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2011 Belgian Grand Prix report

A very good Grand Prix, and for the first dozen laps a great one. True, eventually the inherent superiority of the Red Bull RB7 asserted itself at Spa, so that Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber scored a comfortable enough 1-2, but in the first part of the race the action at the front was frantic – indeed four different drivers led before an accident on lap 13, which eliminated Lewis Hamilton and brought out the safety car. At the finish Hamilton’s McLaren team-mate Jenson Button was third, followed by the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso and the Mercedes of Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg.

f1 reports  2011 Belgian Grand Prix report

It’s been said before, but it can never be said enough times: take them to a proper circuit, and you get a proper race.

Qualifying at Spa is invariably unpredictable, sometimes chaotic. The weather sees to that, and it’s been that way since the running of the first Belgian Grand Prix here, back in 1925. Fickle doesn’t make a start on it. Torrential rain can materialise from nowhere, and it is not unusual for one part of the circuit – at 4.35 miles it’s the longest in Formula 1 use – to be bone dry while another is streaming.

Conditions on both Friday and Saturday were mixed, but very rarely was the track entirely dry, and after qualifying all the drivers lamented the lack of dry running, for the the forecast for race day suggested that the sun would shine.

For all the uncertain conditions it was the usual suspects who figured most strongly in qualifying. There were, however, some anomalies. Right at the beginning of Q1, for example, Schumacher’s Mercedes shed its right rear wheel on the climb to Les Combes.

f1 reports  2011 Belgian Grand Prix report

The Spa circuit is situated only 50 kilometres from Kerpen, Michael’s birth place, so he not surprisingly refers to it as ‘my garden’. In the days of his pomp he won here six times, and he had reckoned that the Mercedes, while not competitive with Red Bull, McLaren or Ferrari, might be better suited to Spa than some of the recent F1 venues. In that he was right – team-mate Rosberg qualified fifth – but it was hardly surprising that he was dismayed by the thought of starting dead last. This weekend, after all, marked the 20th anniversary of his Formula 1 debut.

If Schumacher didn’t figure, neither – more suprisingly – did Button. In Q1 Jenson was fastest of all, predictably much at ease in the sort of mixed conditions in which he excels. In Q2, too, he topped the lists for a while, but in the late minutes the track was drying fast, and the name of Button began sliding down the list. It didn’t look like a problem, for he was surely capable of responding, and thus he backed off, cooling the tyres, having been informed by McLaren that there was time for one more quick lap.

There wasn’t, though. By the time Jenson made it back to the start-finish line the allotted time had ticked away to zero, and he found himself out of Q1, back in 13th place. And frustrated, you might say.

And there were others, too, notably Alonso. An abiding problem for Ferrari this season has been getting heat into the Pirelli tyres – in a normal summer, with plenty of races in hot weather, this would have become a virtue, of course.

As it is, we have had a succession of races run in unusually cool conditions, and if that has hampered Ferrari it has very much aided McLaren, where there is no problem getting the tyres up to temperature – indeed on hot days it works against them.

Alonso was well in the mix through most of qualifying, and indeed set fastest time in Q2. In Q3, though, he was delayed by Perez on two of his laps, and on the last one slowed at the chicane to let Webber through, fearing that otherwise he might get a penalty. When Alonso is slower than team-mate Massa it raises eyebrows; when he is a second slower something somewhere doesn’t compute. Eighth was not where Fernando had expected to start.

Vettel-Hamilton-Webber is how the first three lined up, but this wasn’t a typical Vettel pole position. In Q1, he admitted, he didn’t feel comfortable with the car. “Then, in Q2 I discovered Spa again – and in Q3 everything was fine. On the last lap I pushed as hard as I could…”

Most of the time Webber looked the more likely of the Red Bull drivers to take pole, but in the end Mark – celebrating his 35th birthday, and also the signing of a new contract for 2012 – set third best time, beaten to the front row by Hamilton.

Lewis always excels at Spa. “I had pole for about five seconds,” he said, after setting his time at the very end of the session, “but then Sebastian came over the line…”

f1 reports  2011 Belgian Grand Prix report

En route to his fastest lap Hamilton was undoubtedly… muscular as he passed Pastor Maldonado’s tardy Williams at the final chicane, but really he had little option. After the chequered flag had fallen the two cars made contact as they went down the hill to Eau Rouge, and while neither driver appeared entirely blameless the Venezuelan was adjudged more culpable than Hamilton, and ‘fined’ five grid positions. Lewis got away with a reprimand.

