Vettel victorious in dramatic Spa race

2011 Belgian Grand Prix review

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Sebastian Vettel converted pole position number nine into win number seven at Spa-Francorchamps.

But it wasn’t a straightforward victory for the Red Bull driver who dropped back after an early pit stop.

Mark Webber bounced back from a poor started to finish second while Jenson Button fought his way up from 13th to third.

Rosberg takes the lead

Vettel held the lead at the start but it was Nico Rosberg, whose Mercedes was visibly smoking as the lights went out, who sprinted forward. He arrived at the first corner in second place, then nabbed the lead off Vettel at Les Combes.

Behind them the two Ferraris had also made excellent starts. Felipe Massa took third off Hamilton and Fernando Alonso also put the McLaren driver under pressure, despite being knocked wide at La Source by an incident behind him.

Alonso got past Hamilton on the second lap before DRS was activated, the McLaren clearly struggling for straight-line speed.

When DRS was activated, Vettel reeled in Rosberg and moved into the lead. But it was short-lived.

Red Bull had been concerned about the state of their tyres which had blistered in qualifying. Webber came in after four laps and Vettel one lap later.

Rosberg took the lead back for one lap before being passed by a series of drivers using DRS.

First came Alonso, who had passed team mate Massa at Rivage on the previous lap. Next was Hamilton, who had followed Alonso past Massa.

Alonso relinquished the lead after one lap, pitting and allowing Hamilton into first place. He came out ahead of Webber, but the Red Bull driver thrust past with a stunningly brave move as they hurtled side-by-side into Eau Rouge.

Hamilton crashes out

After two laps in the lead Hamilton came in for his pit stop. He came out in eighth place behind Kamui Kobayashi and Adrian Sutil.

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He picked Sutil off with ease but his battle with Kobayashi ended with his second controversial collision of the weekend.

Hamilton passed Kobayashi, who was nursing a damaged front wing, and still had his DRS open as they headed towards Les Combes. Given that, he might not have expected the Sauber driver to attempt a pass on the way into the corner.

But Kobayashi had not dropped back fully, and as Hamilton moved towards the racing line they touched.

The contact fired Hamilton into the barrier at speed, destroying and advertising hoarding before coming to rest. Kobayashi continued, and the safety car was summoned as Hamilton climbed from the wreckage.

The safety car was good news for Vettel, who was able to get his second pit stop in while the cars were running at reduced speed. That put Alonso back in the lead of the race.

Webber did not make another stop and briefly held second, but once the safety car came in Vettel quickly passed his team mate. On the next lap he took Alonso again for the lead.

Button races to the podium

Jenson Button had picked up front wing damage early in the race which delayed his progress from 13th on the grid. But once the safety car came in he made rapid progress.

Button passed Michael Schumacher, Adrian Sutil, Felipe Massa and Nico Rosberg for fourth place. He kept the leaders within range so that when Vettel pitted, he came out behind Button.

The McLaren was never going to keep the Red Bull behind, however, and Vettel was quickly through into the lead.

Button joined Alonso and Webber in making a final pit stop. Now on medium tyres, Alonso struggled for pace and first Webber then Button came past him.

Would Red Bull order their drivers to hold position? It turned out to be a moot point, as Webber wasn’t able to catch Vettel.

Schumacher’s brilliant recovery

While Button was passing Alonso for third, Rosberg was under attack from his team mate. Remarkably, Schumacher had climbed from 24th on the grid to pass his team mate for fifth.

Sutil was seventh ahead of Massa, whose race was spoiled by a puncture which forced him to make an extra pit stop. He started the last lap in ninth, but gained a place from Vitaly Petrov who slowed on the final lap.

Pastor Maldonado claimed the final point for Williams – the first of his F1 career.

Paul di Resta was 11th, having lost part of his front wing at the first corner when he was hit by Timo Glock. Behind him was Kobayashi.

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Senna penalised for crash

Bruno Senna finished his first race for Renault in 13th, having made the same mistake as Glock on the first lap and also been handed a drive-through penalty.

