Steve Slater: Belgian thriller in Spa

ESPNSTAR.com columnist Steve Slater takes a look back at last Sunday's thrilling race at the Belgian Grand Prix.

Sebastian Vettel

Last weekend's Belgian Grand Prix as so often, gave us one of the best races of the season. Whether it was Sebastian Vettel's cool drive to victory, the charges through the field by Mark Webber, Jenson Button and Michael Schumacher, or Lewis Hamilton again acting as crash test dummy, the race gave us non-stop action.

It seems that great tracks will inspire drivers to great things. Mark Webber's ninth lap overtaking manoeuvre on Fernando Alonso at Eau Rouge was one of the best overtaking manoeuvres of any Grand Prix. Ever.

Webber had to drive his Red Bull around the outside of the Spaniard's Ferrari at over 280km/h on the entrance to one of the most daunting corners in the world. That the Australian tried it was brave, that he succeeded was awesome and, most tellingly, both he and Alonso left themselves just racing room to avoid disaster.

Jenson Button also pulled off a great pass on Alonso in the closing stages of the race, to secure his place behind the two Red Bull drivers on the podium. Once again, the mark of Button's outbraking manoeuvre at Les Combes was the mutual respect shown by both drivers.

Alonso, whose Ferrari had lacked front-running pace all weekend, kept the door firmly closed on Button until the moment that further defence was impossible. Then with perfect precision he kept a tighter line to avoid collision. It meant he still claimed fourth place and twelve championship points to keep him in the title chase.

One gets a clear feeling that few would trust Lewis Hamilton in such a situation. In fact the same Les Combes corner saw Hamilton prove just how NOT to do it when he moved over prematurely on Kamui Kobayashi and flicked himself into the barriers.

It was a pity because Hamilton's pace could at very least have split the Red Bulls or even taken victory. His opportunist overtaking move on Felipe Massa earlier in the race was another classic.

However the only consistent thing about Lewis Hamilton this season has been his involvement in incidents and visits to the FIA stewards. In 12 races Hamilton has won twice, crashed twice and been invited in front of the stewards at least seven times. Adding to the silliness was his Saturday qualifying wheel-banging nonsense with Pastor Maldonado. If Formula One had a ‘naughty corner', both these little boys would be in it.

In contrast Vettel and Webber have yet to spoil the stewards' slumbers and crucially, have finished every race in the points. So saying, few realised at the start of the race, how close Red Bull Racing were to disaster.

It seems that in qualifying Adrian Newey had exceeded the four degrees of front suspension camber recommended by Pirelli, the amount the wheels lean inwards vertically. This gives the steering more ‘bite' as the camber helps counteract the cornering forces, but it also puts more stress on the inside edges of the tyre treads which become overloaded on long straights.

After the Red Bulls qualified the engineers discovered the insides of the treads were badly blistered. Pirelli told the team that tyre failures could be imminent but that they could not say when.

The team tried to get the tyres changed without penalty, but were told by the FIA that as they had run more camber than the recommended maximum the team had two choices. To start the race and risk failure, or change the suspension and tyres and start from the pitlane, effectively ruling out any chance of victory for Vettel and Webber.

Newey elected to raise the tyre pressures on the starting grid, then bring his drivers in for a tyre stop as soon as he was able. Their 1-2 records the Red Bull gamble paid off, but a visibly emotional Newey said afterwards it was the scariest race he had ever sat through.



comments powered by Disqus

Most Popular News

News & Update