al amidst the thick of it all. All the while Hamilton was running into the distance and Kubica, Webber and Massa were giving chase but not making much of an impression on the McLaren’s gap. The rain returned on the 35th lap to spice up the ending and Fernando Alonso was finally put out of his misery as he spun into the barriers at Malmedy, which brought out the Safety Car again. There was still some time for some drama as second placed Robert Kubica slid into his pit-box as the field pitted for inters and handed his place to Mark Webber. The drivers took it easy on the restart and the order remained unchanged, as Hamilton took the Chequered Flag much to his and his team’s delight.
The result means Hamilton jumps back into the lead of the Drivers’ Championship with 182 points with Mark Webber on 179. The three pursuers of Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso didn’t score any points and that kinda makes this a two-driver race for the Championship. But it remains to be seen if Red Bull and McLaren are willing to put all their eggs into one driver’s basket and of course, the teammates will also have a say in it. As the commentators put it, Button might support Hamilton somewhat but can’t see Vettel do the same for Webber!
The next race is at Monza but before that, there’s the WMSC meeting which will decide if Ferrari will be penalised for their “team orders” fiasco at Hockenheim. If Ferrari is indeed docked any points or even disqualified from this year’s Championship, it could not be coming at a worse time than the team’s home grand prix! There’re 6 races to go in this season and with the last leg of the European leg coming up, expect the battles to intensify even further. Can’t wait!
P.S: Er…dunno if my friends were awaiting this post & were disappointed at it not appearing soon enough. But in my defence, I had drafted this all just as the race finished and before I could publish, the damn rains resulted in a power outage!