F1: Spa GP Review

Spa Francorchamps track original layout
Spa Layout. Image via Wikipedia

Spa is known as as being one of the most exciting circuits of the season each year. The track itself is very high speed, has good overtaking opportunities and the weather in the Ardennes Forest is known for being erratic and often very wet, leading to unpredictable, exciting races year on year.

2010 was no exception. The race started with light rain which caused confusion as to whether or not to switch tires based on how long it would last. Webber had a terrible start from pole with a clutch problem, he ended up benefiting from what happened to Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel later on in the race. At the end of the first lap, everyone had almost no grip coming into the bus stop chicane and many of them went off. Rubens came off worst in his 300th race. He locked up completely and barrelled into Alonso who had made the corner fairly well. Somehow the Ferrari didn’t seem to take any major damage and was able to carry on after the big impact. The williams car didn’t escape and lost most of the front of the car in the hit.

Because of Webber’s poor start, Hamilton was able to take advantage and lead from there pretty comfortably. Button pulled off a great overtake on Kubica for 2nd on to be taken out by Vettel at the end of lap 17, also at the bus stop chicane. Vettel was slipstreaming behind, had a look up the inside but had no room, then darted across the track which caused him to lose control as there was not enough grip on the damp tarmac. Button was understandable annoyed after taking a huge dent to his championship defence, especially because he was minding his own business.

Sebastian also ruined his own race, after sitting fairly comfortably in 3rd, he lost time pitting for a new wing and tires, and then had to serve a drive through penalty for causing the collision. To add insult to injury, he then picked up a puncture from Liuzzi‘s Force India on an overtake just after the pit entry. He had to crawl around the long circuit back to the pits on just 3 tires.

He did get back out on fresh rubber, albeit in 20th place. I think at that point the team were just hoping for a downpour and a lucky strategic decision paying off. The shower did come on lap 35 but the lucky strategic decision didn’t. They opted for full wets when the track wasn’t damp enough. It was a risk that didn’t pay off as he had to come in for another set as he wore out the first ones as the track wasn’t wet enough at that time. He ended up 15th in what must have been one of the most frustrating races of his career.

He wasn’t the only one of course. Barichello had his crash of course, Button got taken out and Fernando Alonso crashed in the wet conditions on lap 37 after being spun around at the start by Rubens. He’s had plenty of these terrible days so far this year, and could have another if Ferrari are stripped of their points from Germany this week when they attend the world motorsport council.

Eventual race winner Lewis Hamilton had a scary moment on lap 35 when the rain started coming down hard. He took a bit too much speed into one of the turns in the second sector and went off into the gravel. He came within about an inch of losing his front left wheel. Luckily, he had built up such a lead though that he was able to carefully get back to the pits to get the wet tire and still come out back in the lead. It was relatively plain sailing from there. Sailing being a pretty relevant term.

Summing the race up, I would say that Hamilton has given himself a real boost in the driver’s championship, especially with monza coming up next, another track where they should be at the front of the pack. Mark Webber did well to avenge his clutch issue off the start with a second place. He was lucky that the two ahead of him took each other out but you have to maximise your luck in this sport, and he achieved the most the car was capable of.

Button and Vettel are going to be hard pressed to make up for the points lost today. They are both now considerably behind their team-mates in the standing now and with only 5 races to go, they’re going to have to pull something special out of the bag in the next few races to get close to the front. Jenson has been quoted recently as saying that Vettel has made too many mistakes to win the championship. While it’s not over yet, I have to agree. He’s just too accident prone at the moment. He needs to be more consistent with points finishes to get right up there.

As far as the midfield teams are concerned, Renault had another great result with 3rd, but it should have been second if Kubica hadn’t overrun his pit box. Williams had a race to forget along with all three of the new teams, despite finishing.

Force India had two points finishes with 5th for Sutil and 10th for Liuzzi which was a great result for them. Ferrari had the wrong man finish 4th with Massa who drove pretty well, and Mercedes GP had a brilliant strategy to hold off their stops as long as possible until it rained. It worked and propelled them both right up to 6th and 7th, which for them is a great result considering where their car is.

I’m really looking forward to Monza this week. Practice starts on Friday morning.