Button storms to Spa win after first-lap shunt

2012 Belgian Grand Prix review

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Jenson Button romped to his second win of the year after a first-lap collision wiped out several of the top contenders.

Following a lengthy safety car delay Button drove off into a lead he never lost. Like him, Sebastian Vettel used a one-stop strategy which enabled him to salvage second place from tenth on the grid.

Kimi Raikkonen completed the podium after swapping places with Michael Schumacher more than once during the race.

Shunt at La Source

Grosjean caused carnage at the start

It was the first F1 race start for five weeks and some of the participants looked more than a little rusty.

Pastor Maldonado let his clutch slip a fraction too soon and found himself diving down two columns of stationary traffic before the lights had gone out.

But that paled in comparison to what came next. Romain Grosjean made a better start than Lewis Hamilton alongside him and cut sharply across the track, squeezing the McLaren driver up against the white line.

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Contact was inevitable, and as Hamilton lost control of his car the McLaren pushed the Lotus into the cars ahead which were slowing for the first corner.

The Lotus scythed across the front of Fernando Alonso’s car, passing terrifyingly close to his helmet. Hamilton’s car reared into the side of Sergio Perez’s, and the other Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi was knocked into Maldonado. Only the latter two emerged from the crash, Kobayashi with a substantial hole in the side of his car.

The sense of relief was palpable when Alonso emerged from his wrecked car uninjured. It was a very worrying crash which will surely provoke further debate about driving standards and cockpit safety.

Vettel fights his way forward

Vettel fought his way past Schumacher

Raikkonen emerged from the chaos in second place. The Force India pair appeared behind him, Nico Hulkenberg ahead of Paul di Resta, followed by Michael Schumacher’s Mercedes – which had started 13th.

The Lotus driver’s hold on second place didn’t last long. Hulkenberg, who had started on hard tyres, prised it off him at the restart. The other Force India was moving in the opposite direction, di Resta falling prey to Schumacher.

The Red Bull pair ran ninth and 12th at the restart. Vettel had a run at Felipe Massa as they came out of Raidillon but had to duck out of the move as they both went past Heikki Kovalainen’s Caterham.

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Mark Webber’s attempts to pass Bruno Senna were being thwarted by the Red Bull’s poor straight line speed. Vettel was having the same problem, and as in Hungary urged his team to consider bringing him into the pits to move him into clear air.

But Vettel’s pessimism about his chances of making progress proved unfounded. The DRS zone may have proved unhelpful for the Red Bulls but the speed he was able to carry through Blanchimont allowed him to attack drivers in the braking zone for the chicane.

Vettel passed Webber there, having already taken Massa. As the cars in front began to pit Vettel soon found himself in a battle with Schumacher for second.

Schumacher had already taken Raikkonen on the run towards Les Combes, then moved up to second when Hulkenberg pitted. Vettel attacked him at the chicane and the pair locked tyres as they hurtled into the corner.

At this point Vettel’s quick-thinking served him well. He’d been advised to do the opposite to Schumacher as they passed the pit lane. While Schumacher made for the pits, Vettel dodged left and stayed out. Vettel only extended his run by a few more laps, but it was enough to come out in front of the Mercedes.

Raikkonen battles Schumacher

Button pitted on lap 21, the lap before Vettel came in, but was sufficiently far ahead of the Red Bull driver to keep the lead when he did so. This was to be Button’s sole pit stop of the race, and although Vettel turned in some quick laps in the second half of the race the McLaren never really looked threatened.

While the lead pair committed to stopping just once, most of the rest made two visits. Raikkonen’s second dropped him back behind Schumacher.

The pair swapped places as Raikkonen prised third off the Mercedes at the chicane. But that allowed Schumacher to respond in the DRS zone, and he duly reclaimed the place on the run to Les Combes.

A few laps later Raikkonen caught Schumacher on the run towards Eau Rouge, diving past in much the same manner as Webber’s celebrated pass on Alonso last year.

