Belgian GP – The Race

The Belgian Grand Prix – A timeless classic

Ever wondered why I called my blog after Eau Rouge? Back in the depths of winter when I decided (in a moment of insanity but I’m loving it really!) to start blogging about Formula 1 ahead of the 2012 season, I drove the husband temporarily insane by bombarding him with squillions of possible names for my blog before he suddenly came up with ‘A Dash of Eau Rouge’. Eureka!
The magic and craziness of F1 and Eau Rouge was stupendously showcased on Sunday when Kimi Raikkonen (World Champion 2007) passed Michael Schumacher (World Champion 1994, 1995, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004) in a stunningly breathtaking move on the outside at Eau Rouge. Major goosebumps! This is a corner which pushes F1 cars almost beyond the laws of physics so no one in their right mind should think of overtaking there but racing is in the DNA of F1 drivers like Kimi Raikkonen. Still even by F1 standards it was a manoeuvre that will go down in the annals of history.
I just freaking LOVE Spa, the drivers love racing at Spa and it just seems to inspire them all (well, nearly all of them) to race that bit harder and faster than normal. Can we race at Spa every week (with Monaco thrown in at the halfway point)?

Jackie Stewart crashing at Masta Kinka on the old Spa track (1966)
(Credit: www.f1-grandprixhistory.net)
But before the race got going, we had TWO HOURS of Sky build-up to wade through! The overall Sky programme was 5 hours and 20 minutes long – for the love of God, that is half a Sunday. Who has that kind of free time apart from students and retired people?! My finger was poised on the remote to fast-track straight to #MartinsGridWalk but something made me have a quick gander through the pre build-up to the real build-up and what a little nugget of pure gold I found! Martin Brundle driving a e-type Jag around the Old Spa Circuit interspersed with grainy footage of drivers of yesteryear hurtling around a track so horrifically dangerous that it was actually boycotted by F1 in 1969.

A special commemorative front nose for Schuey (he’d probably have preferred a faster car)
(Credit: www.f1fanatic.co.uk)

There was a Schumacher montage to mark his 300 race miletone which was a bit disappointing and predictable. The best part was at the end when Martin, Damon and Johnny bantered away about the perils of being Schumacher’s team-mate (as Martin and Johnny once both were – given that Martin seems to have been commentating forever, it reminds you how long Schuey has been racing for) and his arch-enemy (Damon, especially after Adelaide).
The rest of the build-up was just very samey and to be brutally honest, a bit stale which is odd given the five week break since the last Grand Prix. Maybe (ok definitely) I zoned out a few times but it just seemed like the Sky team discussed the same topics over and over and over again (the title chances of the front-runners, the season so far), just in different areas of the pitlane. It all needs to be WAY more spontaneous, creative and interactive. Two hours of build-up is too long and it shows. Honestly we don’t need Christian Horner and Martin Whitmarsh interviews EVERY single race. Ooops straying into a rant that needs a blog all of its own. I’ll have to get onto it!
So to #MartinsGridWalk. Mark Webber as ever was on hand for a quick chat and seemed reasonably chipper despite his grid penalty and the fact that Martin helpfully told him it was ‘all stacking up against him’. We heard that drivers hadn’t been able to set their clutches up with the lack of practice starts. I wrote in my notes ‘await carnage at the start’. Oh I’m good.
Then Martin went over to chat to another driver who looked a lot like Nico Hulkenberg but was named on the Sky graphics as Nico Rosberg. Cretins. Martin said to Nico that he was getting the job quietly done but perhaps something was lost in translation as Nico just looked confused and said “quietly…what do you mean?”. Just time for Martin to dig himself out of a hole and have a Moment with the Lovely Tanja from German TV.

Remember when Martin and Michael were team-mates?

He had a quick nose around Schuey’s car and we saw Michael was checking out the back of his car and then a pile of tyres and all the time he was giving off a definite ‘Do Not Interview Me’ vibe. Sensibly Martin skedaddled off and interviewed Vettel instead who said nothing of any interest whatsoever. I liked the happier Sebastian of earlier years. This glum, Kevin the Teenager one is no fun.
Then we had a random not at-all-scripted joke where Martin put on a yellow Bob the Builder hat as he moved into the ‘danger zone’ of the grid which Grosjean, Hamilton and Maldonaldo were occupying. Portents of Doom all round.