Undoubtedly the most startling performance in qualifying came from Bruno Senna, seventh for Lotus Renault GP, three places ahead of team-mate Vitaly Petrov. Ayrton’s nephew has been drafted into the team for the rest of the season, replacing the disappointing Nick Heidfeld, who was frequently outpaced by Petrov. Given the testing ban, Senna has had almost no cockpit time this year, and his showing certainly raised an eyebrow or two.

The circumstances of qualifying created an interesting scenario for race day – when rain threatened, but never materialised. As we have said, it’s a long lap at Spa, and in Q3 the drivers – very much keeping the weather in mind – stayed out on one set of tyres rather than the usual practice of running a quick lap, changing to a new set of tyres, then running a second quick lap. In normal circumstances, therefore, you start the race on a lightly used set – but at Spa the top 10 drivers went to the grid on tyres that had done 20 or 25 miles. Throw in the fact that there had been very little dry running, and it was hardly surprising that the drivers were a little apprehensive.

f1 reports  2011 Belgian Grand Prix report

“We were going very much into the unknown today,” said Webber, “in terms of what the tyres might do – and I’m not just talking about blisters…” Vettel agreed: “When the front tyres blistered, there was a lot of vibration, and it really wasn’t very comfortable going into Eau Rouge or Blanchimont like that. In the end, we’re sitting in the cars…”

As a rule of thumb, then, the intention was to change tyres as soon as practicable, to get rid of the set that had run in Q3. Medium and soft were the compounds brought by Pirelli on this occasion, and of course the top 10 drivers necessarily started on soft. Button, though, hadn’t made it to Q3, and was therefore able to take a different tack, and start on the medium tyres.

f1 reports  2011 Belgian Grand Prix report

Although the start was reasonably straightforward, there was chaos at La Source, as invariably there is on lap one. Senna, sadly, undid all his good work in qualifying by slamming hard in Jaime Alguersuari’s Toro Rosso, which had started an impressive sixth. And behind them cars started bouncing off one another.

“I got a terrible start,” said Webber. “The anti-stall kicked in, and I thought I’d get passed by about 30 cars – but fortunately most of them hit each other at the first corner…”

The sensation at the start was Rosberg, who came out of La Source with only Vettel ahead of him, and on the long climb to Les Combes – the designated ‘DRS Zone’ at this track – Nico was able to take the lead quite easily.

This was to become a phenomenon of the afternoon. Some are in favour of DRS, and some are not, but either way there was no doubt that at Spa the zone was too long, making overtaking too straightforward. Any driver leading another narrowly out of Eau Rouge was like a tethered goat. On lap three Vettel took back the lead from Rosberg in exactly the same way, and we would see it time and again throughout the race.

Sebastian immediately began to pull away, but after five laps was into the pits, keen to get rid of that first set of tyres. Webber, indeed, had stopped a couple of laps earlier than that, as had Button, who had had his required run on the medium Pirellis, and wanted to be on the soft ones as soon as possible.

In the first part of the race, though, the man really going motor racing was Alonso. From his eighth grid position Fernando was up into fifth by the end of the first lap, and on the second he got by Hamilton. By lap six he had also passed Massa and Rosberg, and that – given that Vettel had pitted by now – took the Ferrari into the lead.

Alonso made his first stop on lap eight, and that briefly put Hamilton into the lead – until he came in on lap 10. Briefly Rosberg was now in front once more, but in a staggering demonstration of his confidence in the Red Bull – and in his own abilities – Vettel passed the Mercedes on the outside at flat-out Blanchimont…

That was a move to make you doubt your own eyes – and there had been another a couple of laps earlier. As Alonso accelerated down the hill to Eau Rouge, immediately after his stop, Webber was closing on him – and going into the first, left-hand swerve, he went by! No one could ever remember a pass – a competitive pass – being made here in any F1 race at Spa, and it said much for both drivers that the moment didn’t end in tears.