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Hulkenberg was next to put a move on Schumacher, impressively going around the outside of the Mercedes at La Source – only to be re-passed in the DRS zone again. The Force India got ahead at the chicane again, only for Schumacher to give up the unequal struggle and make for the pits.

Button converted his pole to victory

That set the top four places, and Massa’s move on Webber secured a consolation fifth place for Ferrari. Schumacher came back out of the pits in seventh.

The Toro Rosso pair made progress in the final laps. Jean-Eric Vergne muscled his way past Nico Rosberg at Les Combes and Daniel Ricciardo took advantage, following his team mate past.

They also passed Senna, and Di Resta claimed the final points position off the Williams as well despite having lost his KERS. Senna ended up 12th behind Rosberg.

Kobayashi limped home 13th with a badly damaged Sauber. Vitaly Petrov took 14th for Caterham after team mate Heikki Kovalainen had two spins during the race. He also collided with Narain Karthikeyan in the pits after making a slow getaway from his box.

Timo Glock prevailed in the all-Marussia battle for 15th place after swapping places with Charles Pic. Pedro de la Rosa was the only HRT that made it home after Karthikeyan crashed at Stavelot.

Vettel takes up the championship chase

Despite his second win of the season Button remains 63 points behind Alonso in the championship. Vettel has taken up the role of Alonso’s closest pursuer, moving within 24 points of the Ferrari.

But Alonso can take heart from the fact that it wasn’t one of his closest pursuers who won. And team mate Massa – who Alonso has had little difficulty beating this year – finished within half a minute of the McLaren.

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2012 Belgian Grand Prix

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Author information

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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64 comments on “Button storms to Spa win after first-lap shunt”

  1. ShaneB457 (@shaneb12345678910)
    2nd September 2012, 16:27

    The chaos at turn one was extremely scary. Alonso could quite easily have been killed if he was like a tiny bit more to the right. Unlucky to have been taken out, but very lucky to have escaped without injury or possibly even worse..

    1. I don’t think that he escaped without injury he said that he had a back pain but it could be worse i don’t know if this accident will influence his driving or not but i don’t think that he would be prepared at 100% for Monza

      1. Yes, but I am not very sure too, after the crash he said that he is 100% fine, and thinking about Monza already.

    2. Grosjean has staked his claim to be the ‘Official Baby-faced Maldonado’ of F1.

      If monaco was his pole, Spa is his victory!

    3. No idea why grosean carried on driving into Lewis. His greater momentum meant he was likely to gain a place anyway. I’ve been impressed with his speed this season but surely by now he should realise that to do well in a race you have to avoid throwing it all away at the start

      1. It was clear that at the start, once he moved ahead of Hamilton, he continued to move to the side of track on the opposite side of his grid slot and forcing Hamilton close to the kerbs, which resulted in Hamilton loosing control of his car and slamming into Grosjean. And I think Grojean’s speed is only fast at the start, near to the middle and the end of the race, he will be slowing down.

  2. What a win for Button, he easily shunned of Raikkonen’s threat early in the race and he did well to make his one stop work, when it didn’t for others.

    Hamilton’s car reared into the side of Sergio Perez’s, and the other Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi was knocked into Maldonado. Only the latter two emerged from the crash, Kobayashi with a substantial hole in the side of his car.

    You’ve mixed up the Sauber drivers. Perez was knocked in Maldonado, and it was Kobayashi who Hamilton went over the side of.

    1. davidnotcoulthard
      2nd September 2012, 17:04

      He did well to make his one stop work, when it didn’t for others.

      I think Vettel also did.

      1. @slr and more so, considering he had to fight his way up to 2nd, and JB had it easier all the race long.

        1. Yeah, as he had started from 10th, he had to suffer faster tyre degration than Button, as he was affected by turbulence from the other cars, while Button has clear room ahead of him for more than half of the race.

  3. Hulkenberg’s move on Schm is “impressive” but Raikkonen’s braver spectacular move on MSC into Eau Rouge gets no such description from Keith…….

