Archive for the ‘Belgium- Spa-Francorchamps’ Category

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Hamilton Takes Win in Incident-Filled Belgian Grand Prix

August 29, 2010

Lewis Hamilton was all smiles this afternoon after he took an early lead and a seemingly easy win in Spa, while three of his title challengers failed to score following an incident-filled race.

Pole-sitter, Mark Webber got bogged down at the start, allowing second-placed starter, Hamilton, to shoot off into the lead. Robert Kubica found himself up to second, with Jenson Button up to third. Sebastian Vettel retained fourth, with Felipe Massa and Adrian Sutil up a place each to fifth and sixth, while Webber slipped back to seventh.

The rain started to fall, and by the end of the lap the drivers were struggling to make it round the Bus Stop chicane. Fernando Alonso, who made it up to eighth on the first lap, after starting tenth, was sent spinning after Rubens Barrichello was caught out under braking in the wet, and collected the Ferrari. The incident caused several other drivers to run wide through the chicane to avoid getting caught up in the collision, and it saw the end of Barrichello’s race, his 300th of his career. Alonso was able to get going again, heading into the pits for an early stop and a change to intermediate tyres.

Vettel made a move on Button into turn one on the second lap, but the McLaren driver was able to use his straightline speed advantage through Eau Rouge to keep the Red Bull at bay. Kubica found himself running wide on the exit of Eau Rouge, allowing the McLaren to take second. Vettel fancied his chances, but nearly lost control of his Red Bull as he was forced to take to the grass along the straight down to turn five, allowing Kubica to retain third. Webber was then making moves, and having passed Sutil, made a move on Massa for fifth into turn eight.

By lap three, the safety car had been deployed, and at the restart a lap later, Hamilton was forced to go defensive after running wide into turn one. Button saw his chances, but Hamilton wasn’t going to let him past.

As the track started to dry out, Alonso who had opted for intermediate tyres during his early pitstop, was forced to pit for fresh slicks on lap five, and it became apparent his gamble hadn’t paid off, as the track became considerably drier. By the end of the lap Hamilton was leading, from Button and Vettel, who had managed to pass Kubica at the restart, with Webber in fifth, Massa, Sutil, Nico Hulkenberg, Vitantonio Liuzzi and Nico Rosberg in sixth to tenth, respectively, and Vitaly Petrov and Michael Schumacher, who after starting from 23rd and 21st, had made their way up to 11th and 12th.

On lap 11, Petrov was piling the pressure on Rosberg, and after a good tow down the long straight from Eau Rouge, he was able to make a move stick through Les Combes, at turn five. Rosberg went defensive and ended up running wide, leaving Schumacher room to try and squeeze through. The pair made contact, causing Rosberg to lose a piece of his front-left end plate, as well as P10 and P11.

As Hamilton pulled out a comfortable lead from teammate Button at a rate of around eight tenths of a second in the middle sector alone on each lap, the reigning champion was finding himself under pressure from Vettel, with the latter unable to make a move due to the raw pace of the McLaren in a straight line. Vettel seemed to have no answer, but on lap 17 he found himself a lot closer to Button heading down towards the Bus Stop chicane, and he fancied his chances. The move was set to be disasterous, and Vettel found himself weaving around Button, and appeared to lose control, causing his wing to go head first into the side of the McLaren, seeing the end to Jenson’s race. Vettel was able to find his way back to the pits, cutting across the track from the runoff area at the Bus Stop, for a new nose and a set of fresh tyres. After coming back out in 12th, Vettel then found himself under investigation by the stewards for causing a collision. On lap 20, he passed Liuzzi for 11th, only to have the Force India snatch it back, and as he tried to find a way around, he was issued with a drive through, which he came in to serve at the end of the lap.

On lap 22, Sutil became the first of the front runners to pit for the harder compound tyre, rejoining the track in eighth. Webber stopped a lap later and rejoined in fourth, leaving Renault with no choice but to pit Kubica to try and keep him ahead of the Red Bull. The move worked and Kubica maintained second, while Massa, who pitted on the same lap, on lap 24, rejoined back in fourth, with Webber back in third. Hamilton came in next on lap 25 and maintained his lead.