Senna braked too late and hit Jaime Alguersuari, putting the Toro Rosso driver out.

The other Toro Rosso of Sebastien Buemi was also taken out after being hit by Sergio Perez.

Jarno Trulli led the two Lotuses home, Heikki Kovalainen having fallen victim to Glock’s first-corner lunge.

Rubens Barrichello fell to 16th after hitting Kobayashi at the chicane late in the race.

Behind him were the Virgins of Jerome d’Ambrosio and Timo Glock, with Vitantonio Liuzzi the last runner.

Team mate Daniel Ricciardo retired havingrun as high as 15th.

Vettel’s latest victory means he has accrued more points in 12 races in 2011 than he did in the whole of 2010.

Although it will take him a few more races to put the title beyond doubt, Red Bull’s perfect result at a track which has not favoured them in the past makes the destiny of the championships all but inevitable.

2011 Belgian Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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60 comments on “Vettel victorious in dramatic Spa race”

  1. So sorry for Alguersuari. He was 5th before the first corner after a brilliant qualifying and BANG, here comes Bruno and takes him out.

    Other than that, I think I’ve already had my rant about the DRS zone. They should find a way to test it and adjust it so they don’t spoil the race completely. It can’t be hard, can it?

    1. I’m sorry for Alguersuari too. The best STR quali since 2008, and Bruno thumps him. He’ll hopefully get other chances.

    2. Yeah, really a great shame we did not get the chance to see him make something out of that good start.

    3. I don’t think it spoiled the race today. We had some great racing still. It’s a new system and the FIA would be the first to put their hand up and say it’s still in development.

    4. Yes. I officially deslike DRS!

  2. Vettel has pretty much righted the wrongs of last year- winning at both circuits where he (rightly) attracted criticism for crashing. Even as a Vettel fan, I found it refreshing to see him in situations where he had to overtake and he succeeded every single time.

    Superb race from Michael though. My driver of the day. Rosberg did a great job in the Merc too, but he must be getting a bit irritated with the number of times he’s led without having the car to convert it into a win.

    1. Even as a Vettel fan, I found it refreshing to see him in situations where he had to overtake and he succeeded every single time.

      I agree. I really thought that this was one of his more hard earned victories. It’s a shame FOM didn’t show his other overtakes and the BBC didn’t really talk about any of the ones they did show.

      1. Credit where credit is due, shame most of the races overtakes were with DRS.

        1. same with all the overtakes this year.

          Where’s all the Alonso fans who bashed Vettel’s overtaking when he went by Alonso in todays race? you know the GREATEST DRIVER EVER ALONSO got passed by a terrible overtaker? where are they now?

          1. To be fair Alonso was never a good defender. He’s just about great (not excellent) in everything (qualifying/race/overtaking etc) but in defense, Alonso has never struck me as strong.

            I remember Takuma Sato (in a super aguri, no less) overtaking him (around the outside to boot?) in Canada 2007 (when he was in that monster of a McLaren)

          2. Bizzare comments daniel

            im an alonso fan, and seb did great today. his life was made easier by rubbish strategy of others but thats not seb’s fault. seb got the job done brilliantly.

            so what yours problem?

            i dont think its just fernando fans who knocked seb last year. infact he and fernando have never run into each other. if i remember right it was mclaren fans knocking him.

          3. @ Daniel – Although I’m happy about Seb’s performance today, I don’t want to rub it in other fan’s faces as it’s only going to create unnecessary arguments, and isn’t the way to celebrate.

            @ raymondu999 – I do remember Alonso’s great defense against Schumacher at Imola.

            @ Q85 – You are right, I usually notice more Mclaren fans knocking Vettel.

          4. @David – Fair play, completely forgot about that :P

        2. I hated DRS during this race. there was almost no point in Rosberg making a great start because of DRS nullifying his efforts.

          1. Agreed, DRS made it far too easy this time. So many of the passes were foregone conclusions before they were even attempted. Though some still managed to stand out, Webber on Alonso towards the end of the race was mighty impressive, more or a pass due to sucking up the Ferrari through Eau Rouge than a DRS style pass.

