Kimi Raikkonen edges Giancarlo Fisichella for win (Belgian Grand Prix review)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Kimi Raikkonen had Giancarlo Fisichella in his mirrors for most of the race
Kimi Raikkonen had Giancarlo Fisichella in his mirrors for most of the race

Kimi Raikkonen ended a 26-race losing streak by winning the Belgian Grand Prix for the fourth time in his career.

Surprisingly Raikkonen’s closest contender wasn’t in a Brawn or a Red Bull or even a McLaren – he was chased around every lap of Spa by Giancarlo Fisichella.

The Italian, now tipped to join Raikkonen in Ferrari at Monza, finished second for Force India.

If Fisichella’s pole position on Saturday was a shock, his consistent race pace on Sunday was utterly incredible – and very timely.

Ferrari’s Luca Badoer brought up the rear of the field, finishing 47 seconds behind the next finisher. It inconceivable Ferrari could tolerate another race with this kind of performance, and Italian television channel RAI is already claiming Fisichella will be in the car at Monza.

First-lap shunt eliminates Button

As the race got started Fisichella preserved the lead and didn’t look like losing it. From sixth on the grid Raikkonen elected to use the tarmac run-off area on the outside of turn one to avoid getting held up by other cars. He re-joined the track in third, sprinted through Eau Rouge and picked off Robert Kubica at the top of the hill.

He arrived at Les Combes going quickly he couldn’t stop in time, and bumped along the kerbing around the outside of the track. Kubica took evasive action but couldn’t avoid tagging the back of the Ferrari, breaking his front wing end plate.

Jarno Trulli, who started second, also damaged his front wing, but the real carnage kicked off behind them.

Jenson Button made a clean start from 14th and took a look at the outside of Heikki Kovalainen heading into the corner. Suddenly Renault’s Romain Grosjean charged in, tipping Button into a spin.

As their cars headed for the barriers Lewis Hamilton – who had started slowly and picked up some damage at La Source – slowed down to avoid the wrecked cars and got hit by Jaime Alguersuari. All four cars were eliminated.

After the race the stewards consulted the video replays but elected not to punish anyone.

Read more: Belgian Grand Prix start crash (Video)

Raikkonen seizes the initiative

The crash also had repercussions for the leaders. Fisichella had enough of a lead over Raikkonen not to be troubled by the Ferrari’s KERS – but the arrival of the safety car wiped it away.

Sure enough, Fisichella was a sitting duck at the restart on lap four. Raikkonen, one of few drivers to have started on soft tyres, breezed past him on the straight.

Fisichella lost little ground to Raikkonen in the opening stint. Behind them came Kubica, battling on despite his front wing damage, Timo Glock, Mark Webber and Nick Heidfeld.

Sebastian Vettel appeared in seventh shortly after the safety car came in, after apparently being allowed past by Nico Rosberg. Vettel had complained Rosberg had passed him illegally under yellow flags. Had race control got involved again as they did at Valencia?

Barrichello battles through the field

Rubens Barrichello began his recovery from a disastrous start. Just like at Melbourne and Istanbul, the brawn had bogged down badly at the start and he was lucky to avoid being hit. As the race resumed he moved up to 13th by passing Luca Badoer.

The second Ferrari was, once again, a long way off the pace. Adrian Sutil, who’d been to the pits after the first lap, went clean off the track in order to get around Badoer on lap eight.

Robert Kubica and Timo Glock were the first of the leaders to pit on lap 12. Toyota brimmed Glock up with enough fuel for 20 of Spa’s long laps, keeping him in the pits five seconds longer than Kubica. After that Glock plummeted down the order and never looked like making it back into the points.

Jarno Trulli retired a few laps later – and so, having qualified second and seventh, Toyota contrived to get absolutely nothing out of the Belgian Grand Prix.

Raikkonen and Fisichella came in together on lap 14 – Raikkonen had started with more fuel, so either Ferrair had chosen to bring him in early (unlikely) or Fisichella had done a better job of saving fuel during the safety car period. The Force India driver switched onto the soft tyres, and continued his pursuit.

In hindsight, if Force India had given him a splash more fuel than Raikkonen at this point, Fisichella could have won the race. But it wasn’t to be.

