Button dominates Spa as Grosjean is banned for start-line pile up
McLaren
Posted By: James Allen  |  02 Sep 2012   |  5:10 pm GMT  |  424 comments

Jenson Button drove a faultless race to secure his second victory of 2012 at Spa, as championship leader Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton retired after a nasty first lap pile up.

It was triggered by Romain Grosjean, who moved over on Lewis Hamilton and who was launched over Fernando Alonso and Sergio Perez causing the retirement of all four cars. It was another in a seres of first lap incidents, which have stretched the patience of the stewards to breaking point. They handed him a one race ban for the Italian Grand Prix, leaving Lotus looking for a substitute driver for Monza. Pastor Maldonado was also punished for a jump start and an avoidable collision. He will move back 10 places on the grid in Monza.

It was a race full of incident and overtaking, but Button stayed clear of all of it, With a lights to flag victory ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen. Button avoided the carnage at La Source and made very good use of a one-stop strategy to put himself back in the hunt for the World Championship with his 14th career win.

Second place starter Kamui Kobayashi was also hampered by the crash as he lost his front wing and finished the race down in 13th.

Alonso’s first non-score of the season means that Vettel is now only 24 points off the championship leader after leap-frogging Mark Webber, who finished 6th.

Button was on good form in Spa, after a mixed season so far. He has recently found a good way to work with the Pirelli tyres, balancing the temperatures front to rear and getting the fronts to work as he wants them to. If he can stay consistent on them, he can easily claw back points on the others, given the raw pace of the McLaren now.

“I’m sorry to all the fans if it wasn’t very exciting at the front,” said Button.

“However, winning a grand prix is never easy: you’ve always got to look after the tyres and keep an eye on the gap behind. Today’s race was particularly tricky to read, in fact, because lots of cars were on different strategies so you never knew exactly where you stood.

“Turn One looked pretty crazy – in my mirrors, I could see cars all over the place. For me, it was all pretty straightforward though.

“It was unusual to be able to run a one-stop strategy. We got to lap 12 and the team asked me how the car was feeling; I told them that the balance was getting better and better, so we were able to get to lap 20 before pitting.”

As predicted, strategy was the crucial factor in this race with both Button and Vettel opting for a one-stop race. This was made They were able to make their option tyres last near half distance and then clear away from the field on the hard compound. It quickly became apparent that the prime was the right choice come Sunday as Nico Hulkenberg started on the tyre and found himself in third place following the first lap carnage. After overtaking Raikkonen for second many of the cars behind were prompted to make an early stop and switch to primes.

This opened the door for Vettel to gain some clear air and put himself in a position for a podium. He, arguably, produced his best drive of 2012 as he put to bed any claims that he cannot race through the pack by making numerous passes around the outside of the Bus Stop chicane.

Raikkonen was unlucky to be held up following both his pit stops and made a tremendous move past one-stopping Schumacher on the entrance to Eau Rouge. He had spent six laps tucked up behind Schumacher as he could not match the Mercedes engine and losing some of his KERS functionality early on did not make this any easier. Schumacher eventually had to switch to “Plan B” and make a second stop in the closing laps. Raikkonen was followed home by Hulkenberg who managed to match the leaders’ pace throughout the race to keep Massa and Webber behind in the closing stages.

The sole Ferrari of Massa had a strong race in fifth and kept the team within touching distance of Lotus in the Constructor Championship.

Schumacher was able to salvage seventh following his unplanned second stop but it could have been much more in his 300th GP after he had sat in third position before the first round of stops. Mercedes’ tyre woes continued and Nico Rosberg also had to make an unscheduled pit stop to make it to the end.

The two Toro Rosso cars of Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo headed Paul Di Resta home to complete the top ten. The trio had made good progress in the first lap but slowly slipped down the order as faster cars made their way through the field. Di Resta was battling with a KERS problem.

[Additional reporting: Matt Meadows]

BELGIAN GRAND PRIX, SPA, 44 laps

1. Button McLaren 1h29:08.530
2. Vettel Red Bull + 13.624
3. Raikkonen Lotus + 25.334
4. Hulkenberg Force India + 27.843
5. Massa Ferrari + 29.845
6. Webber Red Bull + 31.244
7. Schumacher Mercedes + 53.374
8. Vergne Toro Rosso + 58.865
9. Ricciardo Toro Rosso + 1:02.982
10. Di Resta Force India + 1:03.783
11. Rosberg Mercedes + 1:05.111
12. Senna Williams + 1:11.529
13. Kobayashi Sauber + 1:56.119
14. Petrov Caterham + 1 lap
15. Glock Marussia + 1 lap
16. Pic Marussia + 1 lap
17. Kovalainen Caterham + 1 lap
18. De la Rosa HRT + 1 lap

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1

James, just read a post which says that JB’s side of the garage did not share the telemetry with LH before the decision was made. This would certainly explain his outburst especially as they use his telemtry as a fall back when JB loses his way set up wise. If this is true it implies a v poor working relationship between the drivers and between LH and the team and explain the lack of contract. Can you shed any light on it?

