Raikkonen reigns as Britons crash out
Button relieved to see championship lead cut by just two points after first-lap pile-up
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Monday 31 August 2009
Fairy tales are a rare commodity in Formula One these days but only the efforts of Kimi Raikkonen and Ferrari prevented one in the Belgian Grand Prix here yesterday. The former world champion became the sixth different winner in six races as he put the famed Scuderia back on top of the podium but Giancarlo Fisichella, who started on pole, kept him honest throughout after Raikkonen overtook his underdog Force India on the fifth lap.
While more fancied runners fell by the wayside in their wake, the Italian veteran firmly staked his claim to the second Ferrari seat, in place of the lacklustre Luca Badoer, in the Italian Grand Prix in a fortnight's time by pushing Raikkonen hard and finishing less than a second behind.
Fisichella took the lead at the start while Nick Heidfeld pushed through briefly to snatch second place from Jarno Trulli's Toyota. But Heidfeld ran wide, triggering mayhem in which Adrian Sutil was pushed sideways in the second Force India, and Lewis Hamilton was squeezed between the Toro Rosso of Sébastien Buemi and the Williams of Kazuki Nakajima. As Heidfeld was overtaken down the inside by BMW Sauber team-mate Robert Kubica, Raikkonen ran right round the outside of everyone to snatch third place, and then used his KERS energy-storage system to boost his way past Kubica as they went up the hill after the infamous Eau Rouge corner.
Further back, Jenson Button, for the first time this year, and Hamilton both suffered an early exit. At Les Combes at the end of the straight after Eau Rouge, Button's Brawn was hit from behind and spun out by rookie Romain Grosjean in a Renault. The ensuing melee also proved the undoing of Lewis Hamilton, who got caught up in its immediate aftermath and tagged the other rookie, Jaime Alguersuari, who was avoiding Button and Grosjean in his Toro Rosso. All four were instant retirements, and the stewards later investigated the incidents.
"I had a really good start and had made up a few places in the first few corners to be ahead of Lewis and Rubens [Barrichello]," Button said. "I had a good run going down the straight to Turn Five just after Eau Rouge. I was on the outside of Heikki [Kovalainen] and turned in for the corner but quite simply Romain outbraked himself and hit my back wheel. That was it for my race today. It's frustrating as I was in a reasonable position having made up some places and with a lot of fuel on board, but it's better to have my first retirement here where I haven't been so competitive than when I'm running at the front. We're determined to get back on the track at the next race and be more competitive there at a track which should be quite good for our car."
"I made a very good start and was keeping a good pace," Grosjean countered, "then Button took me out."
"It was one of those races," Hamilton said. "It was a pretty bad start from the get-go but I tried to recover from it. I got sandwiched pretty much at the first corner and lost a bit of my front wing. Then Jenson spun at Turn Five and everyone looked like they were piling into him, so I backed off a little bit, and then I got hit from people behind me. I tried to avoid it all but it was just one of those things."
After a safety car intervention as the debris was cleared up, Raikkonen lost no time using his KERS to push right into Fisichella's slipstream, ready to slingshot by on the run up Raidillon to Les Combes on the fifth lap.
"This is a great result for us, a great day," Fisichella said after pushing Raikkonen hard throughout the remaining 39 laps and finishing only 0.9sec away from making the fairy story come true. "I was quicker than Kimi but he passed me because of the KERS, and I'm a little bit sad for that."
"I knew that I had to get past him because we were on the same strategy," Raikkonen said. "After the safety car I had the speed to get close enough in the first corner and went behind him as close as I could through Eau Rouge, then once I used the KERS I just got in front of him. After that it was just a matter of making sure I didn't make any mistakes."
Behind them, Sebastian Vettel started slowly but worked his way past the BMW Saubers to take third place for Red Bull by the 35th lap, closing on the leaders all the time. He was only 2.9sec behind Fisichella at the end.
"We took six points out of Jenson, the championship leader," said Vettel. "I don't know what happened to him. It would have been nice to finish first today but after the result yesterday it is the best we could do. We took points out of the Brawns and for me I scored more points than Jenson and Rubens. It's good to finish again and see the car is strong enough to finish races."
Button remains on 72 points, ahead of Barrichello on 56, Vettel on 53 and Mark Webber on 51.5. There are five races left – with 50 points available.
