Raikkonen Returns Ferrari to the Top at Spa

What Happens When Spa Lives Up to Expectations

— Kimi Raikkonen won the Belgian GP with an amazing start and wise use of KERS.  Giancarlo Fisichella clearly stated with his second place and closing finish that Ferrari could not do better than choosing him to replace the (again) last place Luca Badoer for Monza.  Sebastain Vettel helped his championship standings with a third place finish, giving him a one-point lead over Barrichello.  Jenson Button did not finish, but lost only a few points to title rivals including  teammate Rubens Barrichello (just finishing seventh with an oil leak) and Red Bull’s Mark Webber (ninth).

The drama started early, with Rubens Barrichello nearly stalling at the start, forcing Raikkonen and the rest of the field around him.  Raikkonen made a fantastic start, then went very wide, having been forced out by jostling in the field.  He ended up second, but behind him was a melee starting at la Source and continuing through Eau Rouge and onto the Kemmel straight and culminating at Les Combes.  Romain Grosjean bumped into Jenson Button, who spun.  Grosjean then collected/was collected by Jaime Alguersuari and Lewis Hamilton.  All three were out of the race immediately.  Jarno Trulli, Barrichello, and Adrain Sutil ducked into the pits before the safety car was deployed.

On the restart, Raikkonen made use of his KERS system just after Eau Rouge and went past Fisichella for the lead.  Barrichello also passed Trulli and moved into fourteenth.  He proceeded to move past Luca Badoer and Kazuki Nakajima on the next few laps.  With his early duck into the pits, Barrichello was able to remove the low-performing soft tires and fill up with fuel, negating his early projected stop.

Robert Kubica (from third) and Timo Glock were the first to stop on L13, and four of the top five came in on L14.  Raikkonen, Fisichella, Mark Webber, and Nick Heidfeld pitted, leaving Sebastain Vettel in the lead.  Red Bull incorrectly released Webber into the pit lane, nearly hitting Heidfeld.  Within a lap, Webber/Red Bull received a drive-through penalty for the bad release.  In between this time, Heidfeld and Barrichello passed Webber on L15, Barrichello performing the maneouver around Blanchimont with (as SPEEDtv commentator David Hobbs put it) “large attatchments.”

Webber rejoined after the penalty in tenth.  After the first set of stops, Raikkonen and Fisichella were back in the lead.  Fernando Alonso was just behind, not yet having pitted, when his team requested that he “save fuel behind Fisi” but not “lose time.”  Trulli had fuel rig issues when pitting on L21, came back in and was wheeled into the garage.  Race over.

By L24, Fisichella was gaining a tenth of a lap on Raikkonen.  Alonso was doing the same time, but still had not stopped.  When he did stop on L25, he spent more than 30 seconds in the pits, with an issue on the left front, possibly a damaged wheel fairing from an incident with Sutil at the start.  As Alonso rejoined the track, it appeared as though something small flew off the car. On the next lap, his team radioed for him to come in and retire.

Raikkonen and Fisichella pit at the same time on L31.  With quick work by both crews, the rejoin in the same order, but behind Vettel and Heidfeld.  The acceleration gap by the Ferrari was quite dramatic, but time had shown that the Force India was quite good in the long term. On L35, Vettel pitted from the lead and managed to pip Kubica for the third spot on the podium by rejoining the track ahead of him.  This fantastic stop was just what Red Bull needed after the issues they had with improperly releasing Webber earlier.

At the end, Fisichella was closing in on Raikkonen, but Vettel was closing on Fisichella faster.  With only six laps to go, the gaps were Raikkonen-Fisichella: .8; Fisichella-Vettel: 4.1, with Vettel lapping .4 faster than Fisichella, having repeatedly set fastest lap.  Fisichella was only lapping .1 faster than Raikkonen.  With three laps left, Barrichello’s Brawn looked to be losing the engine, with the team reminding him to “back off Kovalainen” to save the engine.  Though, the telemetry looked ok, and it was apparently “just an oil leak.”  Though, it did catch on fire in parc ferme.

Final (unofficial) Standings from the Belgian GP:
1. Raikkonen
2. Fisichella
3. Vettel
4. Kubica
5. Heidfeld
6. Kovalainen
7. Barrichello
8. Rosberg
9. Webber
10. Glock
11. Sutil
12. Buemi
13. Nakajima
14. Badoer

Championship Standings after the Belgian GP:
(courtesy of Reuters)

  1. Jenson Button (Britain) Brawn            72 points
  2. Rubens Barrichello (Brazil) Brawn        56
  3. Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Red Bull      53
  4. Mark Webber (Australia) Red Bull         51.5
  5. Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari         34
  6. Nico Rosberg (Germany) Williams          30.5
  7. Lewis Hamilton (Britain) McLaren         27
  8. Jarno Trulli (Italy) Toyota              22.5
  9. Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari            22
 10. Heikki Kovalainen (Finland) McLaren      17
 11. Timo Glock (Germany) Toyota              16
 12. Fernando Alonso (Spain) Renault          16
 13. Nick Heidfeld (Germany) BMW Sauber       10
 14. Giancarlo Fisichella (Italy) Force India  8
 15. Robert Kubica (Poland) BMW Sauber         8
 16. Sebastien Buemi (Switzerland) Toro Rosso  3
 17. Sebastien Bourdais (France) Toro Rosso    2
 18. Adrian Sutil (Germany) Force India        0
 19. Kazuki Nakajima (Japan) Williams          0
 20. Nelson Piquet (Brazil) Renault            0
 21. Luca Badoer (Italy) Ferrari               0
 22. Jaime Alguersuari (Spain) Toro Rosso      0
 23. Romain Grosjean (France) Renault          0

1 Comment

  1. What a thrilling race! Spa is magnificent: I lost count of the number of overtakings; it was a refreshing race after the boring Valencia.

    Excellent Fisichella; very good performance for Barrichello (after the abysmal start); and obviously Raikkonen: this is his fourth win in Spa, the temple of F1.

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