Winners and Losers: Belgian GP

Date published: September 3 2012

Romain Grosjean ended Alonso’s great run of finishes but continued his great run of opening lap gaffes…

Romain Grosjean ended Alonso’s great run of finishes but continued his great run of opening lap gaffes…

Star of the Race
Jenson Button, McLaren 1st
You can’t help blaming the McLaren race engineers if they prefer Jenson Button to win races instead of Lewis Hamilton. Stupid tweets aside, when Jenson wins, Jessica Michibata makes a point of going round the garage and hugging the engineers. That’s got to be a pretty good incentive, hasn’t it.
And this time Jenson lucked into nothing. There were no changeable conditions, no inspired last-second strategy decisions to aid the win as in races gone by. It was all very Vettel-esque: pole position, storming away on the first lap and managing the gap from halfway. Where were the “guys, the tyres are going away” radio messages? His qualifying performance on Saturday was obviously the key and it was sensational – producing three laps good enough for pole. Obviously it’s a long lap at Spa, but to be almost 0.8 ahead of the next car in Q2 is staggeringly good when in some places a second will cover 15 cars.

Overtaking Move of the Race
Lap 34: Kimi Raikkonen on Michael Schumacher
As with Webber and Alonso last year, overtaking anyone on the run down to Eau Rouge has to be done with a high level of confidence between drivers. Raikkonen had already overtaken Michael the less-hard way going round the outside of the Bus Stop chicane, but it didn’t last long. He found that his car wasn’t geared to stay in front of the slippery Mercedes double DRS going back up the Kemmel straight. So he saved up his KERS energy and with newer tyres employed it on the traction out of La Source to get a run on Schumi.
It was another great race for Kimi, not that you could tell what sort of race it was from his post-race demeanour. There is a degree of autism in his behaviour. The lack of eye contact, the discomfort of face-to-face interviews, the failure to see the need for an answer to what is a blindingly obvious question is all part of it

Winners
F1 Safety
Fernando Alonso unwittingly proved that F1 driver cockpit safety is pretty damned high, with just a bump on his helmet after Grosjean re-enacted a scene from the Dukes of Hazard using his car as the launch. We have a lot to be thankful for.

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 2nd
The ‘Princess Stampyfoot’ of Hungary had benefited from a five-week break and was his natural, relaxed self again. The ‘Vettel Can’t Overtake’ badge has long been thrown into the bushes, but in this race he was probably the most combative we’ve ever seen him, making serial passes into the Bus Stop chicane. There was nothing tentative in the way he went about his business at Spa. Neither did he get any opening lap breaks, starting from P10 on the grid and ending up P12 behind the Safety Car. This was one of Vettel’s unsung great drives.

Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, 4th
If what Bernie has been saying this weekend is true, then Hulkenberg will be very pleased that he’s put himself in the front of F1’s shop window. He lucked into a great position at the start and unlike Paul DiResta, had KERS available during the race. His pass around Schumacher on the outside of La Source was an assured move executed with at least two wheels on the tarmac. Hulkenberg’s gain was DiResta’s pain – having outqualified his team-mate Paul could see exactly how many points he lost out on. The only cheerful aspect he can cling on to is that it would be really confusing to have two drivers in the Mercedes team called Nico.

Felipe Massa, Ferrari, 5th
A great result for Massa to get in front of Webber, but he didn’t really show up till the second half of the race.

Mark Webber, Red Bull, 6th
Like Raikkonen, his car simply wasn’t set up to take advantage of the DRS and lost out to Massa when Schumacher’s fading tyres allowed Felipe to close up.

Toro Rosso, 8th and 9th
One swallow doesn’t make a summer, but one swallow’s better than no swallows.

Losers
With some races, nobody does a thing wrong and you feel a bit guilty labelling someone as the ‘Mr.Stupid of the Belgian Grand Prix’. But in Spa we had people queueing up for the special hat.

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, DNF
I know it’s none of my business, but I find it a bit odd that Lewis is going out with a woman who is almost seven years his senior. Contextualizing the McLaren drivers’ performance by referencing their partners is not something that’s going to happen a lot on these pages, but let’s face it, they are there at the races and there are cameras trained on their every reaction. And the thing is, although Lewis is an incredible driver and an immense talent, developmentally he’s even younger than his 27 years. Anyone who tweets the way he did after qualifying and thinks it’s a good idea to send out a picture of his and Jenson’s telemetry traces has got to have the naivety of someone barely out of their teens. Is it a mother and son thing?
Forget the rear wing fuss, in qualifying he could have been a lot closer to Jenson but made a mistake in Q3 which buried him back down the grid. Our Crash.log has already highlighted that anyone starting the race in the environs of Maldonado, Grosjean and Senna has to be on their guard and this was the case at Spa. And his start wasn’t particularly good – thus because he was slow away from the line, Grosjean saw there might be a gap he could exploit. There’s always that little nicety of being in front of another car before you move over, which Romain often fails to worry about, but had Hamilton got away quicker than he did, then there wouldn’t have been that opportunity. Just saying.

For the rest of the Losers go to: Off on F1.com