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Belgian Grand Prix: Winners and Losers

Sunday 30th August 2009

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Belgian Grand Prix: Winners and Losers

Belgian Grand Prix: Winners and Losers

Force India's Belgian GP result was simply one of the most astounding sporting achievements of all time - in a season where the F1 formbook has been well and truly ripped up.

Star of the Race
Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India, 2nd

In terms of F1 seismic shocks this registered higher on the Richter Scale than Sebastian Vettel's win at Monza last year. The 2008 Italian GP was a tremendous result for the Toro Roso team, but it was a race that would have produced a different result if it had been run in the dry.

The Belgian GP could and maybe should have been won by the Force India team on sheer pace with no exceptional conditions. Fisichella kept the pressure on Raikkonen for the whole race. The only two areas he might have improved upon were saving fuel over the long stretches he spent behind Raikkonen and managing the re-start better. Had Giancarlo come in just one lap later than Raikkonen after the second stint then we might have had a titanic battle for P1.

For a team who have never scored a single World Championship point to take on and almost win the blue ribbon of F1 events is utterly remarkable.

What I also don't quite understand is why the team are thought to be having money problems when they are backed by a billionaire. He's either backing them or he's not. Any more talk of Force India's money worries and I'll probably start to feel as queasy as I do about Richard Branson's involvement in F1.

Overtaking Move of the Race
Lap 15: Rubens Barrichello on Mark Webber
Cruising down the hill from Stavelot into Blanchimont is not a place to overtake for the faint-hearted, yet Rubens Barrichello chanced his luck with Mark Webber and made it through on the outside. An amazing move between Championship rivals.

Winners
Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1st
Four wins for Kimi Raikkonen at Spa, the drivers' circuit, is no mean endorsement when the team are looking to replace you. Raikkonen made the most of his KERS button on the opening lap and on the restart and that was that. For the people who bemoan it as an unfair advantage, you have to imagine that Raikkonen could go quicker if he converted that 30kg to movable ballast and stuck it where he liked.

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 3rd
Considering this was billed as a Red Bull circuit, the team will have been dismayed not to get anything more than one podium place. Vettel's now used his seventh new engine and with the throttle demands of Monza to come in a fortnight, that will be his 8th. Which means that in the high-speed/high altitude demands of Suzuka and Interlagos he's going to have to rummage around the Red Bull scrapyard for what's left.

Robert Kubica, BMW, 4th
Nick Heidfeld, BMW, 5th

It made you mostalgic for 'the old days' of 2008 with Kubica 4th just in front of Heidfeld in 5th. Kubica made fewer mistakes than Heidfeld on the opening lap, even though Heidfeld looked quicker than his team-mate in the race. And it was nice seeing Mario Theissen not-so-worried for a change. That'll last till just after Monza.

Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren, 6th
Kovalainen's first stint on the option tyre was very impressive and set him up for a result the team probably weren't expecting from P15 on the grid.

Nico Rosberg, Williams, 8th
Rosberg was fortunate to get a point on a day when Alonso, Glock and Trulli should have finished in front of him and where he picked up no damage from a hefty impact with Adrian Sutil at La Source.

Losers
Mark Webber, Red Bull, 9th
Webbo missed out on a chance to reduce Jenson Button's lead and yet again it was little to do with his input. Engine problems gave him no Saturday practice and so his qualifying was always going to be difficult, and though Vettel has produced one-lap wonders in Q2 and Q3 in the past, Mark couldn't come up with a lap time in qualifying to match his low fuel load.

If the Red Bull lollypop guy had let him out behind Heidfeld then he would probably have been looking at 6th or maybe even 5th place. Yet again it was a dodgy release from the team and while Christian Horner called the drive-through a "marginal" call, the fact that Heidfeld had to hit the brakes to avoid him made it a very easy call.

I got the impression there was something going on with the car, too, because after being overtaken by Heidfeld into Les Combes on Lap 15 he gave a position away to Barrichello at a place where you only see backmarkers being lapped. There was a mysterious message from his engineers about keeping off the kerbs at Eau Rouge later on in the race and while Vettel was notching up purple (fastest) sector times, Mark couldn't get past Rosberg.

Jenson Button, Brawn GP, DNF
There is so much rubbish being said and written about Jenson Button at the moment, mostly from people who write the headline of their story first and then try and fit any evidence they can to fit their theory. 'Under Pressure Jenson' got a great start, moved up from P14 on the grid to P11 at the top of the hill at Les Combes and then got hit from behind by a rookie.

Eddie Jordan opined that: "It's all caused by poor qualifying," and it's got so bad that Jenson's starting to believe that kind of talk. Poor qualifying doesn't help, but sometimes it can be bad luck. Jarno Trulli qualified in P2, got overtaken into La Source by Nick Heidfeld (P3) and then Heidfeld inexplicably slowed on the exit and Jarno hit him. So Button could have had an accident in P2 or P3.

Sutil (P11), Rosberg (P10) and Alonso (P13) all made contact at La Source - only Rosberg ultimately got away with it. It was Sutil and Alonso's bad luck.