“Yeah,” Mark agreed, “it takes two guys for that situation to work out OK. Fernando’s a great driver, and he’s also smart enough to know when enough’s enough. Believe me, there are a lot of guys I wouldn’t have tried that with…”

On lap 13 Hamilton, running fifth behind Kobayashi’s Sauber (which had not yet made a stop), overtook – DRS again – on the hill, but as they approached Les Combes Kamui closed again, and was almost alongside (on the outside) as they reached the turn-in point.

Perhaps Lewis had not expected the Sauber still to be close at hand. Whatever, he steered slightly left, giving himself the ideal line into the corner – and the cars touched. At once the McLaren pitched into the guard rail more or less head on, and when it came to rest there was initially no movement from the driver. Eventually Hamilton stirred, and removed the steering wheel, but he seemed shaky as he stepped out, another to rejoice in the strength of the contemporary Grand Prix car.

f1 reports  2011 Belgian Grand Prix report

As soon as the safety car was deployed, Vettel dived straight into the pits, and really this put his victory beyond doubt, for when they were given the signal to go again, three laps later, he was on new tyres, where his rivals were not. Although Alonso led them away again, it wasn’t long before Vettel was able to DRS him on the long hill. And once into the lead anew, Sebastian pulled easily clear.

His team-mate might, who knows, have been able to go with him had he, too, stopped for tyres as the safety car came out. “I radioed in,” said Webber, “saying that I wanted to come in, but I never heard anything back…” As it was, Mark had to run a very long stint on his second set of tyres.

The final round of pitstops, at which most drivers were required to take the slower, medium compound tyres, began on lap 29, with Alonso followed by Vettel on 30 and Webber on 31. On lap 32 Button, who had been making striking progress, was also in – but he of course had started the race on the medium tyres, and was therefore able to stay with the soft ones.

On lap 37 Webber passed Alonso again, this time less dramatically (DRS on the hill) than before, and began slightly to close on Vettel. But the pattern was now set, and the Red Bulls simply swept on to the finish. Alonso, meantime, had no answer for the soft-tyred Button, who moved by – yes, DRS again – on lap 42, thereby claiming the last spot on the podium.

The other talking point in the late laps concerned the Mercedes drivers. Schumacher, having started from the back, indeed drove an extremely good race at this track he loves, and was up to sixth, behind team-mate Rosberg. We began to wonder if ‘team orders’ – now fully legal again, of course – might come into the reckoning…

Finally there came a message on the radio: ‘Nico, we need you to save some fuel…’ Given that three of the 44 laps had been run behind the safety car, that seemed a touch unlikely, but Rosberg duly acquiesced, and the Mercedes hierarchy had the finishing order it perhaps preferred…

Three races – Silverstone, the Nürburgring, the Hungaroring – had gone by since the last Red Bull victory, and some had begun to wonder if perhaps a little of the earlier magic had been lost. On the strength of Spa, they should not put too much store by that theory. “The car,” said Vettel, “was simply fantastic today – maybe the best it’s been all season…”

Button, meantime, was left to ponder how different his race might have been, had it not been for that ‘communication’ mistake in qualifying…

Add your comments

42 comments on 2011 Belgian Grand Prix report

  1. Michael Spitale, 28 August 2011 20:50

    What a great win for Vettel. For all those who say he can’t pass… He did all his passing on track today and none of it in the pits. He also took in an extra pitstop from the rest of the top runners. One of his best races of the year for sure.

  2. dave cubbedge, 28 August 2011 21:13

    If only Seb’s team mate could have a good start we might actually see a battle between these two. Vettel did enough to win, but the real drives of the race came from way behind – Webber, Button and Schumacher.

    I’m not a big fan of DRS though – makes it too easy to pass at Spa – that long straight would allow the open wing brigade to not only blow by the guy in front, but also pull away at a high rate, and taking into account the length of the lap before they would reach the activation zone again, it often would deny the chance for a re-pass.

    Funny to watch Seb’s dash display malfunction at the end of the race! Read that!

  3. dave cubbedge, 29 August 2011 00:28

    I see from that red website that Pirelli has blamed the Red Bull setup for the tire blisters. But didn’t I see blisters on several other teams’ cars during the race? That’s a bit of a stretch now isn’t it?

