Every now and then, Formula One has a great weekend when everything falls into place and everybody leaves the circuit or turns off the television feeling good, irregardless who you support or cheer on. The 2009 Belgian Grand Prix has been won by Kimi Raikkonen, the Finn’s first win of the season and also the first for Ferrari after all they have been through since Australia. The driver of the day though clearly goes to Giancarlo Fisichella, who hung onto the F60 admirably.
Giancarlo Fisichella – the experienced Italian pilot – came alive this weekend and after taking a sensational pole position on Saturday, Fisichella managed to keep pace with Ferrari which was only ahead due to KERS at the restart. But although it wasn’t a win, Fisichella’s eventual second place was still the first points for Force India, their first podium, and Giancarlo Fisichella’s first podium since the 2006 Japanese Grand Prix.
Raikkonen’s and Fisichella’s race can be summed up very easily. The Finnish pilot had a great start and was helped by Rubens Barrichello almost stalling on the grid. After the first incident which saw Lewis Hamilton, Jaime Alguersuari, Jenson Button and Romain Grosjean crash out and encourage a safety car period, many drivers took the opportunity to pit. Raikkonen and Fisichella stayed out and at the restart, Raikkonen was trailing the Force India, but with the KERS deployed, Raikkonen was able to take the lead.
It wasn’t plain-sailing for Raikkonen though, as even though we expected Raikkonen to cruise off into the sunset, Fisichella kept him honest and the gap remained at about 1s for the rest of the race. It was clear in the final stint that the VJM02 was the faster car, but it simply wasn’t enough, and with KERS being enabled on the F60, Fisichella could only sit and read the rear wing of the leading Ferrari.
Conversely, the team mates of the leading duo had very different races. While one Ferrari crossed the finish line first, the other crossed the line last. Luca Badoer was the last of the runners and has probably hammered the final nail in the coffin that is now known as his Formula One career. Performing better, but still in the shadows, Adrian Sutil completed the Belgian Grand Prix in P11. It wasn’t the greatest of performances from the German pilot, but at least Adrian finished where he started.
Sebastian Vettel has managed to claw out a few points from championship leader Jenson Button and the German driver overtakes his team mate in the title race. It wasn’t a great weekend for Red Bull Racing though, after a poor qualifying performance left both drivers out of position. While Vettel was able to move forward in the race and take Robert Kubica in the pitstops, Mark Webber just went backwards, and after receiving a drive-thru penalty resulting from an early release from the pitstops into the path of Nick Heidfeld, the Australian had nothing left to give.
Red Bull’s only saving grace from the weekend was the fact tha Brawn didn’t score big points, and with a first lap retirement from Jenson Button, it was left up to Rubens Barrichello to collect for the team. Unfortunately, the Brazilian’s anti-stall kicked in on the grid and Barrichello’s race only got marginally better. Two points from seventh is not good enough for the championship leaders, but it is also good enough through sheer luck, as their rivals failed to score as well.
McLaren too were relying on only one driver for the race as Lewis Hamilton was taken out in the same incident that saw Jenson Button retire. The half-lap that Hamilton did complete was pretty hectic though, and from onboard footage we can see the Briton getting sandwiched at La Source and receiving quite a knock on the right side of the car. Seemingly undamaged, Hamilton was able to continue only to be caught up in the spinning Button following a tag from Romain Grosjean. Jaime Alguersuari was also involved, and although the drivers were investigated, no punishment or penalty has been handed out. Zero points for Hamilton though is penalty enough.
Heikki Kovalainen fared better today though, and although the Finn had a poor qualifying performance, he was able to battle his way through to finish in P6 and collect three points for himself and the team.
Having a better weekend were the team that only recently announced they wouldn’t be racing next year due to poor performances this year. BMW had a stellar race in comparison to the previous so far and a double points finish will have certainly buoyed the team from Hinwil. Robert Kubica was running third for much of the race although was out-pitstopped by Sebastian Vettel towards the end. Nick Heidfeld also collected well, despite having the brake heavily to avoid Mark Webber in the pitstops. P4 ad P5 is a good day for BMW.
Renault had a disasterous Belgian Grand Prix, with Romain Grosjean retiring on lap one and Fernando Alonso being retired after a bodged pitstop. The Spaniard received some damage to his wheel on the opening tour, but was able to continue. However, when the double world champion pitted for the first time, the severity of the impact suddenly became a problem. It seems the wheel-fairing was damaged and the tyre-changer simply couldn’t get the new tyre on properly. Fearing another investigation after Alonso’s wheel came off in Hungary and almost saw the team banned from racing in Valencia, Alonso was called back to the pitlane and retired.
And so that really leaves Toyota to mention, the team who have no idea why their car is behaving the way it is. Jarno Trulli is often quoted as saying that he doesn’t know why the TF109 is slow, and equally so, the Italian often says he does not know why it is fast. This weekend was a case of the latter, but it still didn’t help his race after he retired (an early pitstop due to a damaged front wing paid an end to his victory chances early on). Timo Glock remained fairly anonymous, although he seemed to have an okay car under him. P10 was all the German could muster.
The championship therefore only changes slightly, with Kimi Raikkonen receiving a welcome boost in points and the Force India score meaning that all ten teams have now got points in the constructors championship. Button maintains a 16 point lead over team mate Rubens Barrichello, and with five races to run, it will be interesting to see how the Brawn pilot manages the finale to his season. Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel are still very closely matched as are Raikkonen, Rosberg and and Hamilton.