2010 Belgian Grand Prix – Race Report

Without a doubt, the Belgian GP on the Spa Circuit was one of the best races of this season with barely any boring moments throughout the race. This was in no small part due to the unpredictable weather but also due to rather surprising blunders from several drivers.

Edit: The report has been updated following a penalty handed out after the race.

However, as exciting as the race was it was an absolutely disastrous day for one of my favorite drivers. Sebastian Vettel had an excellent start, rising to third position in the start but a collision with a McLaren car (the result of a really “bizarre” overtake attempt), yet another drive-through penalty and getting a tyre rip from the smashed front-wing of Vitantonio Liuzzi meant that Vettel’s day was mostly ruined as he eventually finished 15th, well outside the score-zone.

Vettel is an amazing driver but he is beginning to suffer from similar ridiculous mistakes that cost him the championship last year. While the accident wasn’t entirely his fault it started a chain-reaction which eventually cost him the race. The decision to attempt an overtaking where the accident happened was Vettel’s alone, however, and showed exceptional bad judgement at that point in the race (but we’ll get back to that in our Drop-Out segment). The bottom line is that this race Vettel scored no points and if it weren’t for Alonso’s spin out towards the end his championship prospects would be even more grim. However, Alonso is still going to be getting his penalty from the FIA for the Germany Incident, Vettel can’t rely on Webber, Button and especially Hamilton to make any major mistakes towards the end of the season.

Seb, you’ve got to get your head back in the game!

But enough editorializing, time for the results…

The Top-10:

Lewis Hamilton was the definite winner in more ways than one. He overtook Webber at the beginning and put a clear gap between himself and Button. Even the Safety Car sessions didn’t slow him down and despite making one serious mistake once things got slippery he recovered without problems.

Mark Webber’s day seemed to be ruined by a terrible start which dropped him all the way down to sixth and fifth, until the accident between Button and Vettel cleared the way. Robert Kubica’s enemy was, once again, the pit-lane although this time he made the error himself for not stopping in the designated area which allowed Webber to slip by. Kubica and Webber both drove an other wise solid race with Webber on the second highest podium today and Kubica on the third. Renault‘s day was made even better when Kubica’s team-mate Vitaly Petrov finished a respectable 9th after starting from the very back due to his spin in the first qualifying.

With Alonso out only seven laps before the finish line it was Felipe Massa who drove the Red Ferrari to the finish line as the 4th fastest driver on the track. An uneven day for Force India though both of their cars did eventually rise to points. Adrian Sutil drove another solid race in the rain to finish 5th. Jaime Alguersuari would have taken 10th place for Scuderia Toro Rosso but was found guilty of cutting the chicane by the stewards thus raising Vitantonio Liuzzi to points.

A grand return for Mercedes GP as well with both Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg scoring points. Schumi made a close overtake of Nico early on, causing a piece of his front wing to fly off. Rosberg returned the favor later by overtaking Schumi and finishing 6th. Since both drivers started from the back of the lot it was incredible that either one of the them made it to points. Congratulations to both.

In a similar vein as Schumi and Nico, Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi rose the ranks from the back after a blundered qualifying to score points by finishing 8th.

Golden Pineapple Award: Pedro de la Rosa (Sauber) – With Liuzzi rising to points following Alguersuari’s penalty, de la Rosa and the Sauber team now rise to the top of the Pineapple Charts with de la Rosa having finished 11th three times thus bringing Sauber’s pineapple tally to 4. De la Rosa was one of the drivers who didn’t get a proper lap in the qualifying but unlike his team-mate, Kobayashi, or Renault’s Petrov, de la Rosa didn’t appear to have any real chances for points today. De la Rosa didn’t have the best weekend but we’ll see what the future brings for this veteran driver.

Drop-out count: 4

Only four drop-outs, most of them extremely important ones.

Rubens Barrichello was without a doubt the unluckiest man on the track, crashing into the back of Fernando Alonso’s car during the first lap. A sad ending for his 300th Grand Prix. This also caused the first safety car session as Barrichello wasn’t able to drive his car in to the pits and instead it stalled on the lane.

Jenson Button (Safety Car II) of course was on the receiving end of Sebastian Vettel’s “bizarre” overtake attempt and I have to say I do feel for Button since his race started out okay. Now, I don’t blame Vettel for losing control of his car which is clearly what happened but I can’t help wondering what was Seb thinking trying to overtake Button on the last chicane of the Spa Circuit, the very same place where the whole of the leading group actually went off track on the first lap.

It was clear there had been rain in that part of the circuit and that it was slippery so I have to wonder, couldn’t Vettel have waited until they were on the dry side of the track… like say, at the end of the opening straight!? I think Vettel got a little too excited when he realized he was gaining on Button and didn’t realize exactly where he was at the time but there had been a safety car session already once during the race. You’d think he had realized why overtaking in that specific part of the track was just plain stupid.

Bruno Senna also called it quits after only five laps. I don’t know the reason but I believe it might have had something to do with his rather violent spin early on in the race.

Fernando Alonso’s race ended with a spin as well. His front suspension was totalled when his car slipped off the fake grass which has been incredibly slippery all weekend due to the rain. It also caused the last safety car session and we can only thank the fact that the Spa Circuit is so long that there was still time left after the Safety Car for a few laps of actual racing to take place.

Back of the Lot News:

I lament for Heikki Kovalainen. Even though he was yet again the best of the new team drivers it was simply because of the final start after the third safety car. At the beginning things were looking promising with Heikki making it to the second qualifying and (due to various penalties handed to other drivers) started the race from grid-13. However, Heikki’s start was one of the most abysmal I’ve seen, even for a bottom-feeder car like Lotus and he let practically everyone past. Given the right circumstances, Heikki might have even scored points but now had to settle for the familiar 16th place.

His team-mate Jarno Trulli was probably not happy. After driving a reasonably good race he wound up 19th (second-to-last) due to a last minute spin after the last safety car session, leaving only Sakon Yamamoto’s HRT behind him by one lap.

I have absolutely no idea what happened to Timo Glock today. He was the only other back-lot driver except for Heikki to make it into the second qualifying and seemed to be doing well until the last few laps where he was beat by his team-mate Lucas di Grassi.