Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen has outperformed his team mate and shattered the pace of the McLarens this afternoon as he cruised to a fine win in the Ardennes forest. Felipe Massa brought home his Ferrari in second place, and the Scuderia have now officially sealed the 2007 constructors championship following McLaren’s exclusion. The loosing of the point over his team mate now means that Massa is unlikely to be pushed ahead for the title. Instead, Jean Todt will have to put the majority of resources behind todays winner as the season progresses away from Europe and into Asia.
The start of the Belgian Grand Prix was always going to be watched closely as the circuit tends to narrow going down into the impossibly tight La Source hairpin. The remodeled corner though has a slightly wider exit, and more importantly perhaps, is the large flat run-off area, penalising less if you overcook it. And it was this new area that saw some action on lap one after McLaren drivers Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton attempted to prove their worth to each other. As the red lights faded, Alonso moved across from third to defend his position from Hamilton. The pair went into La Source very close to one another, Lewis on the outside and Alonso on the regular line. As the pair squeezed the throttle Alonso moved towards the outside and just kept moving. Hamilton was forced off the circuit and onto the run-off area. Not one to shy away though, Hamilton kept his foot in it and came back down alongside Alonso. They went into the fast Eau Rouge corner together, but as Alonso was on the inside, Lewis backed off and conceded the position.
From here on in, the Belgian Grand Prix simply became a tour and ultimately, proved to be very boring. Perhaps the lack of changeable weather (something we have come to expect from this spontaneous track) took the edge off the race. Perhaps it was the sheer dominant pace of the Ferrari’s that led to the race becoming dull, and although there were many other battles down through the field, we really wanted to see a battle between the top four.
Robert Kubica did a sterling job for BMW. Although the Polish driver finished outside the points in ninth, he started back in fifteenth and made most of these places up on the first lap. His electric start and impeccable overtaking moves mean that Robert really showed the maturity of a seasoned racer today, on a circuit that isn’t easy to master. Nick Heidfeld also drove well again, finishing in the best of the rest position – fifth. The German driver had a relatively quiet race, but his regular haul of points means that BMW have pretty much managed to finish the 2007 season in second place, only beaten in points by Ferrari. Although Renault can still mathematically beat the German squad, it is unlikely they will be able to make up the 51 point deficit in three events.
Renault’s race didn’t start off well for Giancarlo Fisichella who had an engine replaced on Saturday evening and thus started the Grand Prix from the very back of the grid. Fisichella’s race then went from bad to worse when he pulled into his garage with only a few laps completed and retired his R27. Heikki Kovalainen, conversely, has found some pace and recently has been outpacing Fisichella on an increasingly consistent basis. Bringing home one point for the team, Kovalainen now sits five points ahead of his experienced team mate.
Mark Webber had a stonking race back in seventh, and although this is exactly where he qualified, the Australian driver defended and challenged well for all the 44 laps and ultimately scored some valuable points for a team that continue to suffer major reliability problems. David Coulthard again pulled his RBR3 off to the side of the track with hydraulic failure.
The other big improvement coming out of the Belgian race is Spyker. They introduced their B-Spec car at the Italian event last week, but it was at Spa Francorchamps that the car really showed its advancements over its predecessor with more significance placed on grip in corners as opposed to outright straight-line speed. Adrian Sutil led the team into as high a position as twelfth. Unfortunately, the rookie German couldn’t keep the pace up but he still managed a much improved fourteenth place finish. Sakon Yamamoto also finished the race which will buoy the Dutch team, the Japanese driver ending up in seventeenth.
Retirements in Belgium include Giancarlo Fisichella, Sebastian Vettel, Coulthard, Alex Wurz and Jenson Button. A considerable increase from the two retirements we saw in Monza, further proving that Spa is indeed a difficult Grand Prix to complete.
Although the constructors campaign is wrapped up, the drivers title is still open, particularly as Raikkonen took the maximum ten points away from the race. Hamilton still leads, but only by two points as Alonso draws in close on his team mate. Raikkonen now lies just eleven points behind, while Felipe Massa is a further seven behind the Finn. From Kovalainen in seventh to Webber in eleventh, just twelve points separate the five drivers. With only three races left the title is all to play for. While the McLaren drivers appear to have it comfortable at the front, but just another win for Kimi with a poor showing from McLaren would bring Raikkonen right into the championship.
A two week interval now allows the teams to ship every thing over to Shanghai for the Chinese Grand Prix at the end of the month.