It's disappointing that the usual craziness we've come to expect at Spa didn't materialize this year. All 22 drivers went safely through the Turn 1 La Source hairpin at the start, and the dark clouds that had threatened a 60% chance of rain eventually veered from the circuit. Had the changeable conditions on Saturday been replicated on Sunday, we could be looking at a jumbled championship tally that would have promised more excitement for the tail end of the season. It might've helped us score more points in our Belgian Grand Prix predictions, too.
1. There will be a safety-car period, but it won't be caused by Grosjean. Long story short, nobody and nothing caused a safety-car period, which was just as unusual as a dry race at Spa. Romain Grosjean finally saw the checkered flag at this venue, although he did have a scare when McLaren's Sergio Perez edged him off the track at the Les Combes chicane following the long Kemmel Straight--a move that earned Perez a drive-through penalty.
Speaking to Sky Sports, McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said the penalty was too much, adding that there was some politics behind it: "I think it was a harsh decision, but if you've got a rap sheet, you've got to be squeaky-clean, haven't you? It's tough when you're a young driver and you're coming in among that. Inevitably, the older drivers will gang up on you; they'll put you under pressure in the drivers' briefing and create an environment like that. That's the business. That's the sport."
2. Fernando Alonso will split the Lotuses in qualifying and finish on the podium at the end of the 44-lap race. The final part of qualifying was a big guessing game in which Ferrari lost out, with the drivers running out of time to do flying laps when the track was at its quickest at the very end of the session. Alonso ended up P9 as a result, lining up alongside teammate Felipe Massa behind the all-Lotus fourth row.
But the Spaniard is always good at netting points for his championship campaign and for our predictions (a half-point, in this case). He was swiftly into P5 at the start, and picked off the remaining cars ahead in his trademark methodical fashion. A long seventh gear kept him out of reach on the DRS zones much to Lewis Hamilton's dismay, but it amounted to little in Fernando's hunt for his dear old pal Sebastian, who again performed his favorite trick of scampering off at the front of the pack.
3. Potential stars in this installment of "Fightback of the Trailing Teammate": Nico Rosberg and Jean-Eric Vergne. Well, that didn't work out. Rosberg was on provisional pole when the rain suddenly let up in the last minute of Q3, allowing the two Red Bulls and his teammate to improve on their lap times and sneak ahead of him. Fortunately, he managed to fend off Mark Webber's many overtaking attempts on Sunday to finish just a couple of seconds behind Lewis.
Meanwhile, Vergne and Ricciardo started way down the order, having been outfoxed by the backmarker teams the day before. But while Ricciardo snatched the final point at the end of 44 laps, Vergne finished a lowly 12th. To add insult to injury, Webber made this announcement to an Australian news network regarding his replacement at Red Bull: "The decision is made. We all know who it is. I'm happy with that decision. It's good for him and it's good for Australia."
4. McLaren and Force India will bag some points. Finally, a full point. It even looked like Jenson Button could challenge for the final podium position, but a strategy error killed his chances. On the bright side, McLaren is showing some improvement and is now ahead of Force India in the constructors' standings.
As for Paul di Resta, we hope he'd celebrated his high starting position with a beer on Saturday night, because there was nothing to celebrate after Pastor Maldonado crashed into him at the Bus Stop chicane (he was surprisingly calm when he was interviewed; we were expecting another Kimi impression). Teammate Adrian Sutil--whom Maldonado then blamed for instigating his collision with di Resta--was ninth to cross the line.
5. Mercedes on pole, the King of Spa for the win. If points were given for pole position, Lewis would've thoroughly deserved it for his qualifying performance in Belgium. His Merc is a one-lap pouncer, yes, but instead of being a bit more tentative like Seb was, he showed major balls in his final run when it was easy to slip on a wet patch and slide into a barrier.
