Sunday, September 2, 2012

Following Major First Lap Crash, Belgian GP is Dominated by Button

Photo source: Pirelli Photo Service

A 44-lap contest at the popular 7.004-kilometer Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, the 2012 Belgian Grand Prix is the first of 9 races over a 13-week run on the Formula 1 calendar. Taking pole in Saturday's qualifying, Jenson Button driving the McLaren-Mercedes claimed his first top starting spot since 2009 as he seeks to turn around an inconsistent 2012 campaign. Experiencing the absolute opposite, Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso has been collecting points and the occasional win throughout the 2012 season heading into the 12th race of this year's tour.

When the start lights went out at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps grid, the first Formula 1 grand prix in a month commenced but was almost immediately interrupted by a major incident. A massive first corner pile-up involved many front-running race cars including the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton's Mclaren overshadowed the Belgian Grand Prix. Both championship-contending drivers were unable to continue. For Alonso, the retirement ends a 22-race streak of point-scoring finishes. The Ferrari's early out also meant Fernando Alonso's 2012 title rivals still running in the Belgian Grand Prix had a chance to capitalize.

Including Alonso and Hamilton, Romain Grosjean's Lotus-Renault as well as the two Sauber-Ferrari racecars were involved. Sergio Perez's race was ended early but the front-row starting Kamui Kobayashi was able to continue finishing a disappointing 13th following what had been a solid weekend for the Japanese driver. “This is a terrible race result after we had been doing so well in qualifying. There was nothing I could do when a car came flying into mine after the start. I had to pit once for some repairs and then again after seven laps because of a slow puncture. During the race I didn’t really know how bad the damage to the car was, but I could see a tyre print on the cockpit all the time." said Kobayashi in post-race.

Seen as the trigger to the early race crash at the Spa-Francorchamps track, Romain Grosjean was targeted after the race. "I got a good start - despite being disturbed by Pastor’s early launch, which I think was the case for everybody at the front - and was heading into the first corner when the rear of my car made contact with the front of Lewis [Hamilton]’s." said Grosjean in post-race comment. The Frenchman described the incident saying, "I honestly thought I was ahead of him and there was enough room for both cars ; I didn’t deliberately try to squeeze him or anything like that. This first corner situation obviously isn’t what anyone would want to happen and thankfully no-one was hurt in the incident. I wish to apologise to the drivers who were involved and to their fans. I can only say that today is part of a process that will make me a better driver." Following the multi-car accident, Formula 1 took the extraordinary step of suspending Romain Grosjean for the next event at Monza.

Fortunately with no driver injuries, the carbon fiber carnage was cleaned up from the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps and the race was restarted. Polesitter Jenson Button controlled the pace of the Belgian Grand Prix. Pitting only one time on lap 20, the McLaren-Mercedes led from start-to-finish; a rare feat even in Formula 1. At the end, Button held a 13.6 second advantage over the Belgian Grand Prix's runner-up.

Charging from a sub-par qualifying effort that resulted with his Red Bull-Renault placed 10th on the grid, Sebastian Vettel was able to take advantage of the one-lap crash that eliminated several other vehicles as well as an incredible drive to fly up to 2nd. Placing a second Renault-engined racecar on the podium, Kimi Raikkonen hold station to the third place spot where he started from at the beginning of the Belgian Grand Prix.

Photo source: Lorenzo Bellanca/LAT Photographic

Just outside of the podium-scoring position, Nico Hulkenburg finished 4th just 2.5 seconds behind Raikkonen with his Force India-Mercedes. Hulkenburg climbed from 11th in a final race position just ahead of the Ferrari driven by Felipe Massa. With rumours indicating the Brazilian driver is on the verge of losing his ride with the Italian race team, Massa came from 14th to 5th during the 44-lap race.

In the Formula 1 drivers' standing, Fernando Alonso continues to hold an advantage but saw his gap on second place shrink as a result of the first-lap retirement. Taking second in overall points away from teammate Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel for Red Bull Racing is now 24 points behind Alonso.

Next race for the 2012 Formula 1 is the Italian Grand Prix being held at the fast Monza race track September 9th.

2012 Formula 1
Belgian Grand Prix
Race Result

Pos # Car #/ Driver/ Car
1 3 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes
2 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault
3 9 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault
4 12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes
5 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari
6 2 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault
7 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP
8 17 Jean-Eric Vergne Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari
9 16 Daniel Ricciardo Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari
10 11 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes
11 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP
12 19 Bruno Senna Williams-Renault
13 14 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari
14 21 Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault
15 24 Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth
16 25 Charlie Pic Marussia-Cosworth
17 20 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault
18 22 Pedro de la Rosa HRT F1
19 23 Narain Karthikeyan HRT F1
20 18 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault
21 15 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari
22 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari
23 4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes
24 10 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault

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