31/08/2011

Belgian GP, Spa-Francorchamps – Classic venue & Classic race

After 3 weeks of break, this was the best start to the second half one could have hoped for. For the whole weekend, the teams were kept guessing as to how to go about with the things. The race was better than our expectation, it was Vettel in the end emerging as the winner with team-mate Webber at P2 and Button in P3.

Here, is the detailed report of the whole weekend:

FP1:
The session started dry but soon with no surprise it started raining disrupting everyone’s program. By the end it was Schumacher, who was celebrating 20 years in F1 topped the time-sheets followed by team-mate Rosberg and Button. There was no running at all in between the session, in addition it was red-flagged when Di Resta spun exiting Turn 9, the same place Senna had spun earlier. Force India’s Sutil ended at a good P6 while Di Resta due to spin ended at P20. Chandhok was back in action but rain didn’t help in much running and he ended at P21.

FP2:
It was yet another wet session for the teams, though by the end of session the rain Gods eased a bit which allowed the teams to do some running. In the end it was Webber for Red Bull topping the time-sheets followed by Alonso and Button. In a bit strange strategy, largely due to weather prediction, Force India’s Hulkenberg (sat in for Sutil), he ended at P8 and Di Resta in the limited running finished at P9. With so much rain and damp track, the teams were left with little data to analyze and make necessary changes.

FP3:
Not much improvement to the weather as it continued to rain heavily during the start of the session and evidently no one came out but as the skies cleared a bit, one by one drivers came out of their garages to accumulate enough data’s for the qualifying ahead. Webber continued where he left and in the end was the fastest runner followed by Hamilton and surprisingly Alguersuari. Force India continued with their impressive performance, specially Sutil who was always running high in the field, ending at P8 while Di Resta had some off moments, thus ending at P11.

Nothing could have been predicted with the kind of running teams got but still it was looking strong for Force India (traditionally it has been), and Q3 for both cars was possible. For the top spot, Red Bulls had an upper hand with perhaps McLaren and maybe Mercedes giving some fight.

Qualifying:
Q1:
The start to the session was something which surprised everybody. Schumacher celebrating 20 years in F1 crashed (right rear wheel fell off) out in his out lap without setting anytime. The track was still damp but was improving considerably. Webber was the fastest man by the end of the session which saw Ambrosio, Liuzzi, Ricciardo & Schumacher failing to make the cut but were given permission to race by stewards afterwards. A disappointment for strong looking Force Indian Di Resta as he bowed out in Q1 after the team made a wrong call and him having spun on the lap he may have improved, thus he ended at P18 (started at P17). Sutil on the other hand made it to Q2 safely.

Q2:
The rain had eased off and the track was improving lap by lap. For Force India, this session added insult to its injuries with Sutil crashing out exiting Eau Rouge. He was looking strong with a P5 in his first timed lap and would have definitely made further improvements but the crash meant he ended at P15 after the session. The session was red-flagged for a brief time. There was more drama between Hamilton & Maldonado towards the end, which looked nasty but surely was not intentionally done. Out in all these drama’s Alonso set the fastest time in the session, perhaps sending a message for 3 way pole battle. 

Q3:
By the time Q3 began, a dry line appeared on the track helping the drivers to set some good times. It was all looking that Hamilton will break the Red Bull’s pole position dominance but not this time. Yet again Vettel went a step further and snatched pole from Hamilton making 12 out of 12 for Red Bull’s as far as qualifying is concerned. He was followed by Hamilton and Webber.

A disappointing qualifying session for Force India, I was hoping for a double Q3 but not even one made it, though for various other reasons. Surely the performance was there, we were just unlucky during heat of the moment. Still, points were very much possible.

Race:
The weather on raceday was better than what we witness on Friday and Saturday. There were some clouds hovering but by the end it was all sunny. The start was all we were hoping for (some petty incidents, car’s going off), the best being Rosberg zooming past the front-runners to take the lead, on the other hand Webber the biggest looser with a poor start. Sutil made a steady start, while Di Resta suffering some damages but still carried on when an apologetic Glock couldn’t brake on time and touched Di Resta’s car.

The real battle began (without any DRS, whatsoever), there were some breathtaking moves from the drivers. Hamilton was having a fierce battle with the Ferrari’s, and in the end managing to get past both of them. But the best move, perhaps for the seasons to come was Webber going past Alonso at the start of Eau Rouge corner, it was surely dangerous but the way Webber did it made it look very simple. Soon, though Safety Car came out as Hamilton crashed into the barriers after over-taking Kobayashi after he spun after having made slight contact with Kobayashi.

Force India made the most of the SC as soon Sutil pitted gaining two places to be P5 while Di Resta came in a lap late thereby loosing few positions, compromising for Sutil as he was ahead in the race. Earlier Sutil had some fantastic battles with Webber & Alonso, it was wheel to wheel racing, and Sutil never gave up but eventually he had to back off as clearly Red Bull & Ferrari had a better pace. Later on he had some more fight with Button who was charging up through the field. The McLaren’s pace was too much for Sutil and same for Schumacher who too was charging up the field. Thus Sutil ended at P7, the most he could have got. While Paul due to a late pit-stop and a bit damaged car had to settle with P11, though he tried his best to catch Maldonado for the final championship point but the gap was too much.

What was looking tough for Red Bull’s at the start due to tyre issues, it came as a surprise for them as Vettel took the win with his team-mate Webber making it a 1-2 for the team. A charging Button snatching a podium finish from a slow running Alonso. Force India continued their upward surge. There were plenty of over-taking moves in the race, surely the top one was Webber on Alonso.

Next up will be Monza, another good track for Force India. Now they are just 3 points away from Sauber and I think they will get ahead of them in maybe the coming two-three races. As for the top battle, it’s matter of time when Red Bull seal their name for the second successive time. Till Italian GP, enjoy!!

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