  4. Tony Geran, 29 August 2011 00:40

    Hard to see anyone else winning the championship but I hope the other Red Bull wins a few races before the year is out. Why wasn’t Maldonado excluded from the race for his post Q2 behaviour? I can’t believe that sort of behaviour would escape the most severe penalty.

  5. Cliff Heathcote, 29 August 2011 00:45

    “If only Seb’s team mate could have a good start we might actually see a battle between these two”.

    Indeed Dave, which is why Seb’s team mate won’t ever get a good start…

  6. dave cubbedge, 29 August 2011 02:44

    I would like to think that the teams in F1 are being fair at this level (other than the obvious team orders by Mclaren and Ferrari in the recent decade), but it does seem strange that Webber’s car is always slow off the line. I’d like to think that the team has worked hard to improve that along with their KERS. They certainly have worked hard to ensure the rest of the car is top of the field the past couple years! Mark did say the car went into ‘anti-stall’ after the lights went out. Intersting point Cliff….

    Another trivial point from the race – was it my eyes or was the Australian flag on the podium a much lighter shade of blue instead of the darker shade I’m used to seeing?

  7. Vinayak Pande, 29 August 2011 03:10

    Regarding the Schumacher-Rosberg overtake. It sure seemed like it was more down to Schumi being on the faster soft tyres as he was done with his stint on the mediums early in the race rather than Nico giving up the position. Schumacher has already overtaken him when on faster tyres this year (Monaco), and was catching him during the closing stages of the German GP too when he had fallen behind Nico due to a spin identical to the one of Vettel. Schumacher’s superiority in race trim over Nico following the Canadian Grand Prix has been undeniable and probably had more to do with the pass.

  8. Mario Carneiro Neto, 29 August 2011 04:20

    I have to say – as the Brazilian among MS’s regular commenters – that Bruno Senna was very impressive this weekend. He mucked up his start today, sure, but for someone who has had incredibly little time inside a car this season, and no time inside a competitive car, he showed some real skill on Saturday. Today’s mistake could have been avoided if, for instance, the teams were allowed to test mid season… Or if they were allowed to run third drivers on Thursday…

    I was happy with Bruno’s result, and I hope he keeps the Renault seat till the end of the season, and from next year…

  9. chris b, 29 August 2011 07:25

    Excellent report – in keeping with the lamented Beeb A+ Nigel-

    Senna – that brought some hairs on my head left standing and a little shiver as was shared with Mark and Fernando, well driven you two, and yes i bet a few others you wouldn’t want to try that overtake with Mark-although like DC [who is getting better and better] i wanted to hide beneath the cushion reminding me of that horror accident that deprived the world of another potential champion 26years ago – but fortunately F1 cars are much slimmer than Porsche 956′s –

    Re Lewis’s accident, good on yer for admitting it mate – i have respect for that – and we all make oversights, but what was Kobayashi doing there?

    what did strike me is thank Sir Jackie et al for making F1 such a safer place to be, when i looked [again] at that documentary and how many of my sporting heroes I miss and how many could have been saved but for such stupidity and arrogance, and then i look at Lewis’s accident and contretemps with Maldonado and in the 50′s and 60′s they would probably be dead by now – sobering thought -

  10. Lewis Lane, 29 August 2011 08:22

    You’re right – Bruno showed he’s worth a go at a decent drive, despite the error at the start, Mario. You don’t qualify that high up at Spa in his circumstances without talent.
    That’s some of the best wheel to wheel racing i’ve seen for a very long time in F1(apart from getting the DRS zone wrong), and Seb’s pass at Blanchimont was something i thought i’d never ever see… He’s definitely destroyed the idea that he can’t race and pass now for me. So can somebody now hammer into Bernie that to get good racing you need lower downforce and proper circuits please…

  11. Antipodean, 29 August 2011 13:00

    Thought Button was awesome in the race again, yesterday. Can’t wait to see him at Monza where the circuit seems to suit his style and he was blindingly quick last year.

    Also mightily impressed with Vettel. Where have all the mistakes gone? Another example of drivers getting better after their first championship.