Martin Whitmarsh was forced to confiscate Lewis Hamilton’s iPhone before the start of the race
The total highlight of #MartinsGridWalk was the random quick chat with Martin Whitmarsh who literally threw his blackberry to a minion as Brundle tapped him on the shoulder. When teased, Martin W said “it’s a tweet, you know how confidential they are…there is lots of information on tweets…they are very informative”. Oooooh Martin, you devil. To be fair, he must have had one hell of a morning after discovering a load of confidential McLaren telemetry had been released to the world at large by one of his drivers. At this rate (as I remarked to the husband), McLaren will need to employ someone just to monitor Twitter. The husband quipped, its called a lawyer. *Sudden Lightbulb Moment*. I might have found the perfect job. Where do I sign?! Anyway it was time for some racing. Hang on for the ride.

Grosjean in action.
Time For the Start and Go Go Go…! I was keeping a beady eye on Kobayashi’s Sauber which was billowing smoke and noticed Pastor Maldonaldo rocketing up through the grid from P6 at atomic speed.  And then, we had COMPLETE UTTER CARNAGE which caused the 5 year old to catapault himself across the room and scream ‘crash…crash…crash’ over and over again. There were cars flying and spinning and going airborne all over the place. Basically, it was all Grosjean’s fault. Who else?! Ok, Maldonaldo is a good shout – but Grosjean has previous when it comes to causing catastrophic crashes at the start of Grand Prix (remember Monaco?). To summarise: he decided to cut across the path of Hamilton forcing him onto the grass, Lewis then spun back into the path of Grosjean causing Grosjean’s car to fly up and clatter into the path of both poor old Perez and then Alonso’s car who also got flung into the air. Well done, Sebastian, one idiotic rookie error destroyed 4 people’s race (plus your own). Time to reinstate the moniker of Crashjean which I feel rather smug for inventing back in the long ago days of the Chinese GP. Except it won’t be needed at Monza as Grosjean has been banned for one race. I suggested that punishment to the husband so naturally I’m chuffed that the FIA listened to me. Spare a thought for poor old Sauber – 2nd and 4th on the grid and their race literally blown to smithereens by the first corner.
Not too surprisingly given the whopping pieces of expensive car scattered everywhere, the Safety Car was deployed until lap 5. At the restart, Button scorched away into the distance and Hulkenberg (tall guy, drives for Force India, just in case anyone at Sky is confused) leapfrogged Kimi for second place, with Di Resta and Schuey lying now in 4th and 5th. I guess Sauber’s loss was Force India’s gain. After limping around for a bit, Maldonaldo decided to call it a day and it was a pretty crud day at that – it turned out he had jumped the start (hence the atomic speed). Maldonaldo is real old-school – fast but barking mad and out of control. Remember that Hunt was known as Hunt the Shunt in his early days!

Daniel Ricciardo, probably due a photo by now!
(Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

By lap 8, Button had opened up a modest 4.6 seconds lead and the 5 year old on Schumacher Watch was mildly hysterical to see Schuey was now 4th. It was a pretty bizarre topsy–turvy top ten mainly containing lots of people who normally get lapped in a race. By way of illustration, Ricciardo was currently in lying 5th spot. I mean, WTF, as Lewis would say. Talking of backmarkers, I did make a point of checking how Narain was getting on at this point and he was in 15th spot with four whole cars behind him. It must have been a bit like winning Monaco for Narain, certainly the nearest he will get (awaits Grosjean related carnage at Monaco next year and the one remaining car left in the race to be an HRT…).
Kimi Raikkonen. Cool as you like.

The first lot of real pitstops (as opposed to those necessitated by a close encounter of the Grosjean kind) kicked off at lap 11 when Di Resta trundled in. Schuey was now in 3rd place having put an incredible move on Kimi at Les Coombes! In his 300th Grand Prix! At a track where he used to reign supreme!  I must admit headlines like ‘fairytale win’ and ‘Schumacher makes history’ were flashing around my head in neon lights. Yeh, that’ll teach me hey. In came Kimi and Webber to the pits and meanwhile Vettel was absolutely flying having scythed past Webber and then Senna. Kimi’s new tyres were smoking hot (in a good way) as he started racking up a stack of incredible lap times which were 1.5 seconds/lap faster than Jenson. After picking his way past Rosberg and the Hulk, he was back in 6thplace by lap 15.
Quick word from Grosjean about the start, “it was a very good start, then BOOM and the end of the race”. Think you missed a bit out there, Sebastian. Back to the race and in the pitlane Caterham released Kovalainen right into the back of an unsuspecting HRT. You absolute morons, Narain is having the race of his life. For goodness sake, he is having to drive Eau Rouge every lap, he still hasn’t crashed and you do this to him. Meanwhile, Massa put a move on Rosberg, leaving Nico, Di Resta and Vergne to have a tasty (but not ultimately seat of your pants stuff) scrap for 9th place.