Piquet accused of crashing to help team-mate
The FIA is to investigate claims made by the Brazilian station TV Globo that Nelson Piquet Jr was ordered to crash by the Renault team during the inaugural Singapore GP last season.
Piquet's team-mate Fernando Alonso had pitted very early for fuel, on the 12th lap and had fallen down the order when Piquet crashed heavily into a wall in Turn 17 on the 13th lap, partially blocking the track and littering it with debris.
Deployment of the safety car favoured Alonso as other drivers were either delayed or, in the case of Williams driver Nico Rosberg, penalised. Alonso moved up to the front on lap 34 and stayed there until the finish, to score the team's first victory of the season.
There were cynical rumours immediately after the race, which Renault sources dismissed. Alonso said at the time: "We were unlucky yesterday and lucky today. The first safety car helped me a lot, and I was able to win.
''We had to have an aggressive, short first stint, because it is so hard to start 15th here. The start was good but not good enough, and we were very lucky."
Piquet was fired by Renault last month, since when the claims have gathered strength. TV Globo said yesterday during its broadcast that it had received information that there was evidence available to back up the allegations.
Last night a spokesman for world motor sports' governing body said: "The FIA can confirm that an investigation is under way regarding alleged incidents at a previous Formula One World Championship event."
Spa-Francorchamps: Race details
FIA Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium
Leading positions after race (44 laps): 1 K Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari ......... 1hr 23min 50.995sec
2 G Fisichella (It) Force India-Mercedes ......... 1:23:51.934
3 S Vettel (Ger) Red Bull-Renault ......... 1:23:54.870
4 R Kubica (Pol) BMW Sauber ......... 1:24:00.961
5 N Heidfeld (Ger) BMW Sauber ......... 1:24:02.271
6 H Kovalainen (Fin) McLaren-Mercedes ......... 1:24:23.758
7 R Barrichello (Bra) Brawn-Mercedes ......... 1:24:26.456
8 N Rosberg (Ger) Williams-Toyota ......... 1:24:27.203
9 M Webber (Aus) Red Bull-Renault 1:24:27.954; 10 T Glock (Ger) Toyota 1:24:32.485; 11 A Sutil (Ger) Force India-Mercedes 1:24:33.631; 12 S Buemi (Swit) Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:24:37.101; 13 K Nakajima (Japan) Williams-Toyota 1:24:45.236; 14 L Badoer (It) Ferrari 1:25:33.172. Not classified: 15 F Alonso (Sp) Renault 26 laps completed; 16 J Trulli (It) Toyota 21 laps; 17 J Button (GB) Brawn-Mercedes 0 laps; 18 R Grosjean (Fr) Renault 0 laps; 19 L Hamilton (GB) McLaren-Mercedes 0 laps; 20 J Alguersuari (Sp) Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari 0 laps.
Drivers' standings: 1 J Button (Brawn-Mercedes) 72pt; 2 R Barrichello (Brawn-Mercedes) 56; 3 S Vettel (Red Bull-Renault) 53; 4 M Webber (Red Bull-Renault) 51.5; 5 K Raikkonen (Ferrari) 34; 6 N Rosberg (Williams-Toyota) 30.5; 7 L Hamilton (McLaren-Mercedes) 27; 8 J Trulli (Toyota) 22.5; 9 F Massa (Ferrari) 22; 10 H Kovalainen (McLaren-Mercedes) 17; 11 T Glock (Toyota) 16; 12 F Alonso (Renault) 16; 13 N Heidfeld (BMW Sauber) 10; 14 G Fisichella (Force India-Mercedes) 8; 15 R Kubica (BMW Sauber) 8; 16 S Buemi (Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari) 3; 17 S Bourdais (Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari) 2; 18 A Sutil (Force India-Mercedes) 0; 19 K Nakajima (Williams-Toyota) 0; 20 N Piquet Jr (Renault) 0; 21 L Badoer (Ferrari) 0; 22 J Alguersuari (Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari) 0; 23 R Grosjean (Renault) 0.
Manufacturers' standings: 1 Brawn-Mercedes GP 128pt; 2 Red Bull-Renault 104.5; 3 Ferrari 56; 4 McLaren-Mercedes 44; 5 Toyota 38.5; 6 Williams-Toyota 30.5; 7 BMW Sauber 18; 8 Renault 16; 9 Force India-Mercedes 8; 10 Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari 5.
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