Raikkonen wins again as Fisichella stars
|By Simon Strang||Sunday, August 30th 2009, 13:31 GMT|
Kimi Raikkonen used Ferrari's KERS technology to full effect as he scored a breathless victory for the Scuderia in the Belgian Grand Prix just ahead of Force India's Giancarlo Fisichella, who scored the team's first ever points.
In a thoroughly absorbing, and sometimes chaotic race at Spa, Raikkonen and Fisichella fought a race long-battle for the victory.
Although Fisichella led away from pole position, an accident-filled first lap that eliminated world champion Lewis Hamilton and world championship leader Jenson Button prompted an early safety car period.
Button's championship lead has now been reduced to 16 points after that chaotic start.
Fisichella had got a clean getaway, but behind him, Jarno Trulli was swallowed up by the fast starting, and wide-turning, Raikkonen. The two BMWs of Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica also passed the Toyota, the Pole sneaking past both on the inside.
Trulli somehow clipped the back of Heidfeld's car at this point, which ultimately led to the Italian's later retirement and disappointment after qualifying.
By the time the field reached Les Combes all hell broke loose as Romain Grosjean hit Button and Jaime Alguersuari hit Lewis Hamilton. All four cars ended in a heap in the barrier.
When the pace car pulled in at the end of lap four, Raikkonen sized up Fisichella through Eau Rouge, pushed his KERS button and blasted past the Force India on the run-up to Les Combes.
Fisichella ducked in to his tow immediately, but could not re-pass, and that became the story of his race.
The extraordinary pace of the Force India meant that at times during the race, Fisichella's was the quicker of the two cars. But crucially, Raikkonen's KERS system meant the Ferrari was impenetrable at the circuit's two key passing spots at Les Combes and the Bus Stop chicane.
Regardless, Fisichella's performance was extraordinary, and Ferrari admitted that Raikkonen was forced to drive flat out to beat a team that began the year at the back of the field.
Sebastian Vettel finished third after a wise drive that saw him race through the early chaos and take advantage of several pit mistakes and problems for others to cruise up from eighth on the grid.
In the end he used the inherent pace of the Red Bull to finish just 3.8s off the lead.
Kubica enjoyed a strong race to finish fourth, one place ahead of his BMW team-mate Nick Heidfeld.
The Pole ran a strong third early on and was in the hunt for a podium until being jumped by Vettel at the second stops, the Red Bull driver having done the same thing to Heidfeld in the first ones.
Two other drivers that should have been in the fight were Fernando Alonso and Timo Glock.
The Renault driver ran a long first stint, which allowed him to cruise up behind the battling leaders, but when he finally pitted it became clear he had picked up damage to his left-front at the first corner. The team took a while to change it, then called in the Spaniard a lap later for good.
A pit crisis with a fuel rig also ruined Glock's race, the German having run fourth early on, but eventually finished 10th.
Heikki Kovalainen was sixth after a battling drive that owed much to consistency and the misfortune of others - and a one-stop strategy.
Rubens Barrichello pitted under the safety car having made a terrible start, having dropped so far down he had nothing to lose. The change of strategy saw him charge back into contention.
By the end of the race he was breathing down Kovalainen's neck for sixth, but two laps from the end of the race he suffered an oil leak and backed off to secure two points.
Nico Rosberg took the final point after a long first stint, just holding off Mark Webber in the second Red Bull.
Webber had a nightmare race. Having also looked strong early on, the Australian was released into the path of Heidfeld in the first pitstops and was given an almost immediate drive-through. After that his chances of points were always going to be reduced.
PROVISIONAL RACE RESULTS The Belgian Grand Prix Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium; 44 laps; 308.052km; Weather: Sunny. Classified: Pos Driver Team Time 1. Raikkonen Ferrari (B) 1h23:50.995 2. Fisichella Force India-Mercedes (B) + 0.939 3. Vettel Red Bull-Renault (B) + 3.875 4. Kubica BMW Sauber (B) + 9.966 5. Heidfeld BMW Sauber (B) + 11.276 6. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes (B) + 32.763 7. Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes (B) + 35.461 8. Rosberg Williams-Toyota (B) + 36.208 9. Webber Red Bull-Renault (B) + 36.959 10. Glock Toyota (B) + 41.490 11. Sutil Force India-Mercedes (B) + 42.636 12. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) + 46.106 13. Nakajima Williams-Toyota (B) + 54.241 14. Badoer Ferrari (B) + 1:38.177 Fastest lap: Vettel, 1:47.263 Not classified/retirements: Driver Team On lap Alonso Renault (B) 27 Trulli Toyota (B) 22 Button Brawn-Mercedes (B) 1 Grosjean Renault (B) 1 Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes (B) 1 Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 1 World Championship standings, round 12: Drivers: Constructors: 1. Button 72 1. Brawn-Mercedes 128 2. Barrichello 56 2. Red Bull-Renault 104.5 3. Vettel 53 3. Ferrari 56 4. Webber 51.5 4. McLaren-Mercedes 44 5. Raikkonen 34 5. Toyota 38.5 6. Rosberg 30.5 6. Williams-Toyota 30.5 7. Hamilton 27 7. BMW Sauber 18 8. Trulli 22.5 8. Renault 16 9. Massa 22 9. Force India-Mercedes 8 10. Kovalainen 17 10. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 5 11. Glock 16 12. Alonso 16 13. Heidfeld 10 14. Kubica 8 15. Fisichella 8 16. Buemi 3 17. Bourdais 2 All timing unofficial