  12. Ray T, 29 August 2011 13:48

    Were we watching the same race? Senna did very well in qualifying, but his first turn mistake nearly took out a quarter of the grid and left Alguersuari walking home.
    Vettel was flawless, again. These, “he can’t pass” comments never made sense, he doesn’t need to pass when he’s in first.
    Alonso, once again proved too easy to pass, Webber around the outside into Eau rouge?
    Hamilton…ugh..very amateur mistake.
    Cliff…save the conspiracy theories, if they were even remotely true, then what does that say about Webber signing up again for Red Bull in 2012?
    DRS is boring. I know fake racing when I see it, and it ruins the passing at Les Combes.

  13. Marty Harris, 29 August 2011 13:57

    Bruno Senna’s the answer? What on Earth must the question have been! He did a respectable job and if he were a 20-year-old kid then maybe you’d give him the benefit of the doubt. He’s no young Stewart, young Prost, young Schumacher, young Alonso, young Hamilton … let alone young Ayrton … who were all obviously destined for great things.

  14. Michael Spitale, 29 August 2011 15:51

    Ray… you are spot on… Not sure what Vettel has to do to get credit… I think if Alonso had a year like this we would be hearing Senna comparisons, but Vettel gets nit picked for everything… I think if he won a GP in a ’68 Mini people would find some reason to claim he is not great.

  15. dave cubbedge, 29 August 2011 16:00

    What are you saying Michael? Seb gets a lot of credit – just read your own posts! These days the races are for second place. He is the yardstick of the current generation, but it would be too easy to jump on the Vettel bandwagon. That’s why I like the eternal underdogs. It makes it a lot more fun for me.

  16. John Saviano, 29 August 2011 16:23

    Many years ago, Patrick Head was asked how William were going to beat Mclaren (when Mclaren was beating everybody in the late 80s and very early 90s). He simply said, “We have to build a quicker car.” When is Ferrari and Mclaren going to build a car that outperforms the Red Bull? Vettel is a VERY good driver, but part of his success is a vastly superior car, with superb pit management. Red Bull has beaten Ferrari and Mclaren with exactly what they were excellent at – building a fast car and managing the race.

  17. Lewis Lane, 29 August 2011 16:48

    I’m not sure the question on Bruno has ever been asked! And that’s the point – we don’t know whether he can cut it in F1 or not; and he may not have what it takes. Qualifying suggests there’s ability, and Glock did exactly the same thing at the start… Sure, he’s no young wunderkind, but to me, having to wait makes it more interesting to see if he can deliver in a decent car.
    The title chase is over, and Seb’s judging it beautifully to pick up the best results each time. Still never thought i’d see a pass round the outside at Blanchimont! That was one of the best i’ve ever seen.
    Apparently, there’s to be two DRS zones at Monza – start/finish and Lesmo/Ascari. Let’s hope they get these right… My personal preference would have been s/f and Ascari/Parabolica – but it could be lively all the same! Hate DRS, love Monza – but it does need livening up sometimes…

  18. DDT, 29 August 2011 17:10

    It almost seems like McLaren could have won the race had it not been for stupid mistakes.
    Every other week, Lewis becomes his own worst enemy. The screw is loose again.
    Button seems to have been let down by the team again. I’m assuming the problem was he was doing a tire cool down lap on intermediates and thought he would make it to SF before 0:00. The team neglected to tell him he was running out of time. If a driver cannot see the clock, this is down to the team. They have telemetry showing how slow he was going … duh! Button has been the victim of several of these lapses.
    On the other hand Button is starting to really put pressure on Hamilton. His Q speed is only slightly less, which can be attributed to setting the car up to save the tires in the race. And his starts aren’t as spectacular, but as the race wears on Button comes alive and really looks fresh when everyone else looks tired. He makes very few mistakes, and his fitness training is giving him mental endurance.
    In this race he charged through the field, making some really solid passes. Had he started in the first two rows, he might easily have won.
    However, with the team making so many mistakes, they don’t really deserve a championship, do they?

  19. Rich Ambroson, 29 August 2011 17:48

    While it’s true that Vettel is no longer the underdog in the current car, I still remember his win at Monza in the STR, which not too many years before had been the Minardi team. Though I cheer for another team than Red Bull, I have no problems with Vettel, nor do I understand some of the various critiques against him. He’s a special one, that kid.

