Scarlet red settles it at Spa

Published on September 1st, 2009

Drama was the order of the day and it wasn’t even race day yet at the Belgium Grand Prix. Force India had fished pole position while championship leader Jenson Button and defending champion Lewis Hamilton sat in the second half of the grid.

Following the bizarre qualifying session, it was anybody’s toss as to the end results but some semblance of normality had returned as a Kimi Raikkonnen in his Ferrari ended a 26-race winless streak to sit atop the podium.

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Nonetheless, the race was every bit as dramatic as the qualifying itself with a first round demolition derby that wiped Hamilton and Button off the slate.

Giancarlo Fisichella in his Force India machine maintained his lead into La Source but right behind Nick Heidfield had nicked second spot in his BMW Sauber from Jarno Trulli’s Toyota.

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However, Heidfield went in too hot and ran wide leaving the door open for Robert Kubica to move up to second but on his tail was Raikkonnen and on the chase up Eau Rouge, the Finn hit the KERS button to end Kubica’s brief stint in second.

Things took a turn for the worst though as the heavily bunched up pack reached Les Combes and rookie Romain Grosjean’s Renault rear ended Button’s Brawn, sending him spinning into an early shower. Not to be left out of the party, rookie Jamie Alguersuari, in attempting to avoid Button and Grosjean, made contact with the McLaren of Hamilton and send him off for an early shower too.

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One corner, four casualties and two of them were championship contenders.

As expected the Safety Car made its cameo and the minor-damaged machines pitted for outpatient treatment and to load up on fuel.

The pile up took the better of three laps to clear and on lap five the race was on again. As Fisichella neared the start-line, Raikkonnen was perfectly lined-up behind to use his KERS for all its glory. The flag dropped and before you could say ‘Kinetic Energy Recovery System’ Raikkonnen was ahead.

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Both men were on exactly the same strategy and knowing this, Raikkonnen knew he had to get ahead of it was pretty much a done deal for him.

In the end, both their strategies were so identical that Fisichella was only a second behind the Finn.

Completing the podium was Vettel in his Red Bull. Taking off with a heavy fuel load allowed him to climb past the BMW Saubers to third by lap 35. However, it was not meant to be as even with the fastest lap of the race the top two were out of reach although he was only 2.9-seconds behind Fisichella at the chequered flag.

Starting on harder compound tyres was the breaking point for Heidfield as he ran wide on the first lap at Les Combes and never really recovered from that slip-up.

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With one Silver Arrow out on the first lap, it was up to Heikki Kovalainen in the remaining McLaren to make something for the team. Playing with a single-stop strategy and starting on softer compounds allowed him to turn his 15th starting spot into a sixth place finish. It wasn’t all strategy though as the Finn had to hold of Sebastien Buemi in the early stages and then Barrichello towards the end.

Barrichello too wasn’t off to the best of starts, stalling on the grid, but exuding volumes of grittiness saw him recover well and took seventh.

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Completing the points finishers was William’s Nico Rosberg. Right behind him was Webber but the Aussie cooked his chances of a decent placing by squeezing Heidfield in the pits and earning himself the ire of the marshals and a subsequent drive-through penalty that left him playing catch-up the rest of the day.

Toyota’s Timo Glock had the misfortune of fuelling equipment failure on Lap 12 and found himself with only a 10th place finish. The other Toyota wasn’t any better as Trulli had to call it a day on lap 21 with brake gremlins. As expected, the Ferrari of Luca Badoer played sweeper for the entire field and was so off the pace he might as well have driven in reverse.

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Renault’s Fernando Alonso had a forgettable evening as well even though the Spaniard was as high as third place before the first pit-stop window opened. During the first round mash-up, he had damaged his front-left wheel and Renault decided to call him in on safety grounds.

Taking into consideration most of the championship front runners were out before the race even began the only significant change to the table was a leap up for Vettel, cutting Button’s lead by six points and throwing the championship wide open as the season heads down the final straight for what can only be described as a crunching final corner.

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So as things read it’s Button on 72-points, Barrichello on 56 followed by Vettel and Webber on 53 and 51.5 respectively with only five races to contend.

Perhaps Ferrari could build on the win today for a home victory at Monza next but news from the grapevine suggests it might even set off Defcon 5 on the weird scale if news of Fisichella switching over to Ferrari for the next race is to be bought. Imagine of Fisichella took the 10-points in a Ferrari come Monza?

text: Dinesh Appavu  pix: F1

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