Jenson Button won the Belgium Grand Prix from Spa today in his trademark serene style, calmly leading the race wire to wire and managing to even enjoy the pristine sights of the Ardennes forest on his way to his first ever win at the legendary circuit. “It was very nice driving around enjoying the scenery,” Button said. “It is never as easy as it looks, though, and it is unusual to do a one-stop. We got to lap 12 and the balance was getting better. It was good but you never really know.”
But I have a feeling that the 2012 Belgian Grand Prix will always be remembered for one of the most spectacular crashes seen in Formula One in quite some time. Button was fortunate to be well out in front of the carnage after a wild wreck right after the start. Button simply cruised out to a comfortable lead oblivious to the first turn La Source chaos caused by the stupidity of Romain Grosjean.
This was one of those chain reaction events that had to be replayed a few times to be appreciated. Kamui Kobayashi seemed to be having brake temperature issues waiting in the front row for the lights to go off. His smoking brakes created a cloud that seemed to obscure some drivers’ view of the lights going out to signal the start of the race. But Pastor Maldonado got off to what at first had seemed a fantastic jump start. That turned out to be a mistake and an illegal start on his part, but when he jumped to the middle lane and zoomed right by 3 cars, Grosjean in his Lotus got the brilliant idea that he too should swerve insanely to the right. Only he swept right in to the line of Lewis Hamilton, who tried to swing wide away from the careening crazy French man in the Lotus-Renault. He could not escape however, and Hamilton was next rendered a helpless passenger in his McLaren-Mercedes, when it slammed into the Ferrari driven by Fernando Alonso just ahead.
Alonso could not have had any way to know what was about to happen next, which was one of the scariest things I’ve witnessed in F1 in some time. Grosjean’s Lotus was now catapulted forward and air-born and the black chassis whizzed above Alonso’s exposed helmet by what seemed like inches. Less than a yard from certain death.
I am now convinced that even though “RoGro” is clearly talented, his assets are far more than out weighed by his liabilities, which are mostly his terrible habits of smashing his car into other drivers at the start of these races. This year he has been involved in seven first turn collisions in only 12 races. His wildly stupid moves have to end, and I think he has to go for good. After the race Grosjean was banned from the next race at Monza Italy and was heavily fined as well.
Maldonado gave his view of what happened with his start, “I made a slight mistake at the start because the clutch slipped out of my hands before the red light switched off. We then got caught up in the first corner incident and that compromised our race.”
The crash took out two major players right at the start – points leader Alonso and Hamilton – so the final results jumbled the title chase up much tighter behind Alonso. Reigning champ Sebastian Vettel finished second after starting 10th and so benefited from both the crash itself and Fernando’s exit, which meant no points for the Ferrari driver. Vettel climbed into the second spot behind Alonso, picking up 18 points. Button picks up 25, leaving him 63 behind with 200 possible points remaining. A long climb for sure, but not impossible for Button. Vettel has to be thrilled that he is right back in the picture for defending his 2011 title, “It was a crazy race from where I started,” Vettel said. “The start was not so good and after the first corner when a lot of cars went off it was pretty crazy, fortunately we came back with a fantastic strategy.”
Button knows the long odds against him, but is also a big believer in unpredictability, “It’s a massive long shot to win the title but today proves you can claw back 25 points very quickly,” Button said. “A great day for me. It proves anything is possible.”
Sure seems like anything is really possible in this crazy year. Monza is next up on deck this weekend, so we won’t have very long to wait to see how Alonso recovers from this setback. Button now has his second victory of the year under his belt, so his confidence in his newly well balanced McLaren has to be at high tide. Kimi Raikkonen had a good but not great day with his quiet 3rd place finish, but the Lotus team has a big upgrade in the pipeline for their double-diffuser wing setup that is the talk of the paddock. The Iceman has been very close to a win all year. If the Lotus team unveils their secret weapon in Monza next week, could this be the race that Kimi owns? Nico Hulkenberg should also get some credit for an excellent 4th place showing today, but no one really expects that car to be a contender. Felipe Massa also showed some spine with his 5th place.
Lots of thrills and chills to come in the last 8 races of the 2012 F1 season.
Belgian Grand Prix Results – 2 September 2012 – 44 Laps
POS DRIVER NATIONALITY ENTRANT LAPS TIME/RETIRE
1. Jenson Button Britain McLaren-Mercedes 44 1h29m08.530
2. Sebastian Vettel Germany Red Bull-Renault 44 13.624
3. Kimi Raikkonen Finland Lotus-Renault 44 25.334
4. Nico Hulkenberg Germany Force India-Mercedes 44 27.843
5. Felipe Massa Brazil Ferrari 44 29.845
6. Mark Webber Australia Red Bull-Renault 44 31.244
7. Michael Schumacher Germany Mercedes GP 44 53.374
8. Jean-Eric Vergne France Toro Rosso-Ferrari 44 58.865
9. Daniel Ricciardo Australia Toro Rosso-Ferrari 44 1m02.982
10. Paul di Resta Britain Force India-Mercedes 44 1m03.783
11. Nico Rosberg Germany Mercedes GP 44 1m05.111
12. Bruno Senna Brazil Williams-Renault 44 1m11.529
13. Kamui Kobayashi Japan Sauber-Ferrari 44 1m56.119
14. Vitaly Petrov Russia Caterham-Renault 43 1 Lap
15. Timo Glock Germany Marussia-Cosworth 43 1 Lap
16. Charles Pic France Marussia-Cosworth 43 1 Lap
17. Heikki Kovalainen Finland Caterham-Renault 43 1 Lap
18. Pedro de la Rosa Spain HRT-Cosworth 43 1 Lap
R Narain Karthikeyan India HRT-Cosworth 29 Accident
R Pastor Maldonado Venezuela Williams-Renault 4 Damage
R Sergio Perez Mexico Sauber-Ferrari 0 Damage
R Fernando Alonso Spain Ferrari 0 Accident
R Lewis Hamilton Britain McLaren-Mercedes 0 Accident
R Romain Grosjean France Lotus-Renault 0 Accident
Bruno Senna Brazil Williams-Renault 43 1:52.822