  20. Michael Spitale, 29 August 2011 18:32

    I became a Vettel fan at Monza’08 I was stunned. I was also lucky enough to be at his first race at Indy with BMW in 2007

  21. dave cubbedge, 29 August 2011 20:30

    I echo your thoughts…Monza ’08 was one of the best races of the decade! To see the old Minardi team, now Toro Rosso celebrating the victory in Italy was a huge pleasure, but I knew it would be a short-lived thing. Sebastian was going only one way and that was up. I was also at Indy in ’07 – have some nice pix of the young lad in the BMW on my facebook page.

  22. Karting Extreme Verbier, 29 August 2011 20:47

    I’d love too what vettel could do in another car. Ie stick him in a Lotus for 3 laps and then lets see what he can do..

  23. Hamfan, 29 August 2011 21:01

    Great race at a great track. Such a pity that this year we’re seeing so many great races AFTER the championships have been won. Too much going on to take in, really, but super drives from Seb, Button and MSC in particular, the latter two benefitting from getting the hards out of the way early, but great drives nonetheless.
    Although a great race, I still think it would’ve been great without DRS, which was a complete joke here – unnecessary as several overakes ocurred coming out of Eau Rouge before the DRS zone even started, meaning the ‘following’ driver could pull away so much it was laughable. The DRS or the comedy tyres have to go, surely?
    Alonso and Hamilton both appear to have lost interest now the WDC is out of reach – fortunate, considering how bad the Ferrari seems to be on the harder tyre (don’t think I’ve ever before seen a car perform so differently in different phases of races) and how Hamilton’s ‘this year won’t be mine so I don’t give a s###’ mood seems to be affecting him.
    There’s so much going on at races this season I wonder how journos are coping to fit everything in to their copy. Ditto for TV editors – how can you fit all the highlights in if there’s something happening every lap? I’ll say it again: ditch DRS and/or modify the tyres pleeeze. It’s a great spectacle now, but it’s far from F1 racing as I’ve always known it.

  24. Iberian M.P.H., 29 August 2011 22:52

    Senna did good… in qualifying and then he did Salo (Austria 1999) in the race. Anyway, maybe Ayrton was right about his nephew’s speed. Bruno is also incredibly user-friendly and much more popular than Sad Nick (sorry!). This lack of actual in-season testing is really a terrible thing for 3rd drivers. Hopefully, Senna will do better next time. Suppose LRGP have got more drivers than cars. Surely, Romain deserves a second chance and don’t call him Shirley.

    The bit about Spa producing great races/being a proper track – maybe it’s more down to unpredictable weather. Ya hafta say dry Spa was never that spectacular, at least without DRS and Pirelli. Sorry if I hurt hard core F1 fans’ feelings but when it rains and shines any circuit on the calendar can produce a similar race. China 2010/2011 anyone? And it never rained in Bahrain on the race day so we’ve no idea… installing sprinklers in the desert might do the job.

  25. Mougg1, 29 August 2011 23:18

    So has NR nico love feast going to end when? He is the modern day Jarno trulli flatters to decieve. yes the car is not a front runner but when his team mate albeit 17 yrs older can start dead last and finish ahead on essential the same strategy it does make you wonder what all the fuss is about. I know Nigel love for Nico is perhaps in part due to his fondness of Keke but come on the guy is average at best . Put Paul deResta in a Mercedes and lets see what he can do . Every race people go on about Rosberg and yet at the end of the day he finishes lower than he starts .. and don’t get me started on Massa….

  26. Ray T, 30 August 2011 15:09

    ^Apparently, you missed the start at Spa.
    You can’t assess a driver that easily in F1, the series is mostly car, not driver. Put Vettel in a Lotus, he’ll finish at the rear, however, put Schumacher in a Mercedes, and he’ll consistently finish behind Rosberg like he has for the last two years.

  27. Marty Harris, 30 August 2011 15:52

    Schumacher will finish consistently behind Rosberg, like he has for the last two years? Maybe I’m wrong, but I seem to remember watching Schumacher come from dead last 24th to 11th after four laps and then overtake and finish, ahem, ahead of Rosberg.

    I find it strange the world of F1 journalism is downplaying the enormity of Schumacher’s Spa performance. I’ve been following and watching F1 for decades and that was one of the great race performances. Anyone who still doesn’t understand why Alonso said that given equal cars the driver he’d fear most would be Schumacher should at this point give up.