As Hamilton rejoined the track, Sutil passed Schumacher, who was yet to pit, for fifth. By lap 27, Vettel, who was up to 12th, found himself in another scrap, clipping the front wing of Liuzzi, as he made a pass into the Bus Stop chicane. The Force India was forced to pit, but Vettel continued, only to find himself with a puncture later in the lap, and he had to limp back to the pits for more tyres, only to find himself in 20th upon rejoining the track.

The rain made its return on lap 35, and the mid field pitted for new tyres, the majority opting for the extreme wet tyres as opposed to the intermediates, in fear that the rain would worsen. As the pitlane filled up with cars coming in to make their stops, Alonso and Vettel very nearly made contact as the exited their pitboxes. On lap 36, as the rain indeed started to get heavier, Hamilton’s superb run was nearly ruined, as he failed to slow his McLaren down going into turn eight, and he very nearly found himself in the wall. Luckily, he was able to get out of the gravel and back on the road, and into the pits in the lead at the end of the lap. Kubica and Webber  joined him in coming into the pits, and while Hamilton was able to retain the lead after a successful switch to intermediates, Kubica overshot his pitbox, gifting second to Webber.

On lap 38, Vettel pitted for the fifth time for another set of full wet tyres, after his rear tyres from the previous set were shredded. As it became apparent it wasn’t wet enough for full wets, Alonso found himself in a spin and out of the race between turns seven and eight, as he hit the grass. The safety car was deployed while the marshals removed the Ferrari, which was halfway across the track, and returned to the pits at the end of lap 40. Hamilton tentatively led the pack through turn one at the restart, and he kept his cool from there for the remaining four laps, to take the win, with Webber second, Kubica third, and Massa, Sutil, Rosberg, Schumacher, Kobayashi, Petrov and Alguersuari in fourth to tenth, respectively.

Following the race, Alguersuari was then penalised for cutting the Bus Stop chicane at the restart after locking his wheel. He gained a position from Pedro de la Rosa for doing so, and having failed to give it back, the stewards demoted him of the position, gifting the last points-paying position to Liuzzi.

Hamilton’s victory puts him back in the lead of the drivers’ championship on 182 points, with Webber second on 179. Vettel’s scraps left him down in 15th as he crossed the line, and a failure to score leaves him 31 points off the lead in the race for the title, on 151 points. Failure to finish the race on both Button and Alonso’s parts, gives Hamilton and Webber the advantage, as the pair now sit further down the standings on 147 and 141, respectively. Massa’s fourth place finish puts him on 109 points, with Kubica on 104.

In the constructors’ standings, Red Bull remain in the lead on 330 points, while McLaren are hot on their heels on 329. Ferrari trail further behind on 250.

As ever, the changeable conditions of Spa have left a lot to be talked about, particularly in the Red Bull camp, as Vettel proved the pressure is starting to get to him after finding himself amongst the majority of incidents the race had to offer. Hamilton however, bounded onto the podium with a grin on his face after scoring his third victory of the season.

While Hamilton and Webber extend their lead to Vettel, Button and Alonso, it’s still a five-horse race as F1 heads into the final six rounds of the 2010 season. There are still a maximum of 150 points left up for grabs, but the pair will leave Spa with a spring in their step, knowing they stand a good chance of winning the title if things stay as they are.

The next race takes place in Italy, for the final round of the European leg of the season, in two weeks time, with qualifying on Saturday 11th September, and the race live on BBC1 at 1pm on Sunday 12th.

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Webber Takes Pole in Exciting Spa Quali

August 28, 2010

Mark Webber secured yet another Red Bull pole this afternoon, when F1 returned from its four week summer break, setting a time of 1:45.778, a tenth fastest than Lewis Hamilton, who charged his way to the front row of the grid.

All 24 cars headed out onto the track for the start of Q1, with rain threatening halfway through the session. The track still hadn’t completely dried out from earlier rain, and Vitaly Petrov became a casualty to the turn 9 kerb, causing a red flag to hault the session, just 90 seconds in. Once Petrov’s Renault was removed from the side of the track, the lights turned green, but the rains soon came after the cars dived back out onto the track.