2

LH relationship with the team is certainly strained. That’s very clear from a number of things, not least the tweeting of the data sheet

3

Any chance of doing a feature on it on a “who needs who the most” basis

4

James do you think it’s time the FIA hand down some tougher penalties for reckless driving . ? I’m sure fans want to see the brave overtaking moves, & positioning of the cars on certain ways to force errors but not this silly business we are seeing from Maldonado every week . I thought he should’ve got a stronger penalty in Spain and he just seems to shrug it off and drive like a lunatic. Sponsor money don’t seem to be a problem either. Perhaps points system on your super license is the way to go. Wouldn’t it be funny if rookies & suspended drivers drove round with P plates on their return – the embarrassment would be mega !! Lol

Watching GP2 just before the race surprised me with how many incidents there are now-I hadn’t watched it for a few seasons just surprised at how very push & shove it’s become. Do you think the FIA should push for stronger penalties ? Mainly just for people who are repeat offenders.

As for safety ,last year the FIA tested some screens on f1 cars , I think they need to push this through the next major rule changes -2014 perhaps, as we all saw how the Lotus just whistled past Fernando head on Sunday- do you reckon he threw those overalls away after that start..

5

Yes I think so. There is more desperation in the air, drivers fearing their careers may not progress, needing results, money tight etc

6

Is there a system for stopping the race at the red lights before it starts? i.e. Could Charlie have pressed a button to change all the lights to say “flashing red” to stop the start of the race once he saw that Maldonado had jumped the lights?

I appreciate you would need very quick reactions to do this. Or perhaps a sensor on the track and car to linked to the lights to do this?

7

Could someone refresh my knowledge here, but what are the grounds for a red flag situation. I thought there was a lot of debris especially before the run down to eau rouge. In times past would it of been a red flag. At what point is one triggered? And does everyone restart?

8

A pity McLaren could not have set Lewis’s car up like Jenson’s as the higher downforce set up proved to be a mistake, but in their defence there was little time for testing this weekend so it ended up a bit of a lottery. This is a pity as it would probably have meant that the debacle at the start with Grosjean would have been avoided. I do sense there is still a bit of frustration with Lewis at McLaren, and last weekend has weakened Hamilton’s championship chances significantly.

9

You would think that probably the tyres could be (kind of a lottery) given that they did not have time to do longer stints on them, but setup? Really? Surely, Mclaren have raced on that same track many many times in the past. They have data from that and from the state of the art simulator they have at home and I am sure they knew what they were doing.

10

McLaren have demonstrated they are capable of making any number of mistakes and have cost Lewis a raft of points with potentially a couple of wins gone awry this season. The fact remains they did not have adequate testing last weekend where they could compare wing set ups. Getting the tyres into their operating window in the prevailing conditions at any given circuit is also a matter of set up and balance. The logic you apply is inadequate to cover the significant variance encountered this season with any particular car. One thing I should say is they got it close enough with Jenson’s car to give him pole and the win. – As Lewis said for Jenson it was a walk in the park with such an advantage.

11

Alonso’s reaction seems professional.who else can do that?

12

Thats one of the reasons why he is admired.

13

In fact, before the touch, he still had about half a metre of track left. If a GP2 driver, Gutierrez (sorry for miss spelling) can divert on to the grass to avoid incIdent, why can’t a top F1 driver? In the GP2, the driver was fine and carries on the race where he started, did not even lose a place, and the grass woul have been wetter on the Saturday. I’m taking no blame away from grosjean, his fault, but Lewis should have reacted.

14

Hence I said he deserves the penalty. Just Lewis could have, and probably should have backed off, for his own safety more than everything else. But yes, I am aware it is grosjeans fault, just saying Lewis could have done more.

15

dont you realize that if lewis had of braked before the braking zone it could have caused someone to crash into the back of him??

RG had PLENTY of room,there was no need for him to cut across like he did.lewis is not to blame in anyway.only a hater will look for a way to put some blame on him.