  3. Well said, there were some real highlights to this race, and some unfortunate drama’s that we could have done without, but a lot of drivers showed great drives, including Vettel, who clearly is very well geared to take his second, consecutive, WDC, and help his team to a clear 2nd WCC title too.

  4. On the DRS, yes, there were several instances where it seemed quite a bit too easy, but that must also have been due to the tyres (like Alonso not fighting back much near the end of the race), as there were also moments when it didn’t work so easily (Button keeping cars behind, HAM …, both Merc. cars not being easy to overtake there).

    I don’t think this race would have suffered if we hadn’t had DRS though, so as in other good races this year, it seems like we could have done without it.

    1. It did quite a lot to lessen me enjoying the race, as a lot of crucial passes were made like that, hardly giving a fair chance to defend to the cars ahead.

  5. Here’s the one thing that scares me after today; He actually made some beautiful overtakes. None as beautiful as those who overtook in Eau Rouge , but he did some fantastic non-DRS overtakes. He overtook Webber out of La Source and before Eau Rouge (though FOM missed that) after the safety car period, he overtook Alonso without DRS on the Kemmel straight into Les Combes (I think it was without DRS, no?) and, something that smacked beautifully of Alonso in Suzuka. He passed Rosberg around the outside of Blanchimont; which I did not think was possible for any car on any car. Almost a carbon copy of Alonso on Schumacher in 130R corner in Suzuka.

    His defensive driver has stepped up a gear too methinks He doesn’t go up the inside to cover the entry to the corner, but he seems to have a way of beautifully reading the cars behind him; and “controls” their corner exits into the key parts. Spain is a case in point. Another is in Monaco. He was going through Portier and Anthony Noghes very slowly each time, and picking his moment to traction out of the corner beautifully, in a “safety car restart” style fashion, catching his pursuers out by sheer human response times.

    Absolutely remarkable.

    He hasn’t done much overtaking this year when on the same strategy; most of the ones he’s done this year are based on DRS; or on fresh vs old tyres. But this is the first race which really made me in awe of him. Clearly his overtaking skills are beginning to mature.

    Abso-fricking-lutely remarkable.

    Couple this with his (we know) superb clear-air race pace, and excellent qualifying skills, and… I’ll stop there

    1. And you understand why he has 92 points lead, he does have the fastest car but that is not the reason of this remarkable superiority this season.

    2. My thought exactly.

    3. yes Vettel’s overtakes were amazing, especially the one at Blanchimont. shame the BBC commentators couldn’t care less…

    4. The record books will show that race as another win from pole but Vettel actually had to overcome a lot of trouble today and actually made 3 passes for the lead during the race.

      Whilst 2 were in the DRS zone his move on Rosberg at Blanchimont was a top class move and his pass on Alonso after Eau Rouge was also a good one, despite the Ferrari have better straight line speed and without DRS activated he stuck it round the outside with a brave move.

      One of his best drives to date in my opinion.

      1. Yeah that Vettel’s pass on Rosberg going around the outside of Blanchimont was absolutely un-frecking believable!! The wife was trying to calm me down after that…I was ecstatic!..what a one in the right mind would have gone for that.

        I thought it was one of the best race I’d seen in a long time. The DRS made it look a little plastic at times, but there was a whole load of good racing through all parts of the track.

        Good win by Vettel, the safety car helped him a lot…I would have thought Alonso would have been pushing for the win if it wasnt for that. Kudos to Button, a brilliant drive once again.

        1. Heck yes!! My Dad and I just looked at each other in amazement when he went around the outside of Rosberg like that. It was by far the most confident, the most determined looking pass I’ve seen all year!!!!!

  6. It’s a shame Vettel is going to win another WDC so easily because i’m not sure he’s really double world champion worthy yet. He’s a good driver don’t get me wrong but i don’t see him winning races in an inferior car as Alonso, Hamilton and Button have done over the last few years. People forget that although he somehow won the WDC last year he didn’t have a particularly good season winning only 2 of the first 15 races.

