Button storms to Spa win after first-lap shunt

2012 Belgian Grand Prix review

Jenson Button, McLaren, Spa-Francorchamps, 2012Jenson Button romped to his second win of the year after a first-lap collision wiped out several of the top contenders.

Following a lengthy safety car delay Button drove off into a lead he never lost. Like him, Sebastian Vettel used a one-stop strategy which enabled him to salvage second place from tenth on the grid.

Kimi Raikkonen completed the podium after swapping places with Michael Schumacher more than once during the race.

Shunt at La Source

It was the first F1 race start for five weeks and some of the participants looked more than a little rusty.

Pastor Maldonado let his clutch slip a fraction too soon and found himself diving down two columns of stationary traffic before the lights had gone out.

But that paled in comparison to what came next. Romain Grosjean made a better start than Lewis Hamilton alongside him and cut sharply across the track, squeezing the McLaren driver up against the white line.

Contact was inevitable, and as Hamilton lost control of his car the McLaren pushed the Lotus into the cars ahead which were slowing for the first corner.

The Lotus scythed across the front of Fernando Alonso’s car, passing terrifyingly close to his helmet. Hamilton’s car reared into the side of Sergio Perez’s, and the other Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi was knocked into Maldonado. Only the latter two emerged from the crash, Kobayashi with a substantial hole in the side of his car.

The sense of relief was palpable when Alonso emerged from his wrecked car uninjured. It was a very worrying crash which will surely provoke further debate about driving standards and cockpit safety.

Vettel fights his way forward

Raikkonen emerged from the chaos in second place. The Force India pair appeared behind him, Nico Hulkenberg ahead of Paul di Resta, followed by Michael Schumacher’s Mercedes – which had started 13th.

The Lotus driver’s hold on second place didn’t last long. Hulkenberg, who had started on hard tyres, prised it off him at the restart. The other Force India was moving in the opposite direction, di Resta falling prey to Schumacher.

The Red Bull pair ran ninth and 12th at the restart. Vettel had a run at Felipe Massa as they came out of Raidillon but had to duck out of the move as they both went past Heikki Kovalainen’s Caterham.

Mark Webber’s attempts to pass Bruno Senna were being thwarted by the Red Bull’s poor straight line speed. Vettel was having the same problem, and as in Hungary urged his team to consider bringing him into the pits to move him into clear air.

But Vettel’s pessimism about his chances of making progress proved unfounded. The DRS zone may have proved unhelpful for the Red Bulls but the speed he was able to carry through Blanchimont allowed him to attack drivers in the braking zone for the chicane.

Vettel passed Webber there, having already taken Massa. As the cars in front began to pit Vettel soon found himself in a battle with Schumacher for second.

Schumacher had already taken Raikkonen on the run towards Les Combes, then moved up to second when Hulkenberg pitted. Vettel attacked him at the chicane and the pair locked tyres as they hurtled into the corner.

At this point Vettel’s quick-thinking served him well. He’d been advised to do the opposite to Schumacher as they passed the pit lane. While Schumacher made for the pits, Vettel dodged left and stayed out. Vettel only extended his run by a few more laps, but it was enough to come out in front of the Mercedes.

Raikkonen battles Schumacher

Button pitted on lap 21, the lap before Vettel came in, but was sufficiently far ahead of the Red Bull driver to keep the lead when he did so. This was to be Button’s sole pit stop of the race, and although Vettel turned in some quick laps in the second half of the race the McLaren never really looked threatened.

While the lead pair committed to stopping just once, most of the rest made two visits. Raikkonen’s second dropped him back behind Schumacher.

The pair swapped places as Raikkonen prised third off the Mercedes at the chicane. But that allowed Schumacher to respond in the DRS zone, and he duly reclaimed the place on the run to Les Combes.

A few laps later Raikkonen caught Schumacher on the run towards Eau Rouge, diving past in much the same manner as Webber’s celebrated pass on Alonso last year.

Hulkenberg was next to put a move on Schumacher, impressively going around the outside of the Mercedes at La Source – only to be re-passed in the DRS zone again. The Force India got ahead at the chicane again, only for Schumacher to give up the unequal struggle and make for the pits.

That set the top four places, and Massa’s move on Webber secured a consolation fifth place for Ferrari. Schumacher came back out of the pits in seventh.

The Toro Rosso pair made progress in the final laps. Jean-Eric Vergne muscled his way past Nico Rosberg at Les Combes and Daniel Ricciardo took advantage, following his team mate past.

They also passed Senna, and Di Resta claimed the final points position off the Williams as well despite having lost his KERS. Senna ended up 12th behind Rosberg.

Kobayashi limped home 13th with a badly damaged Sauber. Vitaly Petrov took 14th for Caterham after team mate Heikki Kovalainen had two spins during the race. He also collided with Narain KArthikeyan in the pits after making a slow getaway from his box.

Timo Glock prevailed in the all-Marussia battle for 15th place after swapping places with Charles Pic. Pedro de la Rosa was the only HRT that made it home after Karthikeyan crashed at Stavelot.

