Hamilton dominates Spa in thrilling race

Lewis Hamilton won today’s Belgian Grand Prix, despite two safety cars, changeable weather conditions, and controversial crashes. Mark Webber was second, after losing his lead at the start, while Robert Kubica drove well to take 3rd place. Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel caused a crash between him and Jenson Button. Here is what happened:

Lewis Hamilton leads at the start

Lewis Hamilton leads at the start

On the formation lap, the teams got their first taste of the unpredictability to come, as light rain began to fall. Reports soon emerged that a further shower would commence 8 minutes into the race. Nevertheless, when the cars lined up, none made a last-gasp dash for intermediate tyres. Oddly enough, Felipe Massa completely overshot his box at the start, possibly gaining an advantage from it, but there has been no mention of it from the stewards.

At the start, pole sitter Webber fell prey to the anti-stall system, as his car bogged down, and a stream of cars passed him by Turn 1. This allowed Lewis Hamilton to take the lead, followed closely by Robert Kubica and Jenson Button. But, in true Spa fashion, the track wasn’t going to let the drivers away that easily.

Onboard with Barrichello as he takes out Alonso

Onboard with Barrichello as he takes out Alonso

By the end of Lap 1, rain was falling hard at Stavelot and the Bus Stop chicane, and chaos ensued. More than half the grid overshot the chicane, while Rubens Barrichello lost his braking grip and slammed into Fernando Alonso, ruining his 300th race entry. While Rubens was out on the spot, Fernando amazingly managed to continue, though he opted to change to the intermediate tyres, seeing as he was so far down the field.

The safety car was deployed, but not quickly enough to stop the events occurring all around the track. Robert Kubica ran wide at Eau Rouge, allowing Button through. Sebastian Vettel also had a look, but was forced to run onto the grass to avoid the Renault.

The other Renault driver, Vitaly Petrov, made a stunning outside pass on Nico Rosberg after the main straight. He shoved Nico to the run-off area on the next corner, which allowed Michael Schumacher to get alongside his team-mate. They came too close, and Schumacher clipped Rosberg’s front wing. Despite this, both cars were able to continue with little difficulty.

Once the safety car peeled into the pits, Hamilton held his lead well, while Button in 2nd was beginning to struggle. He had sustained minor front wing damage, and was facing an upcoming battle to hold back Vettel, who had got past Kubica. For a few laps, he did so impressively, until Sebastian became impetuous and made a move.

The rain had begun to fall again around Lap 15, and while conditions weren’t optimal for inters, it was enough to cause a scare for the drivers. At the braking zone of the Bus Stop chicane, Vettel dived to the outside of Button, but lost control while doing so. He fought to stay in the right direction, but smashed into Button in the process. A bang and a torrent of smoke signalled Jenson’s imminent demise, while Vettel was able to continue after replacing his front wing.

Vettel loses control and smashes into Button

Vettel loses control and smashes into Button

While another shower fell near the round of pit stops, it didn’t faze the team tacticians. The only driver affected by this was Fernando Alonso. His previous gamble on intermidiates failed to pay off, and he was forced to stop again for slick tyres, crashing him to the back of the grid. With his tyres sorted, his next job was to sort his way through the cars ahead. Vitantonio Liuzzi was his first victim, which promoted Alonso to 13th.

Adrian Sutil triggered the first set of stops by pitting first, and he was closely followed by Webber, Massa and Kubica on the next lap. Most of the field pitted later, and Lewis Hamilton was the last of those, pitting on Lap 24. The Mercedes drivers of Rosberg and Scumacher were the only notable drivers to stay out until later.

Sebastian Vettel, down in 12th place, was now attempting to get back into the points. First of all though, his previous incident with Button was going to haunt him. The stewards handed him a drive-through penalty for causing an avoidable collision, and he dropped well down the field. On a recovery mission, he dived down the inside of Vitantonio Liuzzi on lap 27, but chopped off the Force India’s front wing, and gave the Red Bull a puncture, leaving Vettel crawling back to the pits.

