BUTTON BACK ON TOP FOLLOWING HUGE OPENING LAP PILE UP

5 Sep

The Michael Report- FORMULA 1 SHELL BELGIAN GRAND PRIX 2012

IT IS not very often these days that you see Jenson Button begin a Grand Prix in pole position, and it is even rarer that a pole position driver leads throughout the duration of the race. But this is exactly what Button did and he did it superbly and it is a badly needed victory for Jenson, and hopefully this will give him the confidence boost to return to the World Championship contention for both himself and for McLaren. Hats should be duly removed to the team today, since just one lightning fast 2.6 second pit stop secured his lead, and eventually the victory in the Ardennes forest today.

However, it wasn’t such a good race for his team-mate, Lewis Hamilton, nor was it an ideal GP for Fernando Alonso, Sergio Perez or Romain Grosjean- an almighty pile up at the start of the race sent the safety car out almost instantly. Romain collided with Lewis Hamilton, and the impact sent him into the air, destroying Alonso’s car, and almost decapitating the Spaniard, and Lewis Hamilton spun out, crashing into Perez! Debris, car body parts and wheels were all sent flying into the air as all four cars careered into the run off area at La Source, and this debris also cost Kamui Kobayashi dearly, his car was left with serious damage, but didn’t retire. Vettel had to pit to change tyres, and Maldonado lost his front wing because of a collision with Timo Glock, and has been awarded two 5 place penalties for Monza because of the collision and a jump start. It was a  devastating first lap for the drivers, but exciting to watch and it was just the sort of entertainment we needed after the long summer break. Since Romain Grosjean collided with Hamilton and caused the starting crash, he has been issued with a one race ban for the Italian Grand Prix and will not be racing in Monza.
Narain Karthikeyan also retired during the race, and there were also some pit stop near misses- Heikki Kovaleinen was released too soon and hit the back of Karthikeyan, just prior to his retirement a few laps later. Mark Webber was investigated by the stewards for a similar offence- I’m certain that the new ‘lollipop man’ will have a harsh de-briefing!

Spa is a track famous for its history, risk and several overtaking opportunities, meaning that unless you had the pace to race into clear air like Button, you were constantly battling for position with fellow drivers, and some drivers were rewarded for their efforts, and others were left unlucky.

For the Red Bulls, Sebastian Vettel should receive credit for his supreme overtaking efforts- he started eleventh, dropped five places after light damage in the pile up debris, and the whole field bar Button succumbed to his excellent pace, and second place with eighteen vital points is his reward for his efforts. Team-mate Webber was limited in his tyre choice, and finished an average sixth place, and receives eight points.

Kimi Raikkönen was the last podium finisher today- he was tipped for victory but was simply unable to make good of his two stop tyre strategy- nevertheless, fifteen points is still welcomed Team Lotus, and he was clearly thankful that he didn’t fall foul of the flying cars! Force India will be pleased with Nico Hulkenburg’s fourth place- twelve points will be a decent haul after an average qualifying session- it proves that the car has potential in the rest of the season. Ten points and fifth place were awarded to Felipe Massa, who has still yet to give an outstanding performance to prove his worthiness at the Scuderia.

Michael Schumacher began his 300th GP in thirteenth, and managed to reach podium positions shortly after the safety car run, but his car just didn’t match up to his competitors, so his seventh place netted the German six points; eighth and nine place were taken by Toro Rosso- they needed an incident with the top teams to secure championship points today, and as such exciting racing saw Jean Eric Vergne receive four points and Daniel Ricciardo receive two for their improved efforts, and the last point was awarded to Paul Di Resta in tenth.

Spa is home to many exciting experiences for so many F1 drivers, and today’s race was certainly gripping at the start- who doesn’t like the odd pile up in F1? Driver of the day? Definitely Jenson Button- his 50th race for McLaren couldn’t have gone much better, and his accolades this weekend include pole position, one of the fastest pit stops, first place – one could overtake him at all- and a complete decimation of the competition, and it was certainly more than overdue for him. Let’s hope he can continue in Monza next time.

OFFICIAL STANDINGS UPDATE

In the Driving Championships, Fernando Alonso’s retirement means that he remains in first place with 164 points, but this means that his closest contenders have managed to close the gap, and with eight races to go, there is still a chance for a few surprises. With 140 points, Sebastian Vettel leads his team- mate Mark Webber by eight points, and they lie second and third respectively. Kimi Raikkönen is marginally behind with 131 points and fourth place, and Lewis Hamilton remains on 117 points. Button’s victory today has meant that he has climbed over the 100 point barrier with 101, and these six remain the realistic contenders for the overall title. The nearest driver is Nico Rosberg with 77 points, who is one point ahead of Romain Grosjean in eighth place.

Concerning Constructors, Red Bull are in the lead with 272 points, which is 54 points ahead of McLaren’s 218. Lotus’ 207 points sees them third with Ferrari lying fourth with 199 points. A huge margin separates Scuderia and Mercedes, who have 112 points, and Sauber remain in sixth place with 80 points. Force India dominate rest with 59 points in seventh, and Williams are eighth with 53 points. Toro Rosso have doubled their tally to 12 points, but remain ninth, and as ever, HRT, Marussia and Caterham…… are yet to score.

I will be back in a week for Europe’s last Grand Prix of 2012 as the world’s best drivers arrive in Monza, Italy, the fastest race on the calendar and Ferrari will hope not to disappoint their loyal Italian fans, and then F1 will head abroad for the second cohort of fly away races as the season begins to come to an end.

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