Vettel takes up the championship chase

Despite his second win of the season Button remains 63 points behind Alonso in the championship. Vettel has taken up the role of Alonso’s closest pursuer, moving within 24 points of the Ferrari.

But Alonso can take heart from the fact that it wasn’t one of his closest pursuers who won. And team mate Massa – who Alonso has had little difficulty beating this year – finished within half a minute of the McLaren.

2012 Belgian Grand Prix

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64 comments on Button storms to Spa win after first-lap shunt

  1. ShaneB457 (@shaneb12345678910) said on 2nd September 2012, 16:27

    The chaos at turn one was extremely scary. Alonso could quite easily have been killed if he was like a tiny bit more to the right. Unlucky to have been taken out, but very lucky to have escaped without injury or possibly even worse..

    • Tifoso1989 (@tifoso1989) said on 2nd September 2012, 16:38

      I don’t think that he escaped without injury he said that he had a back pain but it could be worse i don’t know if this accident will influence his driving or not but i don’t think that he would be prepared at 100% for Monza

    • F1 Lunatic (@f1lunatic) said on 2nd September 2012, 16:48

      Grosjean has staked his claim to be the ‘Official Baby-faced Maldonado’ of F1.

      If monaco was his pole, Spa is his victory!

    • Dom (@3dom) said on 2nd September 2012, 16:58

      No idea why grosean carried on driving into Lewis. His greater momentum meant he was likely to gain a place anyway. I’ve been impressed with his speed this season but surely by now he should realise that to do well in a race you have to avoid throwing it all away at the start

      • f12007v (@f1fan-2000) said on 3rd September 2012, 8:56

        It was clear that at the start, once he moved ahead of Hamilton, he continued to move to the side of track on the opposite side of his grid slot and forcing Hamilton close to the kerbs, which resulted in Hamilton loosing control of his car and slamming into Grosjean. And I think Grojean’s speed is only fast at the start, near to the middle and the end of the race, he will be slowing down.

  2. What a win for Button, he easily shunned of Raikkonen’s threat early in the race and he did well to make his one stop work, when it didn’t for others.

    Hamilton’s car reared into the side of Sergio Perez’s, and the other Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi was knocked into Maldonado. Only the latter two emerged from the crash, Kobayashi with a substantial hole in the side of his car.

    You’ve mixed up the Sauber drivers. Perez was knocked in Maldonado, and it was Kobayashi who Hamilton went over the side of.

  3. de Hooch said on 2nd September 2012, 16:33

    Hulkenberg’s move on Schm is “impressive” but Raikkonen’s braver spectacular move on MSC into Eau Rouge gets no such description from Keith…….

    • Not to taking anything out from those moves but according to Star Sports commentator Schumacher lost the 6th gear before Kimi passed him there, you can see Michael loosing out the speed on the straight when Kimi overtook him. So i think if Schumacher didn’t have the problem Kimi wouldn’t able to overtake him on there since Mercedes had better straight line speed than the Lotus.

      • Jay Menon (@jaymenon10) said on 3rd September 2012, 2:05

        You actually believe Steve Slater?..haha..I wasnt listening to the commentary too intently, but I saw the pass. If I remember correctly, Michael didnt have good traction coming out of La Source, which is critical to get a good run up the hill through Eau Rouge and on to the Kemmel Straight…this is what gave Kimi the advantage..at least it looked like that to me.

        • de Hooch said on 3rd September 2012, 10:34

          actually this was before MSC had the gear problem, and nobody told Kimi even when MSC’s problems came.
          To risk driving offline into O Rouge alongside a faster car which was out of the DRS zone but still faster is pretty brave. Many people even the experts find it hard to be objective when it comes to KR.

        • Kenny (@kenny) said on 3rd September 2012, 13:20

          About 20 minutes into each race, when Slater’s hysterical rantings begin to sound like fingernails on a chalkboard, we turn the sound off. Only way we can get
          through it, no matter how good the race is.

        • I don’t remember Steve Slater saying that, i meant the commentator after the race, maybe he was wrong.

  4. Sviatoslav Andrushko (@) said on 2nd September 2012, 16:34

    I believe that Grosjean should be disqualified for at least a race. That was not ordinary mistake at the start of this race. If Grosjean fly 1 meter closer to left he would have killed Alonso. I remember 2009, when young driver was killed with a wheel. That was horrible. I’m curious if Grosjean is going to apologise?

  5. sumedh said on 2nd September 2012, 16:38

    Interesting to hear about Vettel’s radio here. I didn’t hear any of the two during the race (Vettel asking the team to consider a different strategy, Vettel being told to do opposite of Michael

  6. Eggry (@eggry) said on 2nd September 2012, 16:39

    Brilliant drive from Button. Also Hulk was very impressive. He took benefits from turn one accident but I never expected him to manage the place.

    Overall, race was good except tons of dark horses wiped out in turn one. Without the crash, I believe it would have been even better.