Once the grid finally calmed down on Lap 30, Rosberg and Schumacher were shown as being 6th and 7th, having not stopped yet. Kamui Kobayashi was up to 8th, and being challened by a recovering Fernando Alonso. Many laps were spent with the Ferrari trying passes, but Kobayashi held firm.

On Lap 34, helicopter shots revealed McLaren’s worst scenario situation: More rain was on the way, and it was much heavier this time. The Red Bull team informed their drivers that this rain was to last for over 20 minutes, meaning intermediates were going to be necessary.

Sure enough, the rain swiftly arrived, and conditions became treacherous. While some drivers like Timo Glock took on the extreme wet tyres, and other like Buemi and Yamamoto trying intermediates, Hamilton was instructed that he should only switch tyres when it became absolutely necessary. However, this plan so nearly backfired when Lewis ran wide at Rivage, brushing the tyre barriers in the process. His lead was so substansial though, that he was able to rejoin still ahead of Kubica and Webber.

Or should that be Webber and Kubica? The top 3, as well as most of the field, pitted on Lap 36 for new tyres. Robert was caught out by the slippery pit box and overshot his mechanics. This delayed his pit stop, and Mark Webber was granted 2nd place. Meanwhile, the other Red Bull was taking a gamble on the extreme wet tyres, seeing as he was so far down the pack.

Fernando Alonso, now up to 8th, pushed a little too hard in the conditions. He ran wide onto the astroturf, which was clogged with water, spun and crashed into the barriers just after Les Combes. His Ferrari was beached in the middle of the track, and the safety car was deployed again so the marshals could remove the stricken car.

Alonso is beached on track, leading to the safety car

Alonso is beached on track, leading to the safety car

This deployment was bad news for the cars on extreme wets, as their opportunity to pass some of the struggling drivers on intermediates had now passed. Standing water had not appeared, but the track was wet enough to catch out Nico Hulkenberg twice. While Vettel was unconvinced of his switch to extreme wets, his team were telling him that cars on inters were “crashing left, right and centre.”

The safety car pitted with 3 laps to go, and the chaos flared again. Nico Rosberg made a textbook restart, shoving his way past both Kobayashi and team-mate Schumacher within a few corners. The final few cars, Liuzzi in particular, were battling with a vast array of cars for position. He tried a move on Alguersuari for 11th, but despite superior speed and grip, Jaime held the Force India back. Further back, Pedro de la Rosa spun, leaving Sebastien Buemi free to take 12th place.

A few more laps would have been fantastic, but 44 was enough for Lewis Hamilton, who crossed the line a few seconds ahead of Mark Webber, to take his first victory in Spa. Robert Kubica drove very well today, and he deserved 2nd, although his mistake at his second stop cost him dearly. Felipe Massa was very quiet in his ascent to 4th, Adrian Sutil took a well-deserved 5th, ahead of the Mercedes duo of Rosberg and Schumacher.

Webber, Hamilton and Kubica celebrate on the podium

Webber, Hamilton and Kubica celebrate on the podium

Kamui Kobayashi was excellent to watch in 8th, while Vitaly Petrov took another points-scoring position in 9th. Jaime Alguersuari would have taken 10th, but a 20-second penalty for cutting the chicane and gaining an advantage (retaining his lead over Liuzzi) cost him. This left Liuzzi free to take today’s final point.

This amazing race has left Lewis Hamilton in the lead of the drivers’ championship, by 3 points to Mark Webber. Red Bull retain the lead in the constructors’ championship, but only by a solitary point. The full standings are updated and available as usual.

It was certainly an excellent race, and one of my favourites so far this year. Lewis Hamilton showed great maturity in his drive today, and seems to be becoming the main McLaren driver to challenge for the title.

P.S: Apologies for the late post, I completely missed the race, and had quite an adventure downloading it…

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One response to “Hamilton dominates Spa in thrilling race

  1. pickle92 September 3, 2010 at 17:28

    2010 gives us another great race.
    Yet another wheel comes lose! (Barrichello).
    I was on the edge of my seat willing Lewis to victory.
    My post is also finally up.

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