F1 Spa Race Results & Report: Vettel Takes the Win, Button Podium, Schumacher 5th


What Happens When There is Serious Racing

9:47am EST — Sebastian Vettel won the 2011 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, a race highlighted by close dicing, dry conditions, a safety car, and a charge through the field by world champions. He led a Red Bull one-two with Mark Webber coming across the line second, and an entertaining charge by Jenson Button brought the Briton from thirteenth to third. Michael Schumacher also showed his mettle, fighting through the field to finish fifth after starting last. Fernando Alonso, who lost pace near the end of the race, finished fourth. Lewis Hamilton looked to be on line to fight for the win when an incident with Kamui Kobayashi ended the Briton’s race in dramatic fashion.

Vettel started on pole, having taken that position from Hamilton in the final seconds after the flag had fallen on Saturday’s eventful qualifying session. Webber, Massa, Rosberg, Alguersuari, Senna, Alonso, Perez, and Petrov completed the top ten starting grid for the race after Spa’s rainy and damp conditions provided an eventful show. Schumacher began the 20th anniversary of his first F1 start last on the grid after losing a rear wheel on his out lap in Q1, Hamilton and Maldonado collided in anger, Button and di Resta were forced into the wrong calls, and Massa outqualified Alonso for what felt like the first time in years, all in the span of an hour.

Webber led most of the practices, with only Schumacher beating him to the top of the timesheets after an early time in the dry on Friday morning. The Australian driver was fastest in the Friday afternoon session and again Saturday morning, as McLaren continued to be quick in the latter half of the season. Ferrari attempted to save tires in the wet before qualifying and was caught out by Sutil’s red flag in Q2.

Spa appeared surprisingly bone-dry for the start of the forty-four lap race, though there were issues with tires blistering, especially for Red Bull. The team asked to change their tires after qualifying due to their poor, worn, and blistered conditions (as the RBR camber was a bit outside the typical specifications) but were not allowed to do so. Weather forecasts differed as to whether the entire race would be dry, but the start certainly was. Most drivers were on the softer tire, though both Button and Schumacher started on the harder dry tire.

On the grid, Rosberg had a bit of smoke seemingly coming from his Mercedes as Vettel took a great start, but it was Rosberg was into third, then around Massa for second on a flying start. Webber again got a bad start, but it was the racing at the front that was dramatic, as Rosberg was around Vettel for the lead into Les Combes. In the middle of the pack, there was contact into the first turn. Massa made a great move to momentarily go through to second, but it was Senna hitting Alguersuri and shoving him into Alonso that broke the Toro Rosso suspension. As the field checked up, the two Lotus drivers got together and Sutil suffered some damage as well.

At the end of L1, Rosberg led Vettel, Massa, Hamilton, Alonso, Buemi, Perez, Webber, Kobayashi, and Petrov as the top ten. Alonso took a look on Hamilton for fourth, then simply powered around the McLaren on the run to Les Combes before the DRS was activated. Schumacher was also moving through the pack, already up to thirteenth by the end of the second lap.

Glock, Senna, Kovalainen, and Alguersuari all pitted after their contact at the start, with the Spaniard retiring. At the front, under DRS, Vettel made his way back around Rosberg to take the lead back. on L4, both Webber and Button pitted with the former going for harder tires and the latter a new nose. Alonso took a look on his teammate, but stayed behind Massa. However, the Brazialian was soon taking a feisty look on Rosberg for second. They continued to fight with Alonso getting a great run up the inside of his teammate to take the position, going too wide but barely holding on to his newly-acquired second position. Hamilton capitalized on the fighting to shove through to fourth on Massa.

On L6, Vettel pitted from the lead for a second set of the soft tires. Meanwhile, Kobayashi and Buemi looked to have had contact, with a broken endplate for the Japanese driver and a severely damaged rear wing for Buemi. Around that time, race control announced drive-through penalties for Senna and Glock for causing a collision. Alonso was not deterred at the front, taking the long way around to steal the lead from the German and leaving him in the clutches of Hamilton.

Vettel was down in sixth and just tenths behind Kobayashi, with Petrov even closer behind. Quickly Vettel moved up to fifth, but it was leader Alonso who pitted on L9 for the softer tires. He rejoined barely ahead of Webber, who made a daring move down the inside and up through Eau Rouge just inches apart. Their combined experience kept them from crashing, but Webber completely prevailed for the position. With Sutil in front of them, Webber pushed his way through to seventh, as Sutil looked to get back around. Alonso was able to make his own way through for position on Sutil and again get on the rear wheels of Webber.

Hamilton was the next driver to pit from the lead as L10 ended as Vettel complained that his new tires had again blistered. With Rosberg pitting also from the lead, Vettel was again in front at L12 began. At the end of L12, Vettel led Alonso, Webber, Kobayashi, Hamilton, Sutil, di Resta, Barrichello, Schumacher, and Massa as the top ten. It would not last, as Hamilton and Kobayashi got together whilst fighting. Hamilton had taken the position, but Kobayashi had attempted to come back around him. Hamilton looked to be going for his normal line and seemed unaware that the other driver was there and turning in. The Briton went into the Sauber, forcing Hamilton into a spin and nose-first into the Armco. He then exploded a foam sponsor sign before rolling to a stop.