  28. chris b, 30 August 2011 18:37

    wasn’t Nico told to slow? anyway better things to talk about that Michael, who drove for a change a good race,

    however i am raving about Seb, Alonso and Jenson, Seb, has that air of self-belief when you know you are simply the best, was impressed in 2008 and have been ever since, however i still think alonso the cleverest and what a compliment Webber paid him, like DC i was starting to hide under a pillow when Mark went for that overtake, and Jenson, wow is McLaren slowly beginning to become his team now?

  29. Ray T, 30 August 2011 19:25

    Sure Marty, in two years, Michael’s bound to statistically have a good day. If you put enough monkeys in enough cars, eventually, a monkey will win at Spa.
    The jury is back in, MS is past is best-before date and he’s an embarrassment to the idea that the best only drive in F1 (but he’s not the only one).

  30. Tom, 30 August 2011 19:43

    Credit where it’s due for Nico’s amazing start. He couldn’t use DRS on that first lap, but was way faster than the guy in front already, through Eau Rouge and Raidillon. There were many more examples during the race – the difference between fresh and worn tyres? – so I hope they come up with a more imaginative DRS Zone next year. After Blanchimont, up to the chicane?

  31. Mike Allfrey, 30 August 2011 22:31

    Lovely report, Nigel, I enjoyed the quote below:

    “It’s been said before, but it can never be said enough times: take them to a proper circuit, and you get a proper race.”

    Just a little bit of DSJ there – remember his contempt for those ‘Mickey-Mouse’ circuits?

    Spa is fabulous and must be kept the way it is. It may be shortened, but it still has atmosphere in heaps, which is great for us viewers in Oz!

    Webber’s pass on Alonso demonstrated what it is all about – pure Grand Prix racing, at its best.

  32. A.S.Gilbert, 31 August 2011 03:13

    Spa was a credible, eventful F1 race, but I doubt it’ll rank as classic, in years to come.
    Vettel usually maximizes his opportunities, so a win from pole hardly surprises.
    Button rallied very well and had the drive of the race.
    Schumacher gained more places, in a race with great attrition in front of him, then had the fresh grippy tyres for the final stint. Familiar ground for him.
    Have Mercedes gifted him a position they had domain over, in his anniversary GP ?
    Seems like it, and maybe it portends some gilding of a handshake. Sentiment isn’t always a pleasant odour.
    Some comment wants to decry Nico Rosberg’s chops, and thin analysis may merit the critique. Why does the tiger in him seem over leashed?
    Nico qualifies that car some margin ahead of it’s real viability, certainly the race pace it has. That is why he backs up on Sunday’s, M-B have not provided the package to gain ground. Mr’s Roebuck, Lauda, Stewart and many other very astute pundits think he’s the goods. I’ve seen him drive, and I know he is.
    You realize who he’s seeing off 95% of the time.
    Mercedes have numerous “situation vacant” notices up, pretty much acknowledging a need to gain some rungs.
    My real concern is how tactically inept they are, far too often. Not enough fuel to maintain pace, compound or tyre type choice cock-ups and the like. Kudos to their pit stops, tho.
    Ross Brawn won a title with this situation, not long ago, which seems wholly miraculous given 2010-11.

  33. John Winder, 31 August 2011 13:06

    Well, I enjoyed it, in a sort of “here we go again” way, once the Red Bulls were out in front. A few things spring to mind, though: why wasn’t Maldonado hit with at least a three race ban for his ridiculous and petulant move on Hamilton at the end of Q2? And why have we still got DRS? Yes, it makes overtaking easier, but … When I first started driving lorries for a living, I found most things about the job pretty exciting. But one of the things I never found exciting was watching cars pass my lorry going 15mph faster. This is what DRS gives us. I don’t want to see overtaking … what I want to see is racing. I can see overtaking every night at work.

  34. Marty Harris, 31 August 2011 15:04

    The only negative about DRS is that it means we’re unlikely to ever see a classic holding off the faster car to win – Lauda’s Dutch GP win in 85, or Senna at Monaco 92 for example.

