The 2012 Formula 1 championship battle remains wide open after the Belgian Grand Prix, in which championship contenders Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton were eliminated in a spectacular first-corner collision. Pole-sitter Jenson Button avoided any such drama to dominantly win at Spa-Francorchamps.
With the Englishman sharing the podium with Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen, Alonso’s championship lead has now been trimmed to 24 points.
The Spaniard’s early race demise was brought about by an over-eager Romain Grosjean, who triggered mayhem at the first corner when he squeezed Lewis Hamilton into the grass. The pair then slid out of control into Fernando Alonso and Sergio Pérez, while front-row starter Kamui Kobayashi was also hit, along with Pastor Maldonado, who blatantly jumped the start.
Alonso was fortunate to emerge unscathed from this terrifying collision in which his Ferrari was completely written off, and he was joined on the sidelines by Hamilton and Grosjean. The Frenchman was given a one-race ban for his troubles, the first time such a penalty has been applied in 18 years.
The Safety Car was called to clean up the mess while Maldonado and Kobayashi pitted for repairs, and when the racing resumed on the fifth lap, it was on for young and old once again.
Not surprisingly, Maldonado was in the melee once again, this time clattering into Timo Glock to finish the Vanazuelan’s day early.
For the drivers that had survived the first-corner pile-up, it was an opportunity to grab some points with several of the major challengers out of the way. Button found himself in the lead ahead of Kimi Räikkönen and the Force Indias of Nico Hülkenberg and Paul di Resta, who had both picked their way through the La Source debris without trouble. Following them was Michael Schumacher and the two Toro Rosso entries of Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Éric Vergne.
While the Force India and Toro Rosso runners had gained considerable ground off the line, the two Red Bull Racing entries had been held up in the melee: Mark Webber lay eighth at the end of the opening lap, while Sebastian Vettel had lost one spot after his poor qualifying showing and was twelfth.
Once the racing got underway, Button needed no second invitation to skip off into a lead that would never be threatened, claiming his first win at Spa-Francorchamps and his first win since the season-opening Australian Grand Prix. It was a crushing display, but a result richly deserved after a mid-season slump brought about by poor set-up choices.
While Button cruised to his win on a one-stop strategy, Räikkönen and Hülkenberg opted to pit twice, although Räikkönen’s first stint showed little pace, and he was overtaken by Hülkenberg and Schumacher before his first pit stop.
Schumacher ran second with Räikkönen and Hülkenberg out of the way, trying to make a one-stop strategy work in his Mercedes. For a while, he was looking good for a podium finish on his 300th Grand Prix weekend.
But his Mercedes’ tendency to chew its rear tyres reared its head once again, and he came under pressure from the chasing pack, including the hard-charging Vettel, along with Räikkönen and Hülkenberg, who were benefitting from their fresher tyres.
Schumacher and Räikkönen resumed their championship battles from the mid-2000s with a spectacular battle that saw them pass and re-pass one another, before Schumi eventually had to concede defeat and pit a second time. He would finish the race in seventh.
Despite a dreadful (by his standards) qualifying performance, Vettel also put in a storming drive to climb through the field and finish second. His race featured several neat passing moves, proving undoubtedly that the German can actually race wheel-to-wheel.
Räikkönen ultimately didn’t have the pace to claim a fifth win at Spa-Francorchamps, but his drive still yielded him another podium to consolidate his position in the championship standings. The Finn was chased home by Hülkenberg, Felipe Massa and Mark Webber, while Vergne and Ricciardo finished eighth and ninth to give the Toro Rosso team its first points since the Malaysian Grand Prix. Di Resta claimed the final point with tenth place.
2012 Belgian Formula 1 Grand Prix – Final Classification (44 laps):
|1.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-27||44||1:29:08.530|
|2.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing Renault RB8||44||+ 13.624|
|3.||Kimi Räikkönen||Lotus F1 Renault E20||44||+ 25.334|
|4.||Nico Hülkenberg||Force India Mercedes VJM05||44||+ 27.843|
|5.||Felipe Massa||Scuderia Ferrari F2012||44||+ 29.845|
|6.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing Renault RB8||44||+ 31.244|
|7.||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes AMG F1 W03||44||+ 53.374|
|8.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7||44||+ 58.865|
|9.||Daniel Ricciardo||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7||44||+ 1:02.982|
|10.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes VJM05||44||+ 1:03.783|
|11.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG F1 W03||44||+ 1:05.111|
|12.||Bruno Senna||Williams Renault FW34||44||+ 1:11.529|
|13.||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber Ferrari C31||44||+ 1:56.119|
|14.||Vitaly Petrov||Caterham Renault CT01||43||1 lap behind|
|15.||Timo Glock||Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01||43||1 lap behind|
|16.||Charles Pic||Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01||43||1 lap behind|
|17.||Heikki Kovalainen||Caterham Renault CT01||43||1 lap behind|
|18.||Pedro de la Rosa||HRTF1 Cosworth F112||43||1 lap behind|
|DNF.||Narain Karthikeyan||HRTF1 Cosworth F112||29||Accident|
|DNF.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Renault FW34||4||Collision|
|DNF.||Sergio Pérez||Sauber Ferrari C31||0||Collision|
|DNF.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari F2012||0||Collision|
|DNF.||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren Mercedes MP4-27||0||Collision|
|DNF.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Renault E20||0||Collision|
|Bruno Senna||Williams Renault FW34||1:52.882|