    1. Not to taking anything out from those moves but according to Star Sports commentator Schumacher lost the 6th gear before Kimi passed him there, you can see Michael loosing out the speed on the straight when Kimi overtook him. So i think if Schumacher didn’t have the problem Kimi wouldn’t able to overtake him on there since Mercedes had better straight line speed than the Lotus.

      1. You actually believe Steve Slater?..haha..I wasnt listening to the commentary too intently, but I saw the pass. If I remember correctly, Michael didnt have good traction coming out of La Source, which is critical to get a good run up the hill through Eau Rouge and on to the Kemmel Straight…this is what gave Kimi the advantage..at least it looked like that to me.

        1. actually this was before MSC had the gear problem, and nobody told Kimi even when MSC’s problems came.
          To risk driving offline into O Rouge alongside a faster car which was out of the DRS zone but still faster is pretty brave. Many people even the experts find it hard to be objective when it comes to KR.

        2. About 20 minutes into each race, when Slater’s hysterical rantings begin to sound like fingernails on a chalkboard, we turn the sound off. Only way we can get
          through it, no matter how good the race is.

        3. I don’t remember Steve Slater saying that, i meant the commentator after the race, maybe he was wrong.

  4. Sviatoslav Andrushko (@)
    2nd September 2012, 16:34

    I believe that Grosjean should be disqualified for at least a race. That was not ordinary mistake at the start of this race. If Grosjean fly 1 meter closer to left he would have killed Alonso. I remember 2009, when young driver was killed with a wheel. That was horrible. I’m curious if Grosjean is going to apologise?

    1. Sviatoslav Andrushko (@)
      2nd September 2012, 16:36

      Congrat to Button: he was flawless. Congrats to Vettel: he drove nearly perfect race. But the race itself was far from perfect.

    2. I dont thinnk Grosjean planned to do that.

      1. Racing accidents usually aren’t planned. “He didn’t mean it” should not be treated as a valid excuse.

    3. You got your wish!

      A little harsh I think. But it was his 6th first lap crash of the season

      1. Although, arguably, the first one where he is the only driver to blame.

    4. Disagreed. Such statements seem to be primarily based on result-oriented thinking, which is wrong imo.
      Grosjean made a big mistake, yes, and he has made more mistakes this season. But I think it’s very hypocritical to essentially blame Grosjean for nearly killing Alonso. If something really bad happens in a crash like this, I think it’s clearly due to the fact that you have fast cars driving around with open wheels AND exposed driver helmets.
      I think a penalty should be measured by the mistake itself and not by the outcome of it.

      1. Outcome is always considered as a factor in a penalty in the real world.

  5. Interesting to hear about Vettel’s radio here. I didn’t hear any of the two during the race (Vettel asking the team to consider a different strategy, Vettel being told to do opposite of Michael

  6. Brilliant drive from Button. Also Hulk was very impressive. He took benefits from turn one accident but I never expected him to manage the place.

    Overall, race was good except tons of dark horses wiped out in turn one. Without the crash, I believe it would have been even better.

    Now I have to pray this kind of dominant never happen again.

  7. Pastor Maldonado let his clutch slip a fraction too soon and found himself diving down two columns of stationary traffic before the lights had gone out.

    The slow-motion replays made it seem clear (to me, anyway, and to the Speed commentators) that he didn’t move until after the lights were out. Is there some other evidence available that I’ve missed…?

    1. Well, never mind, he’s just gotten a grid penalty for it — so obviously I did miss something important!

      1. Yes, he did jump. It is cleared that he had made a jump start before the red lights were off, and furthermore, he started much earlier than other drivers. And I bet this jump start is worst than the jump start Alonso had at the 2010 Chinese Grand Prix.

    2. He jumped. Reports are that Pastor Maldonado gets five place grid penalty at Monza for jump start; plus five place penalty for colliding with Petrov.