All the drivers were on the soft compound tyre as they headed out for a banker lap, and as the rain started to fall heavier, it was a case of making it round the track to set a time, without running off the road. Jarno Trulli and Lucas di Grassi touched into turn 14, and the pair spun off the track, almost collecting Michael Schumacher, while Adrian Sutil ran wide in the gravel. Schumacher then set the first time, followed by a faster lap time from Jenson Button. The rain started to get heavier, but Hamilton was charging, setting the fastest time of anybody, before they all dove back into the pits. Sebastian Vettel looked to be in danger of the dropout zone, setting the 17th fastest time just after Hamilton set his fastest time, but the German was able to restore his hopes a little while later, heading out on intermediate tyres.

As the track started to dry out the drivers started heading out onto the track on fresh slicks, leaving the McLarens in the garage. Robert Kubica topped Hamilton’s time with two minutes to go, while Kamui Kobayashi and Pedro de la Rosa proved it wasn’t entirely dry out on track as they both ended up in the gravel and out of contention. Nico Rosberg ended up setting the fastest lap in the 1:54s in the closing seconds of the session, leaving Trulli, Kobayashi, Bruno Senna, Sakon Yamamoto, de la Rosa, di Grassi and Petrov in the dropout zone and out of the running in 18th down to 24th.

The track continued to dry in Q2, and the 17 drivers headed out for a banker lap. Hamilton topped the time sheets, with an improved overall time from Q1 with 1:46.211, while Schumacher, Rosberg, Jaime Alguersuari, Vitantonio Liuzzi, Sebastien Buemi, Heikki Kovalainen and Timo Glock found themselves in the dropout zone. Schumacher receives a ten-place grid-drop penalty for his incident with Rubens Barrichello in Hungary, and will start 21st, while Rosberg will start 17th following a five-place grid-drop penalty for changing his gearbox. The bottom 14 will line up on the grid with Alguersuari 11th, Liuzzi, Buemi, Kovalainen, Glock and Trulli, 12th down to 16th, Rosberg 17th, Kobayashi, Senna and Yamamoto 18th to 20th, Schumacher 21st, and de la Rosa, di Grassi and Petrov 22nd to 24th, respectively.

Q3 saw the ten remaining drivers head out for a banker lap as the lights went green, with Hamilton in the lead, setting the fastest lap, with Felipe Massa setting second, Button third, and Fernando Alonso fourth. Kubica then made a move to set first, with Vettel snatching second, before Mark Webber scored the fastest time. Barrichello, Sutil and Nico Hulkenberg then set their fastest times, putting Alonso down to tenth.

The drivers pitted for fresh rubber, and as they started to head out onto track, it started to rain. As the track got wetter, it looked like a dead cert that Webber would take pole, with Kubica separating him from Vettel, and sure enough, Alonso crossed the line at the chequered flag unable to improve on tenth, Massa pulled into the pits before he had a chance to cross the line, after running wide earlier in the lap, and Vettel crossed the line to remain third. But, Button, who by that point was down to sixth, was able to improve in the McLaren, pulling out a time good enough for fifth, and, while despite the rain, the last man on track, Hamilton, pulled out a blinder to set a time a tenth off Webber, for second, demoting Kubica from the front row.

Kubica and Vettel make up the second row, with Button and Massa on row three. Barrichello and Sutil will start seventh and eighth, with Hulkenberg and Alonso in ninth and tenth on row five.

Webber’s pole adds to Red Bull’s string of all-but-one for the season, but with the straight-line speed of the McLaren, Hamilton will be fancying his chances through Eau Rouge at the start of tomorrow’s race.

With 20 points separating the top five drivers in the standings, there is everything to play for in tomorrow’s race. Will the weather spring its usual surprise on the drivers, and rain? And will McLaren’s straight-line speed advantage in sectors one and three give them the complete upper hand over Red Bull? We will see tomorrow. The race starts live on BBC1 at 1pm.

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Raikkonen Takes Victory in Spa

August 30, 2009

Kimi Raikkonen won his first Grand Prix of 2009 in Spa this afternoon, just about managing to hold off the Force India of Giancarlo Fisichella.