Problems in the pits

Heidfeld and Webber came in on the same lap, and for the second race in a row Red Bull cut it very fine when releasing Webber from his pit box. This time Heidfeld had to get off the throttle to avoid contact, and the stewards wasted no time in handing down a drive-through penalty.

But Heidfeld took care of matters himself, passing Webber at Les Combes. The Red Bull driver then fell into the clutches of Barrichello, who bravely blasted around the outside of Webber and Blanchimont.

Webber served his drive-through penalty on lap 18, just as Rosberg was making his first pit stop and surrendering the lead he’d inherited.

Another team having trouble in the pits was Renault – again. They struggled to replace Fernando Alonso’s front-left wheel as the fairing had been damaged in contact on lap one. Not wishing to incur a repeat of their Hungary penalty, the team kept Alonso back while they made sure the wheel went on, and shortly summoned him back to the pits after letting him out. He was the sixth and last retirement of the day.

On lap 31 the two leaders came into the pits together for the final time – and once again left with Raikkonen ahead of Fisichella. Though he surely could have lapped quicker than the Ferrari had he been ahead, Raikkonen was able to use his KERS button at the start of the straights to ensure Fisichella couldn’t get close.

Vettel made his final stop on lap 35, leap-frogging Kubica for third – and then began closing on the leaders. But once it became clear he wasn’t going to catch them he prudently turned the revs down, as he’s already on his seventh unit out of eight.

Barrichello’s Brawn blows

That decided the podium, and the BMWs of Kubica and Heidfeld behind were settled in fourth and fifth. Kovalainen briefly came under threat from Barrichello, until the Brawn’s Mercedes engine began spewing oil. Barrichello backed off and managed to coax the car to the chequered flag, impressively without losing a place – although his engine cover caught fire after he got back to the pits.

Rosberg held onto eighth ahead of Webber, who finished a point-less ninth for the second race in a row. He has fallen back behind his team mate in the drivers’ championship and lies fourth.

Glock finished tenth ahead of Sutil, 42 seconds behind team mate Fisichella, after his early pit stop plus a spin at Fagnes.

The final classified runners were Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Badoer – the latter 47.9s behind the rest of the field, and surely not likely to reappear in a Ferrari in two weeks’ time.

Who will be Raikkonen’s team mate at Monza? Ferrari are expected to decide tomorrow.

Read more: Belgian Grand Prix race result

Driver of the day

I can’t pick anyone other than Giancarlo Fisichella for driver of the day. He thrived on the new-found pace of the Force India, reminding us all of those days when everyone thought of him as the great up-and-comer with so much untapped potential. A win only passed him by because of the safety car period at the start, after which he was never going to keep Raikkonen at bay.

Raikkonen and Rosberg must get honourable mentions, however. Both are in excellent veins of form – particularly Rosberg, who dragged his car into Q3 and rode his luck to grab a point. Here’s who you picked on Twitter:

lacanta – If you haven’t gathered from my twitters so far this afternoon, I’m nominating Fisichella as Driver of the Day! Yippee!
hashsport – Vettel
GittleBos – Giancarlo Fisichella. Of course. Time to eat a potato pizza in his honour (that’s his favourite)!
BaburM – kimmmmaayyyyy!
MarkF1 – Fisichella as it is the best race he as driven in years.
reeley – Giancarlo Fisichella the driver of the race for me.
therealtopper – probably fisichella
alboreto – Fisi of course.
fwon – I do think Fisichella was the driver of the race. Perhaps he should of won, but he competed with Kimi for the whole race
mum_zee – can only be one driver – Fisico
formula1fran – I think I have to say Fisi. Thrilled Kimi won, but Fisi worked harder I think. Never felt so sorry for 2nd place finisher!
Mikee87 – Driver of the race has got to be Bernd Mayl??nder. They should put him in the Ferrari instead of Badoer.
asynadak – Kimi!
randomflowers – I’m going to say Seb V, simply because he started 8th and finished 3rd! (and Kimi… and Fisichella!)
fissijo – fisichella… But then he is my driver of the race most races!
planetf1 – FISI
primaveron – Kimi Raikkonen and Fisichella!

Who was your driver of the day? Name them in the comments.

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Images (C) Ferrari spa, Brawn GP, Renault/LAT, Williams/LAT, Bridgestone, Getty Images/Red Bull, Force India F1 Team, Toyota F1 World, BMW ag