That headline sounds so clichéd but that was exactly how the race panned out at the Belgian Grand Prix. Jenson Button took victory from pole position as he was rarely troubled at the front by anyone else and finished a good 14 seconds ahead of Sebastian Vettel in second place. Kimi Raikkonen finished in third place as he continued his & Lotus’ consistent season.
Nico Hulkenberg finished in fourth place in what has been a good hunting ground for Force India in the past with Felipe Massa fifth, Mark Webber sixth and Michael Schumacher finishing seventh in his 300th Grand Prix start. The two Toro Rossos of Jean Eric Vergne & Daniel Ricciardo finished eighth and ninth ahead the second Force India of Paul Di Resta in tenth.
Yet, the talking point of the race would be the first lap action at the first corner which saw not one, not two but four cars come together in a horrific-looking pileup – the Lotus of Romain Grosjean, the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton, the Sauber of Sergio Perez and most importantly, the Ferrari of championship leader Fernando Alonso! Grosjean swiped into Hamilton and sent them both careening into the back of Alonso’s Ferrari, with the Lotus launching into the air and flying inches away from Alonso’s head in the cockpit. Perez was on the outside of it all but was hit by the out of control McLaren, thereby ending all four drivers’ race prematurely.
Expectedly, the Safety Car came out and after four laps of clean-up and craning away, the race truly began in earnest. By now Button was comfortably in the lead ahead of Raikkonen and the two Force Indias of Nico Hulkenberg and Paul Di Resta in third and fourth, no doubt taking advantage of the first corner chaos. From then on it was all about straight-line speed and DRS usage to get the upper hand in the remaining 38 odd laps.
Red Bull & Mercedes didn’t have the straight line speed as the others so they picked out clever strategies and that played out well for Sebastian Vettel, who elected for a single pit stop and ended up finishing second from tenth on the grid. Same did not work well for Michael Schumacher as an initial one-stopper had to be changed to a two-stopper due to a lack of bite in his tyres towards the latter laps.
Another bit of clever driving was from Nico Hulkenberg who finished a fine fourth after a race-long battle with Raikkonen and Schumacher. In fact the battle for third to sixth places was a ding-dong affair throughout the latter laps amongst Raikkonen, Schumacher, Hulkenberg, Webber & Massa. The positions were lost into the entry to the back straight but again re-taken on the straight with the aid of DRS…rinse, repeat! In the end, a fantastic bit of driving plus bravery saw Raikkonen blitz past Schumacher at the entry to Eau Rouge and then pull off to consolidate third place. Schumacher, however had to stop for another tyre change thus letting Hulkenberg take up the fourth place. Felipe Massa, probably driving for his place next season held off Webber enough to confirm fifth and some much needed points for Ferrari.
The result and 18 points for Vettel means Alonso’s championship lead is down to 24 points with Webber a further 8 points behind. Raikkonen is fourth ahead of Hamilton as Button moves up into sixth. Another DNF could hurt Alonso dearly and he would hope it doesn’t happen at Ferrari’s home grand prix – Monza’s up next. Thrilling!