Vettel did a special painting for Schumacher to celebrate his 300 races (bet Schuey loved seeing the Red Bull in front!)

By lap 18, the front three were Button (now leading by nearly 14 seconds), Schuey and Vettel, and both Germans were having a real old ding-dong culminating in Schuey driving uber defensively and at the very last possible moment nearly crashing into cutting right across Vettel to enter the pits. You can take Michael out of racing (ok I know he’s back but he did retire once), but not vice-versa. God love him. Lap 20 and Button pitted – time to dust off the McLaren Pitstop Disastometer? But no, they did a phenomenal pitstop and Button serenely returned to the lead ahead of Vettel. Finally on lap 22, Vettel pitted and he was turfed out back into 6th place, ahead of Ricciardo and Schuey.
Halfway point order was as follows: 1. Button 2. Kimi 3. Hulk 4. Webber 5. Massa and 6. Vettel.

To borrow a line from the movie “was that race crazy enough for ya?”

McLaren radioed to say Button was on ‘Plan A’. Ok, so that was a one-stopper then. Guys, we all know the code by now (not least because one of your drivers puts all your confidential data on the worldwide web!). On lap 29, Webber and the Hulk pitted, and Webber nearly had a coming together with Massa in the pits. What is it with these guys today? Its like a lunatic asylum out there. The Webber- Massa ‘moment’ was under investigation, as was the Schumacher-Vettel moment as was the Kovalainen-Narain moment and presumably all 26 of Maldonaldo’s moments before retiring from the race.
Apparently Vettel was on the radio complaining. Of course he was. This was because he wasn’t leading the race by 40 seconds in a supersonic car crammed full of lots of borderline illegal extremely clever Adrian Newey devices. Just shut up and drive, Sebastian. According to the commentators, it was now apparent that Button, Vettel and Schuey were one-stopping. Right you are.
And on lap 32, the camera panned over to the sight of an HRT sitting in a pile of gravel. Looked like Narain had broken another car. I’m going to hold Kovalainen totally responsible for wrecking Narain’s race. He had probably never got over that near miss in the pits. Bah.

And that’s how you overtake on the outside of Eau Rouge.

Schuey was passed by Kimi for 3rd place, then managed to retake the position while under heavy pressure from the Hulk. Then on lap 34, Kimi performed a truly audacious, sublime move to overtake Schuey on the outside of Eau Rouge. Not long after, the Hulk passed Schuey at La Source and we heard that Schuey had a possible gearbox selection issue. Norbert Haug – where art thou? You need to kick some ass and start making better cars. Random fact: I drove a Mercedes once and didn’t like it so I feel Schuey’s pain. Anyhoo it appeared that Schuey was actually now on a two-stopper (or plan B in McLaren parlance). Boo.

Rosberg’s race started unfolding as he lost position on the track to Vergne and Ricciardo, then Vergne and Ricciardo (do they drive in tandem or what?) passed Senna whose tyres had fallen off the proverbial cliff. Lotus decided to radio Kimi to tell him to “pick up the pace”. Er, have they a death-wish? Kimi’s response was “give me some more power then”. I love that man. Huge kudos to my good friend, Nat, who has been a fan of The Raikkonen since the very very beginning (you can check out her excellent overview of the F1 season so far on her London Calling blog).
And after all that drama and tension and pitlane collisions, we’d nearly forgotten about Jenson Button who was having one of his majestic, super cool, super smooth drives to the chequered flag.

Well done Jenson!

Here are the results from the Belgian Grand Prix 2012:
1.     Jenson Button – Utterly dominated all weekend in Spa. A superb race. We all love Jenson in the House of Power.
2.     Vettel – Very useful pile of points to stick in the bank on a weekend where Alonso amd Hamilton DNF.
3.     Kimi – Another podium. Can’t help but feel that Lotus need to slightly up their game and give him a car to win races.
4.     The Hulk – Very good drive indeed.
5.     Massa – Blimey, not bad. You would say that’s a reminder to Luca di Montezemolo but I’ll eat my straw hat if he’s at Ferrari next year (Felipe not Luca!).
6.     Webber – Bonzer etc.

Back when Schumacher dominated…a collector’s item for the 5 year old.

The final word should perhaps go to the five year old. After the podium celebrations took place, he looked at me plaintively and said “was Michael Schumacher before some people?”. The poor kid! For Christmas, I’m going to buy him a boxset of Schumacher, the Ferrari Years (maybe there will be some boxset released following the second retirement?!).

Talking of Prancing Horses, see you in Monza NEXT weekend. Be there or be…er…Sebastian Grosjean!!

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