Kimi Raikkonen (P6) slowed on the exit of Les Combes and was almost punted up the rear by the BMW of Robert Kubica (P5), it was their good luck that they both got away with it. Nick Heidfeld (P3) made a mistake into Les Combes and escaped across the grass.

There's good luck and there's bad luck, and in this race Jenson Button kept his nose clean but had some bad luck. Had Grosjean not made the error then Button would probably have taken 6th place with Barrichello demoted to 8th place.

Rubens Barrichello, Brawn GP, 7th
After the triumph of Valencia, that sour post-race face was back again. With Jenson back in P14 on the grid (and not suffering from any of these anti-stall starts), it's pretty safe to assume that the Brawn team didn't deliberately miscalculate the clutch bite point to give Jenson an advantage. It's something that Rubens is doing wrong and needs to sort out.

Romain Grosjean, Renault, DNF
Romain Grosjean is putting Nelson Piquet Junior's drive at Reanult into perspective. Grosjean's not had anything like the mileage that Piquet got before he started, but he's still nowhere near Piquet's pace, whereas fellow instant-rookie Jaime Alguesuari is beginning to get closer to Sebastien Buemi

Grosjean's managed to retain some of his skills from junior formulae, though. The excuse that Jenson Button collided with him at Les Combes was straight out of junior karting. Presumably he was trying to convince only the people who failed to watch the incident on television.

Fernando Alonso, Renault, DNF
Alonso often likes to sneak down the inside of Turn 1 at the start to make up places. It's caught him out in the past and ultimately it caught him out today. As Adrian Sutil turned in, Nico Rosberg was there and Rosberg had Alonso further back on his inside. So when Sutil was spun round by Rosberg he veered into Alonso.

The impact of the Force India wing on Alonso's front left wheel was spotted by Formula One Television and in the most brilliant TV moment, they were able to replay the incident the second that Alonso's pit-stop was blighted by a damaged front left wheelspinner.Luca Badoer, Ferrari, Last
Full marks to Luca Badoer for optimism, because he's still convinced he can get his car in the points in Monza. And on two glorious laps - Lap 20 and Lap 21, unnoticed by the TV commentary team, he set the fastest first sector time of 31.1 seconds. The screens went purple, indicating the zenith of Badoer's two-race stint. Sadly it only went to prove that he had the same equipment as Raikkonen but while Kimi was bringing it home first, Luca was bringing his F60 home last. When he raced before he was a backmarker - ten years later, nothing has really changed and he should now bow out with as much dignity as he can muster.

Jarno Trulli, Toyota DNF
Timo Glock, Toyota, 10th

On the pitwall before the race John Howett must have been thinking he'd got a couple of points finishes to look forward to this afternoon. After the first lap it was down to maybe one points finish. After the first pit-stop for Timo Glock it was nothing. While the major players of Hamilton, Button, Webber and Alonso were having a more conspicuous bad time, it was probably Toyota who had the most frustrating afternoon of anyone.

F1 Stewards
Pete Gill has rightly pointed out the irony of Raikkonen's first lap, technically illegal, off-circuit overtaking move that gained him places in his 'Conclusions ' feature. If Button got sent down the order in Valencia for going off-track, why not Raikkonen at Spa? He was behind Trulli and Heidfeld when he took to the run-off.

The stewards also chose to ignore two slightly more blatant breaches of the rules. Rubens Barrichello was already heading down the escape road after outbraking himself up the hill when the Button/Grosjean incident happened and he overtook a stack of vehicles by skipping the Les Combes corner

Even more outrageous, though, was Adrian Sutil's move on Luca Badoer as he caught up with the Ferrari driver, after his first lap wing change. Sutil ran up to the back of Badoer on the exit of Pouhon, onto the run-off tarmac at the outside of the turn, then rejoined the track in front of Badoer. Do they know the rules about overtaking on the circuit...?

Eddie Jordan again
With so many things on the BBC coverage going right, the things that are wrong are beginning to stick out like a sore thumb. Jonathan Leggard's commentary has charisma deficit disorder, while over on BBC Radio 5 and F1 practice, David 'Crofty' Croft's commentary goes from strength to strength. When Brundle and James Allen were in the commentary box together you got the sense of shared excitement in a race, with Leggard and Brundle it's like the end of a first date that hasn't gone very well and they don't know what to say to each other.

Meanwhile Eddie Jordan continues to irritate different people on different levels. I no longer take any notice of his predictions or his synthetic anger about various aspects of the grid - KERS, McLaren strategists etc. Why get yourself so worked up about race simulations when in six races time everyone's going to be running with fuel from the start and pit-stops will be governed by tyre wear. It's just blar blar blarney.

However, the thing that the BBC need to drop is the constant referrals to the Jordan team. We don't need races contextualising by reference to what the Jordan team did once upon a time. Or references back to the Force India team having "Jordan DNA". If EJ was so brilliant why did he have to sell the team?

David Coulthard is becoming very assured, even if he does use metaphors such as: "like taking kid from a candy." Blundellesque.

Andrew Davies

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