Belgian Grand Prix – The Race

This race blog would not be complete without obligatory picture of Eau Rouge!
This race blog would not be complete without the obligatory picture of Eau Rouge!

With impeccable timing (in other words usual last minute headless chicken panic) I was still in the middle of making homemade pizzas* just as the lights went out and so pressed pause on the Sky streaming.

* Any implied reference to being some kind of Annabel Karmel super-mum are totally and utterly misleading. It was one of many bribes (that by and large failed) which were designed to keep the sprogs happy during the race while I flew solo due to the husband jollying it up at The Oval.

Twenty minutes (and a decimated kitchen) later, I pressed play only to discover it was lap 14 and Vettel was leading the race. So on top of a mild OCD freak out at the state of my kitchen, I’d been given mahoosive spoilers. Still if nothing else it looked like there had been some serious action in the first few laps. So lets press play…

Time For the Start and Go Go Go…! A clean start for Hamilton and Vettel, a great start for Button and a terrible start for Webber. Plus ca change. And on the first lap, Vettel passed Hamilton with ease demonstrating some blistering straight line speed. Oh good – clearly the Red Bull has been further improved during the summer holidays that Adrian Newey obviously doesn’t take. I could WEEP. Still by only lap 2, Alonso was already up to 5th.

There's Vettel and (scrolls back some distance) there is Hamilton. As you were.
There’s Vettel and (scrolls back some distance) there is Hamilton. Sigh.

Lap 3 and already a warning to Vettel to save his tyres. Presumably because the car is so ridiculously superior that they needn’t push it to the limit. Alonso finally took Button on lap 4. So Fernando from 9th on the grid was now 4th. In total and utter contrast, Max Chilton was running last from 16th on the grid. Next in the firing line for the Alonso Tornado was Rosberg and sure enough wham bam, Fernando was now 3rd.

So the Big Unknown Quantity was whether the drivers would be one-stopping or two-stopping. Taking a wild (and probably wrong) stab in the dark, Kimi would probably be one-stopping, possibly Button and Vettel/Hamilton would be two-stopping. Or maybe Vettel would park his Red Bull, have a leisurely picnic and then rejoin the race in the lead before winning the Grand Prix. I used to make similar jokes about Michael Schumacher but then I loved Schumacher so that was all ok.

Can I have a picnic shot? Great lets have a picnic shot!
Can I have a picnic shot? Great lets have a picnic shot! Actually this is a bit of a girlie picnic but who cares.

In the least surprising sentence I have typed all week, life wasn’t going well for Grosjean – he was passed by Perez (in a move of questionable legality) and then Massa on lap 8. And to make life worse for Grosjean, his team-mate Kimi shot past Hulkenberg to move into 8th place. We were told the steward at today’s race was Derek Warwick. Apologies for the slight name-dropping which I don’t often do but I had the privilege of meeting Derek at Brands Hatch last year – what a thoroughly good guy and most unphased by the lunatic 4 year old who was accompanying me at the time.

Derek Warwick back in the day at the 1984 US GP
Derek Warwick back in the day at the 1984 US GP in Dallas.

Massa pitted on lap 10 and was almost clattered in the pits by Hulkenberg. And the pit floodgates were now well and truly open. And Sergio Perez duly got clobbered a penalty for forcing Grosjean off the track. A small and indeed rare victory for Romain. Lap 14 and Alonso pitted, along with Webber and Perez. Vettel pitted the following lap and naturally it was a supersonically fast pitstop with no unsafe release, no pitlane speeding and no exit into the path of Bad Driver Maldonado. Bah.

Alonso and Hamilton were having a feisty scrap for 3rd but Hamilton could not hang on to his position. I’m guessing Lewis was not a happy bunny in that cockpit (and even poor Dad Hamilton looked on the verge of a breakdown). Overtaking was taking place everywhere –Rosberg on Grosjean for 5th, Webber on Grosjean for 6th and down in the nether regions of the field, Massa on Gutierrez for 10th. All sounds fantastically exciting except in a weird way it really wasn’t.