That said, the defending champion had a plan to quickly get past him, and executed it to perfection. Sebastian was up to P2 on the exit of Turn 1, and managed a better line through the tricky Eau Rouge-Raidillon complex. He benefitted from a tow off Lewis's Merc, unleashed a good serving of KERS, and was past the Silver Arrow well before the end of the Kemmel Straight. That was really when he won the race.
And Kimi? Well, he wasn't the King of Spa this year. He retired due to brake failure, ending his record 27 consecutive points-scoring run and falling to fourth in the standings. No hope left for him? We wouldn't say so--not when there are eight races still left on the season. It could be his turn to shine at the Italian GP in a couple of weeks.
Total score: 2 out of 5
|BEL||Starting grid||Race results|
|Pos||Driver (Team)||Quali (Start tire)||Driver (Team)||Time/Gap|
|1||L. Hamilton (Mercedes)||2:01.012 (M)||S. Vettel (Red Bull)||1hr 23:42.196|
|2||S. Vettel (Red Bull)||2:02.200, +0.188 (M)||F. Alonso (Ferrari)||+16.869|
|3||M. Webber (Red Bull)||2:01.325, +0.313 (M)||L. Hamilton (Mercedes)||+27.734|
|4||N. Rosberg (Mercedes)||2:02.251, +1.239 (M)||N. Rosberg (Mercedes)||+29.872|
|5||P. di Resta (Force India)||2:02.332, +1.320 (M)||M. Webber (Red Bull)||+33.845|
|6||J. Button (McLaren)||2:03.075, +2.063 (M)||J. Button (McLaren)||+40.794|
|7||R. Grosjean (Lotus)||2:03.081, +2.069 (M)||F. Massa (Ferrari)||+53.922|
|8||K. Raikkonen (Lotus)||2:03.390, +2.378 (M)||R. Grosjean (Lotus)||+55.846|
|9||F. Alonso (Ferrari)||2:03.482, +2.470 (M)||A. Sutil (Force India)||+1:09.547|
|10||F. Massa (Ferrari)||2:04.059, +3.047 (M)||D. Ricciardo (Toro Rosso)||+1:13.470|
|11||N. Hulkenberg (Sauber)||1:49.088 (M)||S. Perez (McLaren)||+1:21.936|
|12||A. Sutil (Force India)||1:49.103 (M)||J. Vergne (Toro Rosso)||+1:26.740|
|13||S. Perez (McLaren)||1:49.304 (M)||N. Hulkenberg (Sauber)||+1:28.258|
|14||G. van der Garde (Caterham)||1:52.036 (M)||E. Gutierrez (Sauber)||+1:40.436|
|15||J. Bianchi (Marussia)||1:52.563 (H)||V. Bottas (Williams)||+1:47.456|
|16||M. Chilton (Marussia)||1:52.762 (H)||G. van der Garde (Caterham)||+1 lap|
|17||P. Maldonado (Williams)||2:03.072 (M)||P. Maldonado (Williams)||+1 lap|
|18||J. Vergne (Toro Rosso)||2:03.300 (M)||J. Bianchi (Marussia)||+1 lap|
|19||D. Ricciardo (Toro Rosso)||2:03.317 (H)||M. Chilton (Marussia)||+2 laps|
|20||V. Bottas (Williams)||2:03.432 (M)||P. di Resta (Force India)||retired|
|21||E. Gutierrez (Sauber)||2:04.324 (H)||K. Raikkonen (Lotus)||retired|
|22||C. Pic (Caterham)||2:07.384 (M)||C. Pic (Caterham)||retired|
Notes: H—hard compound; M—medium compound. Listed qualifying laps 17-22 set in Q1; 11-16 in Q2; and 1-10 in Q3. Only Q3 gaps were included because of the changeable weather conditions in the different sessions. Top 10 starters had a free choice of starting tire because Q3 was run on intermediates.
|1||S. Vettel||197||Red Bull||312|
|6||N. Rosberg||96||Force India||61|
|7||F. Massa||67||Toro Rosso||25|
|10||P. di Resta||36||Marussia||0|
|21||G. van der Garde||0|
Photos from Infiniti Red Bull Racing