16

Firstly, James you provide fantastic F1 coverage. I really enjoy your commentating and your website updates. Also the time you spend answering people’s comments on your articles is much appreciated and makes for a great read.

I hope Alguersuari gets the call up for Lotus. It would be interesting to see how he would perform in a top performing car after spending all his F1 career in a middle tier Toro Rosso.

James, do you know what his relationship is like with Lotus? As you said he’s driving the old Renault car in his Pirelli test driver role so he must have some sort of relationship. Also I remember earlier this year Alguersuari told everyone that his F1 future was looking very bright. How likely do you think it is that he will be on the grid in 2013 and who for?

17

Lotus have had a good look at him in the 2010 car which Pirelli test with, so they know him from that.

As for 2013 I believe he will be there, but with whom? You’ll have to wait and see, I cannot violate confidences like that, I’m afraid.

18

At over 300 comments they often get too long to read but you have reaffirmed my view that I must review all comments just in case you give some intel like this.

Thanks heaps. I hope Jaime gets the drive this Sunday!

19

It’s all quality though!!

20

Agree.. GRO deserves a 2 race ban along with MAL… Those 2 have been involved in far more incidents than acceptable.. but otherwise faultless and sublime for JB.. great overtaking from Vettel and awesome from KR to get that Lotus on the podium… Couple of cheers for Schu though… the grand daddy hasnt lost it.. yet .. 🙂

21

While we are talking about drivers not having the same bits, why did Webber have a top gear too short for the race as mentioned by Horner ?

How could you not have the right gearing in the gearbox ?

Surely this is an amatuerish mistake.

22

For the same reason you may choose to have more downforce than others on such a circuit maybe – you judge that time gained in the twisty part will make up for the time lost on the straights, with the added value of longer tyre life. Probably better acceleration is helpful in the twisty part if you are thinking along those lines.

23

Would it not make more sense to give Vettel the shorter top gear ?

I mean Webber is harder on tyres than Vettel so give Webber the taller gear for higher straight line speed and Vettel the shorter gears for the corners because he’s easier on the tyres.

24

Are you sure Webber had a shorter top gear compared to Vettel? Webber had higher top speed than Vettel during qualifying (speed trap). Webber 316.4, Vettel 316 – Suggeting they were having very similar g ratios.

25

I hear what people are saying about Maldonado and his repetitve misdemanours and he definitely needs some refinement to his racecraft to put it mildly. But you sure can’t doubt the guy has got some serious pace and I think in the long term, that’s going to be a bigger asset than the confrontational approach he takes to racing and the indiscretions that arise from it. These will gradually decrease. There’s no substitute for pure speed.It’s better than being someone who although keeping their nose clean, never makes other team bosses or drivers watching the timing screens think ‘Wow! That was rather impressive.’

26

The most valuable asset Maldonado has, is the very wealthy daddy, if you ask me.

27

Dear CanadaGP: Pure open wheel racing is no anachronism,it is REAL RACING.Sadly,it is a risky sport despite security measures.If we don´t want to watch incidents like todays start crash,we better enjoy golf or tennis…I don,t approve full cockpit protection,either.Excellent blog,James,thank you very much.

28

I suspected correctly Mclaren would be too strong at Spa and really disappointed that Lotus have ongoing KERS issues it’s already 20kw down on the Mercedes one but it’s unreliability is really hurting their championship race.Congrats to Jenson for a great drive but you will forgive me for not giving him DOD for the MP4 27 was a second quicker than every car:

Defintely Sebastian to make that strategy work and his overtakes on Mark, Michael and a few others commanded respect.

Almost equally impressive was Hulkenberg & his fight to catch Kimi was exiting, but I’m guessing that Mercedes Engine & KERS had a lot to do with it.

Maneouvers of the race (if not year) Kimi on Schumi – in a way it was painful to watch him be repassed but his sixth sense of where and when to pass is unrivaled in the paddock . His struggle with the car and KERS I think masked an epic drive and his venting in the radio was classic evidence of that..

Now I wonder where all those people that were singing Grosjeans praises including Boullier who keeps saying ” he never makes the same mistake again” – well I guess he well & truly blew that theory out if the water ! Forget wiping drivers out of the race he almost ended Fernando’s life as well as his own !! Thank goodness they’re alive! Yep I would be preparing Jamie.

29

The luckiest man is Alonso, coulda been fatal! Grojean rear left wheel missed his head by centimeters. Been a long long while since a scary accident like this happened.