    Now I have to pray this kind of dominant never happen again.

  7. Pastor Maldonado let his clutch slip a fraction too soon and found himself diving down two columns of stationary traffic before the lights had gone out.

    The slow-motion replays made it seem clear (to me, anyway, and to the Speed commentators) that he didn’t move until after the lights were out. Is there some other evidence available that I’ve missed…?

    • Well, never mind, he’s just gotten a grid penalty for it — so obviously I did miss something important!

      • f12007v (@f1fan-2000) said on 3rd September 2012, 9:02

        Yes, he did jump. It is cleared that he had made a jump start before the red lights were off, and furthermore, he started much earlier than other drivers. And I bet this jump start is worst than the jump start Alonso had at the 2010 Chinese Grand Prix.

    • He jumped. Reports are that Pastor Maldonado gets five place grid penalty at Monza for jump start; plus five place penalty for colliding with Petrov.

    • pSynrg (@psynrg) said on 2nd September 2012, 16:49

      The slo-mo’s made it clear to me that MAL jumped way way ahead of the lights.

    • Not even close, very ‘big’ jump start, very clear.

      • He clearly moved before everyone else did — but in the replay they showed on Speed, it really looked as though the lights had just gone out when he did. Maybe it was a mass hallucination…

        • As far as I know they are not allowed to lift the clutch before the light goes out. This means that it was entirely possible for it to look as if the car was not moving before the lights went out as it takes a slight moment for the car to move after the clutch is lifted.

          • Ah, thanks — that makes sense. After all, the stewards would have data from the timing transponder, which surely detects movement many TV cameras wouldn’t pick up. And actually, now that I’ve seen the start from some different angles, I see that he moved forward just a fraction of a second before the lights went out.

  8. Jake (@jleigh) said on 2nd September 2012, 16:44

    Romain Grosjean handed a one race ban!

  9. andrewf1 (@andrewf1) said on 2nd September 2012, 16:46

    Romain Grosjean handed a one- race ban following first corner crash, Lotus confirm
    4:41 PM – 2 Sep 12

  10. Alfisti37 (@alfisti37) said on 2nd September 2012, 16:52

    Hamilton’s car reared into the side of Sergio Perez’s, and the other Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi was knocked into Maldonado.

    @keithcollantine Wasn’t it Kobayashi’s Sauber that was knocked by Hamilton, and Perez’s Sauber that was knocked into Maldonado?

    This should give a good look: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2sCaRAty9iY

  11. Amazingly good drive all weekend by Button, Well done.

  12. How can the FIA not revoke Grosjean and Maldonado’s super licences after this??? Grosjean came very close to murdering someone today….those 2 clowns simply arent fit for the sport….they’re even worse than Ide in the sense that they’re GP2 champions!!!! Thank God alonso or any of the others werent injured!!!!!

  13. Brilliant weekend by Button. Vettel, though, how did he end up 2nd? That had to be maybe his best drive of the year. Also, it’s kind of sad how Lotus fizzled out. Last time we saw them, they were clearly the fastest car. Today Kimi got crushed by Button and was grappling with Force India much of the way.

    • Adam Tate (@adam-tate) said on 4th September 2012, 7:26

      SPEED’s crew mentioned that McLaren has switched some part of their approach to their car back to the way they began the season. Given that Button dominated in Spa just the way he did in Australia at the season opener, I can’t help but wonder where Button would be in the Championship if they had stuck with that original approach. He was virtually out of reach all race long. If McLaren keep this up, the race for both Championships is going to heat up dramatically over the remaining eight races!

  14. While Grosjean certainly takes blame for starting the collision, I believe that a big share of responsibility for the amount of carnage that followed goes to the race officials. Already before the race there were concerns about dangers inherent in putting so many cars into a turn at Spa. And now they started the race when Kobayashi’s car in the front row, obiously in trouble, effectively blocked a third of the track. His onboard from the start clearly shows how faster other cars were, weaving their way past his Sauber. The resulting congestion just asked for trouble.
    Even the commentator on our TV expected the start to be aborted, and he is usually not very perceptive when it comes to F1.

    • Grosjean was not reacting to anything caused by kobayashi. Kobayashi getting off slow or the sharp corner were not to blame for the incident. Grosjean simply did not have his brain engaged.

    • Rosberg had similar problems with smoking brakes last year, and he actually got off the line quite well, taking the lead, and caused no carnage as a result. Kobayashi was slow off the startline initially, but as is the nature of the track, he did not lose too much time because of the very short run up to Turn 1. Grosjean had a lot of space in front of him(vacated by the jumpstarting Williams of Maldonando), and yet he scythed leftwards.

  15. Not to taking anything out from those moves but according to Star Sports commentator Schumacher lost the 6th gear bfore Kimi passed him there, you can see Michael loosing out the speed on the straight when Kimi overtook him. So i think if Schumacher didn’t have the problem Kimi wouldn’t able to overtake him on there since Mercedes had better straight line speed than the Lotus.

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