      1. And I just got ninja’d. Didn’t see your followup comment. Well looks like 10 places back for him.

    3. The slo-mo’s made it clear to me that MAL jumped way way ahead of the lights.

      1. That’s so weird — the opposite seemed clear as day to me, too! Maybe I need my eyes checked…

    4. Not even close, very ‘big’ jump start, very clear.

      1. He clearly moved before everyone else did — but in the replay they showed on Speed, it really looked as though the lights had just gone out when he did. Maybe it was a mass hallucination…

        1. As far as I know they are not allowed to lift the clutch before the light goes out. This means that it was entirely possible for it to look as if the car was not moving before the lights went out as it takes a slight moment for the car to move after the clutch is lifted.

          1. Ah, thanks — that makes sense. After all, the stewards would have data from the timing transponder, which surely detects movement many TV cameras wouldn’t pick up. And actually, now that I’ve seen the start from some different angles, I see that he moved forward just a fraction of a second before the lights went out.

  8. Romain Grosjean handed a one race ban!

    1. Sorry, i didnt see your post!

    2. Fair enough.

  9. ianparkesf1
    Romain Grosjean handed a one- race ban following first corner crash, Lotus confirm
    4:41 PM – 2 Sep 12

    1. ShaneB457 (@shaneb12345678910)
      2nd September 2012, 16:51

      Surprised by that. Why wasnt Maldonado given a ban aswell for all he has done? Makes no sense…

  10. Hamilton’s car reared into the side of Sergio Perez’s, and the other Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi was knocked into Maldonado.

    @keithcollantine Wasn’t it Kobayashi’s Sauber that was knocked by Hamilton, and Perez’s Sauber that was knocked into Maldonado?

    This should give a good look: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2sCaRAty9iY

  11. Amazingly good drive all weekend by Button, Well done.

  12. How can the FIA not revoke Grosjean and Maldonado’s super licences after this??? Grosjean came very close to murdering someone today….those 2 clowns simply arent fit for the sport….they’re even worse than Ide in the sense that they’re GP2 champions!!!! Thank God alonso or any of the others werent injured!!!!!

    1. @chicanef1 – steady on – murder? With malice aforethought? Take some deep breaths.

      1. I didn’t say that he did with “malice aforethought”, just the simple fact that they don’t know when they need to release the clutch pedal or how wide or long an F1 car is. And due to their incompetence as mentioned above, they…might end up harming others.

  13. Brilliant weekend by Button. Vettel, though, how did he end up 2nd? That had to be maybe his best drive of the year. Also, it’s kind of sad how Lotus fizzled out. Last time we saw them, they were clearly the fastest car. Today Kimi got crushed by Button and was grappling with Force India much of the way.

    1. SPEED’s crew mentioned that McLaren has switched some part of their approach to their car back to the way they began the season. Given that Button dominated in Spa just the way he did in Australia at the season opener, I can’t help but wonder where Button would be in the Championship if they had stuck with that original approach. He was virtually out of reach all race long. If McLaren keep this up, the race for both Championships is going to heat up dramatically over the remaining eight races!

  14. While Grosjean certainly takes blame for starting the collision, I believe that a big share of responsibility for the amount of carnage that followed goes to the race officials. Already before the race there were concerns about dangers inherent in putting so many cars into a turn at Spa. And now they started the race when Kobayashi’s car in the front row, obiously in trouble, effectively blocked a third of the track. His onboard from the start clearly shows how faster other cars were, weaving their way past his Sauber. The resulting congestion just asked for trouble.
    Even the commentator on our TV expected the start to be aborted, and he is usually not very perceptive when it comes to F1.

    1. Grosjean was not reacting to anything caused by kobayashi. Kobayashi getting off slow or the sharp corner were not to blame for the incident. Grosjean simply did not have his brain engaged.