Jenson – Congrats to him. What race? He was driving very fast, leisurely as a tourist around the forest.

Vettel – Best drive and brilliant passes at the bus stop.

Maldanado & Grojean – Thought they were in a GP2 race. Feels more and more like a fluke that they’re in F1.

Kimi – “Give me more power” lol, that was fun hearing Kimi raising his voice.

Massa – Better thank Grojean for helping him.

Could have been a much better race if not for the first turn bungle up. Half hearted giving the race an 8, I’d go for a 6 at max.

30

“Prevention it better than cure” — I’d promote the idea of bodywork in front and behind the rear wheels to prevent these launches.

It would be minimal bodywork, it only needs to be half the wheel height – but strong enough to withstand a fair thump. Designers will quickly make it aero-dynamic, no problems with that, and engineers will quickly work out how to make it multi-layered so that damage to their own tyre is minimised. It would not change the basic concept of open-wheel racing.

That and a bit of “highway code” driver training for these rookies. 😉

31

I just want to say that both Maldonado and Grosjean got what is expected from the stewards. I think it has been good that the stewards did not try to rush a decision this time.

Unfortunately, it has to happen after Michael’s drive-through penalty in Hungary.

32

One race ban isn’t enough. Grojean and Maldonado ought to have their Super Licences stripped and banned for life. The two of them together would cause crashes that’d be equivalent to a nuclear detonation.

33

James pls can you give me a straight answer on previously asked question? Why wasn’t Webber penalized for an obvious unsafe release? It seems that RBR always gets a slap on the wrist in these situations!

34

It looked close but there was quite a gap there. It’s all very finely balanced

35

Jenson today equalled Lewis’s McLaren wins over the last 2 years, 5 each, and is only 1 behind Hamilton over the past 3 years – the enenmy lies within…

36

Did Roman spurn Jackie Stewarts offer of advice for driving lessons from another Scot John Clelland?!!

His single ban seems light given his history and the existing bans don’t appear to be encouraging Maldonado to be a better driver. Harsher bans should be looked at for next year.

37

I think Pastor is now “on notice” that he will get the same penalty in future when he punts cars off the road. I would be surprised if the stewards did not tell him such a thing after Spa.

38

How about a lion tamer? LOL!

39

Lol.. Sheep in wolves clothing

40

LOL!

41

Hi James,

What you make of Hamilton not having the same wing, rekon its being witheld as he’s not signing up?

42

No, it was a decision, same as in Monza two years ago. He went the wrong way and didn’t get the middle sector right, where his set up counted

43

When he also crashed out on the first lap after a frustrating qualifying, some Six Tenths behind his team-mate…I detect a pattern here. A terrifically fast driver but still unable to channel his frustration into positive performances.

His tweeting of sensitive data was petulant in the extreme, Grosjean has relieved Lewis of a lot of the headlines this week – I’d imagine a lot of the team will be rather disappointed with him – should Button win in Monza next weekend with Lewis doing poorly again then there may well be a key shift in the balance at McLaren, both in terms of pecking order on track and on the negotiating table…

44

I was very surprised that Vettel was able to run a one stopper as aggressive as he had to be catching and overtaking so many cars. I found it almost unbelievable that he was able to make the tires last. I was equally amazed that Webber didn’t seen to even attempt a one stopper. Is “wings” an anagram of “really low tire deg if your name is Vettel” perhaps?

45

Yes, that was really unbelievable.

46

James, wasn’t it RG who turned down Jackie Stewart’s mentoring/coaching offer earlier this year?

47

LOL Good one! 😉

48

1998 saw another first corner pile up at Spa when Dave Coulthard lost control in the wet. James, would the drivers have got a specific briefing from the stewards at a GP like Spa to make every effort to avoid what happened yesterday or not? That corner seems to lend itself to such incidents.

It was a pity some of the top WC contenders were removed in an instant. Very relieved no one was hurt.

49

I was there looking down on that 1998 shunt!

Yes, there is a briefing and the word was that Charlie was lenient on cars running off the track at La Source to avoid trouble, but it’s one of the trickiest first corners in F1

50

Why don’t they just simply move the start-finish straight to after the La Source? I’ve always wondered that.

51

Well yesterday’s horrific incident certainly proved it’s just as dangerous, if not more.. O_O

52

Eau Rouge as the first corner?

It used to be that way years ago, but this is surely a lot safer

53

I guess Hamilton was in the other room at the time of the briefing, probably on twitter. 🙂

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