One way or the other, it had to be at Spa where fortunes would change, and futures would be defined.
The Heartbreak Kids
For many ex and current F1 drivers, the dangerously technical Belgian Grand Prix at Spa Francorchamps forms a huge chunk of their eventual glorious-career memories. A crowd favorite, a visual treat, and a visceral ride for most of the competitors, many including Schumacher and Raikkonen have publicly declared their undying love and admiration for this circuit, despite iffy weather conditions year after year. 2012 Spa brought the drivers back after a short break, with the tide slowly turning- Alonso on top, but the others gradually finding their groove before it’s too late.
For a change, nothing was a foregone conclusion.
Defending Champion Sebastian Vettel found the going tough on Saturday qualifying, finishing a disappointing 10th. Not surprisingly, Button continued his tiny spurt of form with his first pole after 2009. If there were more signs of the tide changing, Alonso was to start in 5th, and Hamilton in 2nd.
Everything changed once the lights went off.
Slick, Sweaty, Smooth, Spa
Not for the first time, the infamous Grosjean caused a near pile-up at the La Source hairpin. Four cars were forced to retire, with Hamilton and Grosjean taking out Alonso and Perez- and suddenly, just like that, the Championship standings were thrown wide open. For the first time in 23 races, Alonso finished outside the points, and didn’t even make it to the second lap. Hamilton was seen gesturing pointedly at Grosjean after the incident, before the safety car came out for the first 4 laps.
Vettel had to make the most of this, and he did, driving a Hamiltonisque race and fighting his way to the podium, finally finishing second behind Button. The Brit won his 14th race of a very long career, and still lies around 63 points off Alonso in the standings- that’s 3 bad races, a bit too much to ask for, but still in with a shot for runner-up with the others.
Hamilton finds himself way adrift once again, 47 points down and it’s future legend Vettel who is just 23 points off Alonso now. A consistent run of 6 podiums this season sees Raikkonen back in 4th now, in with more than a shout after powering his problematic car to yet another 3rd place finish.
Guess who’s back?
This battle is now turning into a 5-way scrap of ex-Champions, with Webber being the odd one out as usual. To Button’s credit, he led from start to finish- but there was no way to go but up after a disastrous first 10 races that saw him on the verge of self-destruction. The McLaren garage though, is not without incident. It is Hamilton in hot water once again, after a draining weekend that saw him lose his close aunt to Cancer. But the real trouble began when Team Principal Whitmarshm had his tweet about his lap timings with Button’s removed, for fear of information leakage. Some things never change.
With Monza coming up next, it will be Ferrari’s to lose. Fernando Alonso, given a half-decent car, will never look out of sorts- unless someone suicidal takes him off the track as part of a long-run strategy. One thing that can be said about the 2012 season- much like 2010, you can’t predict where the next race is going to be held- much less who win will it.