Raikkonen, who started from sixth on the grid, got a clean getaway to get up to second on the first lap, but it appeared it was Fisichella, who despite losing the lead following the restart on lap five, who had the faster car, keeping the Finn pushing all the way to the end.

As usual, the Spa-Francorchamps circuit provided a thrilling race, and as always there was first lap carnage.

The La Source hairpin is usually renowned for its first corner collisions, but it was turn five, Les Combes, that saw a four-car pile-up involving championship leader Jenson Button, and current champion Lewis Hamilton. Button was tagged by Romain Grosjean, who out-breaked himself at the end of the straight going in to turn five, and Hamilton, who had been trying to keep clear of any contact, was tagged from behind by Jaime Alguersuari, resulting in the end of the race for the four drivers, and the safety car being deployed.

While pole sitter Fisichella got a clean getaway off the grid, leading behind the safety car after the first lap drama; at the restart, it was Kimi Raikkonen who claimed the lead, taking advantage of a good slipstream and his KERS button, passing Fisichella at the top of Eau Rouge.

Leading into the first round of pitstops, Raikkonen kept Fisichella behind him, but in the second round of pitstops, the pressure was on for Raikkonen to maintain the lead, with the Force India having maintained the gap in the second stint. Raikkonen maintained the lead on the exit of the pits, and finished less than a second ahead of Fisichella.

Sebastian Vettel, who started the race from eighth, came through to finish third, with Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld finishing fourth and fifth for BMW. Heikki Kovalainen, Rubens Barrichello and Nico Rosberg finished sixth, seventh and eighth, respectively, rounding off the points scorers. Mark Webber who went in to the race third in the drivers standings, finished just outside the points in ninth.

Aside from the four retiring in the first corner, Jarno Trulli and Fernando Alonso also failed to finish the race. Alonso, who was on a one stop strategy, and had been running well in the Renault, retired shortly after his pitstop, where there had been problems with securing his front-left wheel, which was a result of contact in the first corner. The decision to retire was made by the team, who it seemed were keen to avoid a repeat of the loose wheel incident in Hungary.

For Button, it was all down to damage-limitation, with closest championship rival and teammate Barrichello, scoring only two points, bringing the gap down to just 16 points in the championship. Vettel’s third place puts him back into third in the standings, 1.5 points ahead of Webber.

Raikkonen’s win elevates him to fifth in the standings, and Fisichella’s second place gets him and Force India their first points of the season.

 

The next race takes place in Monza in two weeks time, with qualifying on Saturday 12th September, and the race live on BBC One at 1pm on the 13th.

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Fisichella Takes Surprise Pole in Spa

August 29, 2009

Giancarlo Fisichella pulled a surprise pole out of the bag in Spa this afternoon, in an exciting, yet shocking qualifying session.

The Italian, who it is rumoured may replace Luca Badoer at Ferrari from the next race in Monza, shocked everyone when he topped the time sheets in quali one, and again in quali three, lapping the track in 1:46.308.

Fisichella’s teammate, Adrian Sutil, will start in 11th, having narrowly missed making it into Q3.

Jarno Trulli will start the race second in the Toyota, with the  BMWs of Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica third and fifth respectively. Rubens Barrichello is the first Brawn on grid in fourth. Kimi Raikkonen will start sixth, with Timo Glock seventh, the Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber eighth and nineth, and Nico Rosberg in tenth.

Jenson Button failed to make it through to Q3 for the first time this season, and will start down in 14th. Lewis Hamilton, who qualified on pole just a week ago in Valencia, also failed to make it into Q3. Despite being the fastest through sectors one and three, his McLaren struggled through sector two and he will start in 12th, with teammate Heikki Kovalainen down in 15th.

Luca Badoer will start what may possibly be his last Grand Prix from the back of the grid for the second race in a row, after beaching his Ferrari as the clock stopped at the end of Q1.

With the weather frequently having a part to play in the outcome of a race in Spa, whether it rains or shines tomorrow, one thing is for certain, that once again, one of the best circuits on the F1 calendar is likely to produce an exciting race where just about anything can happen, just as it did in qualifying this afternoon.