    2. Rosberg had similar problems with smoking brakes last year, and he actually got off the line quite well, taking the lead, and caused no carnage as a result. Kobayashi was slow off the startline initially, but as is the nature of the track, he did not lose too much time because of the very short run up to Turn 1. Grosjean had a lot of space in front of him(vacated by the jumpstarting Williams of Maldonando), and yet he scythed leftwards.

  15. Not to taking anything out from those moves but according to Star Sports commentator Schumacher lost the 6th gear bfore Kimi passed him there, you can see Michael loosing out the speed on the straight when Kimi overtook him. So i think if Schumacher didn’t have the problem Kimi wouldn’t able to overtake him on there since Mercedes had better straight line speed than the Lotus.

    1. haha, steve slater is a joke, schumi lose 6th gear after that pass not b4!!

  16. Great win by Button, some interesting racing down the field, and some typical driving from two of my least favourite drivers.

    I have a feeling that one of the mainstream press’s main stories is going to be Lewis Hamilton’s tweeting though, which is sad. Imagine what it’s like to walk into work from a dying relative’s bedside, surrounded by a bunch of people (hacks) who are waiting for nothing more for an opportunity to tear you apart the moment your back is turned, or you make even the slightest mistake, while you operate under immense pressure. Berating a guy for expressing saying “damn” on twitter (because of a supposed “under 16” demographic which a) I don’t believe is the case and b) under 16’s are the ones making up all the new swear words) is pathetic.

    As for tweeting the trace data, yeah that was stupid. But we all wanted to see it so I think he should get an F1Fanatic Gold Star for “community spirit”

  17. I think this weekend showed that, when the setup suits his style, Button is easily one of the best drivers on the grid. He was in a league of his own all weekend.

    I am gutted over Sauber. Their performance has been a highlight this season. So much promise, so much disappointment.

    1. Sauber used the break wisely on prepping better the Q phase.
      Man, it was horrible to not see them contend for even one lap in the race !!!
      For a midfield team they’ve made the most of what they’ve got, and it’s coming together.

      1. That was so sad. Sauber have at times this year looked more like a frontrunning team than a midfield team. I hope they can bounce back and continue to keep things interesting at the pointy end of the grid.

  18. A word about the race yesterday, we saw two clowns at action(C.A.A). The worrying fact is that both CAASs are from GP2, even worse when we find out that those two are the most recent GP2 champions. This spells doom for GP2 certainly, and the FIA should look into this fact rather than make GP2 a training ground for clowns who take the word F1 “circus” too seriously. In fact that is about the only thing they take seriously, seeing that they don’t take the words of their seniors in the team too seriously.

  19. Jenson was impeccable in Q and in R, but Vettel was more fun to watch. My man Perez qualified impressively but was collateral damage; without Alonso, Lewis and him, the race was disappointing… but to win, first you must finish.

    At the circuit, the sudden violence and airborne metal, hightech parts and cars was the wrong kind of spectacle-in GP3, Porsche Cup, GP2 and F1. Thankfully Pilots mostly walked away unscathed, and all lived to pilot again. This attest the good the sport does for millions, as tech & safety advances trickle down and save lives.

    Kamikaze drivers in circuits and on the road ruin races and many a life. Glad to see the sport address that.

  20. Despite the disappointment and carnage of the first lap, I loved this race! Exciting from beginning to end and a real shake up for the championship.

    A small congratulations must go out to Massa, though he only managed fifth, he took a place off Weber at the end and has moved himself up from 14th to 10th in the Championship, tied on points with Schumacher. With two solid races in a row he might just be building up the momentum that can 1. Save his career, 2. Support Alonso and 3. Move Ferrari forward in the Constructor’s standings.

    1. I agree about Massa, although it might be too late to save his career. He did drive well and he got his team valuable points.

  21. Crazy start, I think I was just shouting illegible words at the TV. The biggest disappointment of the race was Sauber losing out as badly as they did. Their car may have succumbed to the slightly faster McLaren of Hamilton eventually but I believed that their tyre management would limit the damage to their race. One of those “we’ll never know moments”.

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