2011 Belgian Grand Prix: Vettel Wins, Schumacher Salvages
The morning of the Belgian GP was quite comical. The teams whose drivers made it through Q3 of qualifying on Saturday, requested the FIA to allow them extra tyres for the race. They anticipated that should typical Spa weather prevail (which means a dry and wet weather), they could probably run out of tyres in the race.
The FIA first allowed and then disallowed, while the official tyre manufacturer Pirelli ordered for 17 extra sets of front tyres overnight should there be a need to use them. Formula1 teams running out of tyres during a race, comical, ain’t it?
Observations from the race:
- The pre-race tyre saga meant that strategy and the first stint for the top 10 runners would be immediately affected. Both Red Bull drivers, Hamilton and Alguersuari had voiced safety concerns regarding their front tyres. However, the FIA denied permission to replace their fronts.
- I am glad the FIA stuck to the rules and not allow the tyre change, which would have immediately put the drivers outside the top 10 at a disadvantage. Had the teams been too worried about their safety, they had the option to change their tyres and start from the pitlane!
- As the race started, both Red Bull drivers had a very short first stint with Vettel pitting on lap 5 and Webber pitting as early as lap 3. Hamilton on the other hand endured his tyres till lap 10.
- The field was split between 2 and 3 pitstops; Mark Webber was the only driver to have used the medium compound in two stints. Webber, who slipped down 5 places at the start, recovered well to finish the race in 2nd place.
- At the start, the biggest gainer was Michael Schumacher, who gained a whopping 10 places and the biggest loser was Bruno Senna, who lost 15 places after misjudging his braking point into Turn1.
- Vettel’s pole to flag victory was uncommon in Spa’s history. In the last 17 years, only 3 pole sitters managed to convert the race into a win. (Read: F1 Statistics)
- Schumacher’s crazy weekend started with a gearbox change between qualifying and the race. However, he wasn’t penalized for this change.
- Alonso’s 4 successive podium finishes ended in Spa after he finished 4th and 13 seconds behind the race leader. Massa’s race was ruined after a late race puncture which needed him to make an additional pitstop. He eventually finished 8th.
- Rosberg’s start was noteworthy and demands a special mention. Not many would have believed that the Mercedes GP car that started from P5 would lead the race at the end of lap 1. Rosberg’s early race duel with Vettel was exciting, but his pace faded off as the race unfolded. Rosberg, who led the race for a few laps, ended up finishing the race 6th.
- Jaime Alguersuari, who had a career best qualifying (Read: 2011 Belgian GP Qualifying Report) on Saturday was unfortunate to be hit by an out of control Bruno Senna. Senna’s mistake cost both rookies a good race finish and earned him a penalty for causing collision.
- Toro Rosso had a bad race in Spa after a good qualifying session. Buemi was forced to retire after his rear wing was hit in a separate racing incident.
- Schumacher’s strategy deserves a special mention. Two things that stood out clearly from his charge to 5th in the race; 1) saving an extra set of tyres in qualifying did actually aid Schumacher who used his medium tyre only for 4 laps at the start, 2) Brawn’s decision to call Schumacher in for an early stop and switch to the faster soft compounds. Many would’ve have expected the medium compound starting Schumacher to actually make a pit stop less than the guys at the top of the field.
- We had 4 different leaders in the first 8 laps of the race. Rosberg, Vettel, Webber and Alonso led the race in different parts. Most impressive has to be Alonso’s charge from P8 to P1.
- The other interesting part of the race and its early pit stops were that the field was bunched up. The top 10 drivers were only about 15 seconds apart, which meant that when the leaders made their early pit stops, they resumed either 10th or behind. Strategy calculations would have been extremely tense at this part of the race.
- Webber pulled off one of this season’s best overtaking maneuvers on Alonso when both were fighting for position in the early part of the race. The move was made just before entering Eau Rouge.
- Hamilton had a race to forget after colliding with Kobayashi and the end of the Kemmel Straight. Post race, after watching replays of his collision, Hamilton accepted blame for the crash. Hamilton’s crash brought out the Safety Car in Spa. You should know that Spa has an 80% chance of a Safety Car period per race. This is something that the strategists in each team would keep in mind.
- I had a post-Hamilton’s crash conversation with a friend who joked and said that Hamilton should have distance sensors on his car! He rates Hamilton as the best driver on the grid, mind you!
- Sergio Perez and Hamilton are tied on top of the driver’s penalty list this year with 4 penalties each. (Read post: Driver Reprimands Replaced With Grid Penalties)
- Vettel crossed his 2010 World Championship points tally of 256 points in Spa. At this rate, should he win in Monza and Singapore, he could seal his second World Championship with 5 races to go this season. Should he do so, Vettel will be the youngest ever double World Champion.
- Vettel and Webber’s 1-2 finish for Red Bull Racing was after the 2011 Turkish Grand Prix.
- Schumacher’s 5th position was his season’s best for 2011.
- Maldonado, who was penalized for his collision with Hamilton in qualifying, managed to finish 10th in the race and scoring his first ever F1 point.
The best part of the Belgian GP was that it didn’t rely on the weather to make it interesting. Maybe racing should stay in the traditional circuits in Europe. (Read post: Formula1 Politics, Power Struggle and a Formula1 Fan)
Meanwhile, the 2 month countdown for the Indian Grand Prix has started. If you haven’t booked your tickets yet, or don’t know which ones to book, do read: Airtel Indian Grand Prix: Which Stand Is The Best?