That brought out the safety car and a flurry of stops. Once the order shook back out, Alonso led Webber, Vettel, Massa, Rosberg, Sutil, Perez, Petrov, Schumacher, and Barrichello as the top ten. Meanwhile, Ricciardo stopped on track just before Balnchimont and ended his race. Button, Maldonado, di Resta, Kobayashi, Senna, Trulli, D’Ambrosio, Liuzzi, Kovalainen, and Glock completed the drivers still running on L15.

Alonso got a great start on the restart, leaving the Red Bull teammates to fight amongst themselves. Vettel took second from Webber, only to have a look on Alonso. Further back, Rosberg took fourth from Massa. Vettel went for the lead to the top of Kemmel Straight and took position at Les Combes. Though Alonso hoped to hold him off, there was no way to keep the German behind. Button was also looking to take seventh from Schumacher, both men having moved well through the field after bad qualifying sessions. Button finally managed to brake quite late and slide through on Schumacher, dropping the German back down a position, but well up from his last starting position. Though no action would be taken for the Kobayashi/Hamilton incident, that involving Buemi and Perez remained under investigation. Perez was soon assessed a drive-through penalty.

The order seemed to have somewhat settled at the halfway point. Vettel led Alonso by four and a half seconds, with Webber, Rosberg, Massa, Sutil, Button, Schumacher, Petrov, and Barrichello the top ten. Button also continued to charge, pushing past Sutil for sixth as the German locked up, then moving on to worry Massa. At the front, Vettel was again worried about his tires, which were again blistering. Alonso’s tires were beginning to go off, on theit seventeenth lap, and asking for a bit more front when he stopped.

Button went around the outside of the Brazilian at the chicane. The two were quite close, but it was a clean and brave move that left Button in control of fifth. Button continued to charge, taking fourth from Rosberg in a clever bit of racecraft. He then asked how far ahead the next driver was: Webber, eight seconds ahead. At that point, both Webber and Button had already used the harder compound, but neither Vettel nor Alonso had. Vettel’s lead continued to increase bit by bit, though Ferrari seemed certain that they would have to stop once less than the German.

Perez, after having an off-track excursion, retired on L29. With fifteen laps remaining, Vettel had six seconds on Alonso, who pitted. Webber took second as the Spaniard was in. That put Button third, with Alonso slotting in well ahead of Rosberg in fifth. Massa, Sutil, Schumacher, Petrov, and Barrichello completed the top ten.

Red Bull had told Vettel that he would be staying out for a bit despite his tire wear, which could explain the Alonso stop for harder tires. However, Vettel was the next to pit on the very next lap. It was a clean stop, but Rosberg, Massa, Petrov, and di Resta made for a busy pit lane in pitting behind him. Webber was the next to pit, as did Sutil and Schumacher. After a lap or two, Vettel was back fighting for the lead. Vettel timed his pass through Les Combes in the DRS zone perfectly to take the lead again. Button pitted for the softer tires immediately, rejoining in fourth. Massa pitted again, having got a puncture on his new set of tires, and dropped quickly to twelfth.

Vettel led Alonso by seven seconds when ten laps remained. The order had really gelled as the final laps ticked away. Webber was quite close to Alonso even as Button was catching the Australian. Through the DRS zone, Webber made an easy pass on Alonso to make the order a Red Bull one-two. Another set of teammates getting increasingly close were Rosberg and Schumacher. The older German was up to sixth and just tenths behind his teammate when the team told the two to race, but race cleanly. However, the team soon also radioed Rosberg that he needed to save a bit more fuel.

With just five laps to go, Button was two and a half seconds behind the final podium position and Alonso. Vettel’s lead over his teammate was six seconds. With Rosberg needing to save fuel, Schumacher was right behind him. Button was also right behind Alonso, taking third from well back again on the outside at Les Combes. Schumacher proceeded to take fifth from Rosberg with just two laps left. With the gap to those ahead decently large, the top five positions would not change in the final lap and a half. Vettel won his first race in two months, leading teammate Webber across the line ahead of a charging Button.

Final Positions, 2011 Belgian Grand Prix:

Driver Team Gap
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull
2. Mark Webber Red Bull +3.7
3. Jenson Button McLaren +9.6
4. Fernando Alonso Ferrari +13.0
5. Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP +47.4
6. Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP +48.6
7. Adrian Sutil Force India +59.7
8. Felipe Massa Ferrari +66.0
9. Vitaly Petrov Renault +71.9
10. Pastor Maldonado Williams +77.6
11. Paul di Resta Force India +83.9
12. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber +91.9
13. Bruno Senna Renault +92.9
14. Jarno Trulli Lotus +1 Lap
15. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus +1 Lap
16. Rubens Barrichello Williams +1 Lap
17. Jerome D’Ambrosio Virgin Racing +1 Lap
18. Timo Glock Virgin Racing +1 Lap
19. Tonio Liuzzi HRT +1 Lap
20. Sergio Perez Sauber +17 Laps
21. Daniel Ricciardo HRT +31 Laps
22. Lewis Hamilton McLaren +32 Laps
23. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso +38 Laps
24. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso
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