    1. Keith; been a while since I last saw a “facts and stats” piece on F1F. Are those still around?

      1. I thought those get posted the day after a race?

      2. Yes, every Monday after the race.

    2. 1. Vettel won in an STR. Ok, it was fast on that weekend, but surely it wasn’t any less impressive than Hamilton’s wins in a fast Mclaren. Button’s only had 1 win in an uncompetitive car. Five years ago.

      2. Seb won 2 of the first 15 races but his teammate (who is still a good driver) only won 4. Vettel couldn’t win at Bahrain or Australia because his car broke down when leading.

      1. David A, I’m glad you continue trying to point these things out. I gave up in irritation long ago.

        Other than that, I’ll just say I’m glad the WDC isn’t awarded on the basis of someone’s nebulous concept of “worthiness.”

    3. People forget that although he somehow won the WDC last year he didn’t have a particularly good season winning only 2 of the first 15 races.

      Doesn’t it make his championship even more of an achievement? little sense there mate.

      He is a worthy champion. Maybe not one of the greatest ever, but that’s another matter.

      1. He has a great car (12 poles in 12 races) but he deserves it. His team mate can’t compete with him and McL and Ferrari can’t keep up.

        Let’s hope Mcl and Ferrari are competitive from Race #1.

        1. Added it, thanks.

    4. he won in a torro rosso in the wet. not double world champion worthy yet? he is the only driver consistently getting the most out of the car he has under him. alonso, hamilton and button have not driven as good as him this year. he is getting poles like ayrton senna. you say he didnt have a particularly good season last year, but somehow he finished first, what does that say about his rivals which you think are better then him? shows that they were even more inconsistent. vettel has stepped up this year, he is the most consistent driver, while the likes of hamilton are becoming less and less consistent. its not a shame at all the vettel is going to be WDC, its a worthy result for driving the fastest in the worlds fastest racing series

    5. Actually, he did more in an inferior car than all those 3 drivers.

    6. People make it sound like the McLaren is an inferior car. It’s probably the quickest car out there now and Vettel is still beating them both.

      It seems as though people have blanked his era at Toro Rosso from their memory. The guy got sold points more often then not and even picked up a win for goodness sake.

      1. Exactly. He didn’t just get the odd result, he got regular points, and a convincing win from pole, and ended up 8th in the championship.

  7. Max the cat – have you forgotten that he won in a toro rosso! I know it would was a good car but it was by no means quick enough to win a race in 08. Vettel is a very worth double champion and he is only going to get better

    1. Yeah if no-one rates Vettel now and he’s on the brink of being 2xWDC, the Seb haters are in for a long 15 years or so if he gets better.
      He made some real passes stick today (the one on Rosberg was a highlight even tohugh i was $hitting myself) and he carved through traffic like a hot knife through butter. Given a car thats set up to allow overtaking, he can get the job done.

  8. A fascinating race, and one in which Vettel begins to look like Schumacher 10 years ago: whatever problems arise, whatever’s thrown at him, somehow he always serenely ends up on top.
    What I find interesting is how the pace of the top 4 teams ebbs and flows during the race. Hamilton is complaining about being “massively slow” in astraight line, yet Button is pulling moves on Alonso no problem at the end. He seems to always be a bit slow to get going and blisteringly quick by the end. Is this a personal thing, or the Maclaren working better than everything else on a nicely rubbered track?

    1. Good observation Klint, I have often wondered the same thing myself. It just shows how closely matched they are. At the beginning Rosberg’s Mercedes was on fire! (pun intended) near the middle the Ferrari’s were going purple, late in the race Button seemed unstoppable, but in the end the Redbulls were quickest when it mattered most.

      And Vettel is indeed seeming more Schumacher-esque all the time. That pass around the outside of Rosberg was a decisive and in your face kind of pass like Schumacher would make in his heyday.