And if we thought Spa was dull, what will the Korean GP do to us?
If we thought Spa was dull, what will the Korean GP do to our senses?

Button eventually pitted on lap 18 but could he make it all the way to the finish? Meanwhile Vettel was leading and increasing the gap between himself and Fernando Alonso <cross face> So at the halfway point the order was 1. Vettel 2. Alonso 3. Hamilton 4. Rosberg 5. Webber 6. Button.

Quite freakily there was a long period of time during which the cameras followed Massa and Kimi (the thought just occurs to me that maybe the camera man or producer fell asleep). And just as I was wondering if we would ever again see a different couple of cars on our screens, Kimi went to pass Massa, suffered a brake failure and Shock Horror Kimi retired from the race – his first retirement in 39 races. It had to come to an end some day but all the same boo schmoo.

Kimi, as enthused as ever about the upcoming post-race briefing
Kimi, as enthused as ever about the upcoming post-race briefing.

There was an intense 5 way scrap for 11th involving Maldonado, Gutierrez, Sutil, Di Resta (how how how was Di Resta that low down from 5th on the grid) and Hulkenberg. What could possibly go wrong?! Cue big crash between Maldonado and Di Resta and a shedload of debris and carbon fibre everywhere. Replays showed it was contact between Maldonado and Sutil that ploughed the Williams into the path of Di Resta. Whichever way, Di Resta will not be happy but to be fair he isn’t happy most of the time anyway.

Alonso pitted on lap 29 and Vettel came in two laps later and came out back in the lead. Save Me Now. Crofty tried bless him to inject some excitement into the fact that Alonso had set the fastest lap of the race but really only the heavens opening and dumping an avalanche of rain would liven things up. Button was being moved back to Plan A (a two stopper?) and we saw a Weather Monitor of Doom which told us no rain was expected in the next 30 minutes. Bugger.  On lap 35 Button pitted and rejoined in 6th spot.

No rain at Spa today. Big fat boo.
No rain at Spa today. Big fat boo.

Webber was still stuck behind Rosberg and could not find a way to get past which probably explains why Vettel has won 3 world championships and Webber will be racing in Porsche next year. Maldonado was duly slapped with a penalty for causing the Force India collision. Poor old Claire Williams – another utterly crud weekend at the office.

Four laps to go and Vettel had a 11½ second lead. A podium of Vettel, Alonso and Hamilton looked almost certain (unless biblical rain arrived). The only real battles were going on between  Rosberg/Webber and Grosjean/Massa and Perez/Ricciardo. There was a little warning from the team for Vettel to stay within the car and within himself – remember the final lap at Monaco that was two seconds faster than anything else he’d done. He has definite flash git tendencies.

And as the chequered flag fell, Vettel took his fifth victory of his increasingly dominant season. He has now passed 2000 laps leading in Formula 1 races. A stunning yet relatively depressing achievement.

I feel like we've been here before
I feel like we’ve been here before.

Here are the results from the Belgian Grand Prix 2013:

  1. Vettel – Another crushingly dominant win. Weeps silent tears.
  2. Alonso – Brilliant climb up the points from 9th on the grid. But cannot seem to reel in the Red Bull.
  3. Hamilton – Might be disappointed after taking pole but yet another podium for the Silver Arrows.
  4. Rosberg – A good, solid outing.
  5. Webber – See Rosberg.
  6. Button – He loves Spa and is managing to consolidate his position as best of the rest (ie. behind Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes) but that first podium of the season is proving very elusive.

So not a vintage race. Not sure what it is but rarely when Vettel wins do I feel we have had a sensational race. Dominant driver in a dominant car do not great races make. For all my banter about the Blonde Bombshell (Sebastian), of course it isn’t his fault – he is just doing his job fantastically well. But all in all this season is a bit meh so far.

Just ONE more race in Europe remaining – how did that happen? I’m going to throw one out there and say that Monza will be a blinding race! Why, because I can and we’re sure owed a showpiece race or two this season. A flimsy argument but here’s hoping I’m right!

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