    What I haven’t noticed yet is a race where two even cars swap places each lap because each lap one gets the benefit of DRS. That must mean the cars we’ve seen passing using DRS have been faster cars. Fans have moaned rightly for years about silly aerodynamics that don’t let a faster car get within striking range … now we effectively have a semi-fix to that problem, cars are passing and racing is more exciting.

    On balance DRS is a success. Given the sport’s fine history, it looks a bit of a tawdry gimmick that takes the grand out of grand prix. But dang, it works.

  35. dave cubbedge, 31 August 2011 15:54

    ….or Jarama 1981 when Gilles held off four or five faster cars for 20 laps or more….

  36. John Winder, 31 August 2011 15:58

    “Tawdry gimmick” … good phrase. That’s exactly it. It works in as much as it allows the faster cars to breeze past without really trying, in much the same way as the 56mph speed limiter on my lorry allows unrestricted cars to breeze past me on the motorway. That’s not exciting, either. I imagine next season there’ll be another artificial gimmick designed to negate the all – too – predictable overtaking moves which will then have become the norm … and so it will go on, until all that will be necessary to win races is to see who can push the most buttons in the shortest time.
    To be honest, having been at the 24 hour 2CV race at Snetterton this weekend, my increasing impression that F1 is rapidly disappearing up its own arse has been strengthened. I’ll probably still watch some of the races, out of habit more than anything, but I’m no longer particularly bothered about coverage going to Sky. As long as there’s proper, gimmick-free club level motorsport out there that I can go and watch relatively cheaply, I’ll be happy.

  37. N.Weingart, 31 August 2011 19:21

    The Vettel/ Red Bull combination reminds me of the synergy of Clark/ Lotus in the 60s’.
    As for Spa, it becomes more apparent with each team “mistake” or “optional strategy” that Webber won’t be permitted to challenge Vettel. Putting him on the medium tires for his final stint is further proof of this. Vettel should be aware that being helped to the title like Schumacher doesn’t make for a great legacy, if that matters.

  38. Hugo Boss, 1 September 2011 16:56

    There’ve been a lot of great driver-team pairings in F1, but Clark/Lotus was almost mystical. No comparison. Just like there’ve been great driver pairings, but Prost-Senna and Fangio-Moss …

    The thing that lots of people don’t seem to have twigged to is just how astonishing the fact of Schumacher’s 20th anniversary. Imagine Fangio lining up with Rindt and Stewart in 1970! Or Stewart battling Prost, Lauda and Senna in 1985! There are many aspects to greatness, and competitive longevity is one of them.

  39. John Winder, 1 September 2011 17:00

    Hasn’t Barrichello been in it – in terms of consecutive seasons – for longer than Schumacher? Schuey had, what, four years off, after all …

  40. Adrian Muldrew, 2 September 2011 00:33

    Fascinating point, Hugo B. I think your example of Stewart on the grid in ’85 is a better one than Fangio on the grid in 1970. The great Argentinian would have been nearly 60 by then. That will be a comparison to make only in the unlikely event that Schumi is still in F1 in 2028! As it is, he’s still got nearly five years to go, just to match Fangio’s age at final GP (when incidentally Fangio finished one place higher than Schumi did last weekend) and four years to go to match Fangio’s age at final world title. True, Fangio’s F1 career had a much shorter span than Schumacher’s, but, notwithstanding his late start in motor sport, it wasn’t his fault that a world war and a pre-jet age ocean got in the way.

    Stewart gave some thought to an 80s comeback – with Brabham in 1980 – and though I doubt he would have remained back in the sport right up to ’85, he could well have been seen battling the likes of Prost earlier in the decade. But what did for that idea was the same thing that led him out of the sport so much earlier in the first place – self-preservation in an age that was vastly more dangerous than today, a factor which tragically precluded even any chance for many other drivers to carve out a long career, as Jackie was only too painfully aware. Without wishing to knock Schumi’s feat (or Rubens’), that factor is the single strongest reason why we are seeing so many long careers today when the likes of Graham Hill were very rare exceptions thirty and forty years ago.

  41. Tony Geran, 2 September 2011 03:25

    John Winder, 2007, 2008, 2009. Yes 3 years off

    Rubens has competed in more races although it looks like this will be his last year after being out paced by the ram raider….

  42. John Winder, 2 September 2011 03:42

    “The ram raider” …


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