  9. For my penneth worth, why oh why can’t Mark make a decent start this year, he never used to be this bad, but what a great performance overall coming back to the highest position allowed him.

  10. Would love to know how many over-takes there were during the race and how many were DRS assisted.

    Really hope they will get rid of it, or at least limit its use to tracks where over-taking is very tricky. It took the shine off a lot of the passing today – cars were just breezing past each other.

    1. or at least position the DRS zone in a place where one wouldn’t normally be able to overtake. Les Combes is THE perfect overtaking spot in Spa.
      I thought the DRS in Germany was great: a help, but not enough !

  11. The first one or two laps had me almost jumping. Rosberg’s start was incredible considering the difference of Mercedes’ pace form Red Bull’s!
    Massa battling with hamilton and passing him was great for me, and also Alonso’s start. Pity for Alguersuari, Senna behaved like rammers in F1 2010.
    Great progress by Button and Schumacher, and also Sutil that scored points.

    1. Rosberg for start-of-the-year award without a doubt, incredible!

      1. Oh I dunno, Alonso’s start in Spain was pretty awesome too. Haha, maybe a tie is in order…

      2. Reminded me so much of his Dad back in the day.

  12. That is the WDC and WCC, for me, over ‘for sure.’ :-)

    They were lots of overtakes without DRS, mainly Button and Hamilton strangely. Hamilton in places you should not be able to overtake and the pair of them into the ‘Bus stop’although there were a few from others into the ‘Bus stop’

    1. Not Ruben though, he messed it up again into the Bus Stop… lol

  13. i was right. the DRS zone was far too long.

  14. I think BBT is right – there goes the season!
    It was a very entertaing race today with lots to excite and a few things to ponder, but with Finger Boy up there again, the season is almost over.
    Even if VET contracted Itchy Clap and could not drive for the rest of the season, it would take a miracle for anyone else to catch him.
    Has anyone got a voodoo doll . . .

  15. Ferrari’s inability to use the harder tires really lost the race for Alonso. He was overtaking people lap after lap in the first half of the race.

    Once he put those hard tyres on, he just went backwards.

    Its sad really. The guy cant get a break.

  16. A good solid win for Vettel. Possibly his best winning performance. I liked seeing him win again, it was good.

  17. Believe me at one point I thought that for some reason Kimi came with a Ferrari from the outside of Les Combo to race,I forgot that fact that Alonso can run wide!

    Great race to see Nico put up a good fight & also for me Button has to be the driver of the day.This circuit didn’t needed a DRS zone the race was doing good on true pace.The move of Webber on Alonso on lap 9 to the run though Eau Rouge was probably one of the best of the season.Good day for Schumacher,I guess that was the best.Tough luck for Massa’s puncture.Such a pity that we may need to see this race alternate,shame BERNIE.

  18. Did anyone notice the issue with the display on Vettel’s steering wheel? Lol it was near the end of the race.

  19. What I find very interesting is that form book and “conventional wisdom” has been turned on its head. Silverstone and Hungary were expected to be Red Bull walkovers. And they weren’t. In fact someone else walked over them on both events. And trampled them again for good measure.

    Spa, Canada were supposed to be McLaren tracks; they lost Spa quite badly, and (almost) lost Canada.

    Also, “expectations” are also turned upside down. Everyone thought McLaren was struggling before qualifying in Nurburgring. But they were one of the quickest packages around. Everyone thought the Valencia and Silverstone rule changes would reel Red Bull in, and McLaren and Ferrari will be fighting things out on track while Red Bull “languishes” (based on recent form) as 3rd best team. Didn’t happen.

    Absolutely fascinating.

    Not to mention this year we’re getting a super-boring championship, but each individual race is absolutely fantastic. Which is the opposite of last year really. We had a massive championship battle, with boring races (except for Spa, Canada, and the other rain-affected races)

    Makes you wonder what other beautifully scripted story Bernie has for us next year.

    Roll on Monza! (based on the pretext of “upturned form book” above, I expect this to be comprehensively a Red Bull stomping ground :P)

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