Race Notes: 2008 ING Belgian Grand Prix

2008 ING Belgian Grand Prix
Spa-Franchorchamps, Belgium
Round 13 of 18
7 September 2008

*LIVE* on ITV1
Anchors: Steve Rider & Mark Blundell
Commentary: James Allen & Martin Brundle
Pitlane: Ted Kravitz & Louise Goodman

12.05 Coverage begins and immediately we see the dark clouds – it isn’t raining but it looks like it will soon!

Steve – “We’ve had heavy showers followed by drying conditions.”
Mark – “Big concern for the teams.”
Obligatory ‘how will this effect Lewis’ question. Puhlease. Same as every other driver.

Points going in:
Lewis 70
Massa 64 (-6)
Kimi 57 (-13)
Kubica 55 (-15)
Kovi 43 (-27)

Season recap, short clips from every race.

While they do this.. there are six races to go including this one:
Belgium, Italy, Singapore, Japan, China, Brazil

All except maybe China are unmissable. Belgium and Italy are classics, Brazil is always exciting, Japan is effectively new because it was too wet last time to get a read on it, while Singapore is a brand new event and the first F1 night race. China has the longest straight and the championship pressures can cause some strange incidents so is worth a look but it isn’t one I’d make a point of watching if I were a casual fan.

BELGIAN GP START ORDER
Q3: Hamilton, Massa, Kovalainen, Raikkonen, Heidfeld, Alonso, Webber, Kubica, Bourdais, Vettel
Out in Q2: Trulli, Piquet, Glock, Coulthard, Rosberg
Out in Q1: Barrichello, Button, Sutil, Nakajima, Fisichella

Alonso (P6): We’re fighting for 5th & 6th positions after McLaren and Ferrari, we got one of those so we’re happy.
Heikki (P3): Nothing to compain about, good balance in the car.
Massa (P2): If I have the opportunity I have to try for sure.
Hamilton (P1): Going to be interesting off the start if a guy gets a run on you but I don’t intend to let anyone past.

Teams have driers pointed at the ground outside their pits. The circuit and pitlane are damp but drying. Don’t want a wet pit stall when the stops come around.

Martin’s circuit guide, onboard Lewis Hamilton. Longest track of the year.
190mph into Eau Rouge, negative G through the compression and then over the crest at Raidillon. [Yesterday he said Eau Rouge isn’t the challenge it was due to modern downforce]
Pouhon corner is the real challenge around here now.
Over 200mph into Blanchimont, full throttle, brake hard to 55mph for the chicane into the start/finish straight.

Ted with Gerhard Berger (Scuderia Toro Rosso, ex-driver): “It’s a gamble, typical Spa, I hope it starts raining, a bit more risk but more fun. If it is wet there is no secret, try and control your car, stay off the kerbs and white lines.” Paint is slippery when wet.
Mark B says Gerhard wants rain because Vettel is fuelled heavily. Other cars will have to pit earlier and make the tyre decision earlier, while Vettel can cover those bases and react to those decisions.

After the chaos at Valencia we take a look at Ferrari’s light system.
The fueller presses a button to change the light to green. There is an override from the chief mechanic, but he didn’t override for Massa.

Martin Whitmarsh (McLaren, Kimi’s old boss) on KR’s problems: “We think he was watching the fuel hose rather than the light. When the hose started to lift he went. This is why we tell our guys not to do that.”
Webber: “We’ve looked at the light system to reduce time lost.”
Heidfeld: “We have the quickest pit stops of everyone all year, we’re very happy with our pitstops!”
Kimi said something but I didn’t catch it.

The drivers’ parade (on the back of a truck) took place in the rain, bet they loved doing that at the longest circuit of the year!
Martin talked to Sebastian Vettel earlier (may have been yesterday after quals). Eau Rouge not the challenge it was? “Eau Rouge is a very nice corner, if it went we would miss it, same with Blanchimont.”
He says the team are improving. Moving to the A-team, RBR, next year. Regret the decision? Lately you’ve been beating them! “Not at all. There are only a few tenths in it.”
Where are you looking to finish? “Top ten. Cannot expect results every race, the midfield is a very hard fight.”

12:30 (13:30 local)
Pitlane is now open for cars to go to the grid. They perform recon laps by passing back through the pits, if they reach the grid that’s it, no more recon laps.

I swear I just saw a team member with a Tony Kanaan 7/11 racesuit on. It was only a fleeting glimpse. Ah, another shot, some of the Honda people have green and white overalls. Looked similar.

Recorded interview with Lewis: “I didn’t do the perfect lap, I locked up the tyres in turn 1. Massa said he did the perfect lap and they were behind us.” Replays of Lewis and Alonso last year off the start, both in McLarens, going into Eau Rouge two wide! Says he knows what to expect now.
Trickiest corner is Pouhon. “You can’t brake, you’re not allowed to brake, and you have to have reasonably big cajunes to do that!”
Title fight with Massa now? “Feels different to last year, we had all that negativity last year and this year is different, we’re ready to win the race.”
We’re live at the track again. Lewis may have clutch problems, could struggle off the start line.

Martin’s gridwalk! “We might be about as welcome as a toothache today, a lot of decisions (about weather) to be made.”
The last part of the track to dry has been the last few corners and the pitstraight – the new section. Massa’s car was late to the grid, may have gremlins. With a Red Bull team member: “We think the weather will stay about the same, quite dry at t8-t9, most cars will start on inters, will be brave to start on dries.” Webber: “Most of the track is dry except for this bit at the bottom here. Intermediates here but rest of the track is dry. Wouldn’t say its warm, it’s warm for the English mate!”
Martin pushing through everyone.. Trying to get Alonso.. Has to wait for another interviewer, tries to listen but he’s speaking Spanish!
How’s the track? Alonso: “Some parts are damp, some are dry. It will be a last minute decision (on tyres). If you are right on tyres you have a big opportunity.”
Martin trying to find Kubica.. he says no. Throws back to Steve because everyone is too busy, they won’t take an interview. He’s an ex driver so he knows when to push them and when to leave them alone.

Guitars on the grid! Belgian national anthem. ITV talking all over the host nation’s anthem as usual. Steve: “I don’t know what that band was on but it certainly wasn’t intermediates.”

Louise with a Toyota bloke: “We used the lap to the grid to give the drivers a feel. First half of the race will be like this, second half will be dry.” Since the drivers always use the lap to the grid to get a feel for the track methinks that was a deflection..

ITV’s Ted Kravitz gets international air on the FOM world feed, walking past Alonso! RBR are advertising Red Bull Cola. I’ve seen a lot of ads for it but never found it sold anywhere.

Lots of atmosphere shots of the fans from the FOM TV director, love it.
Obligatory shot of Lewis Hamilton’s dad Anthony, this time texting someone. No doubt we’ll see more of him later.
Caption: No rain expected during next 30 minutes.

New caption innovation: Graphic showing a driver’s results over the season. Like it but disappears too soon. Team personnel leave the grid.
Green light. Cars away. Formation lap.
The only man on intermediates now is Piquet, everyone else has chosen dries. Looks like the track has dried enough now.

Some cars have rain lights on. Wet at the end of the lap, Piquet will look to pass there. Everyone else will push through the lap and just hang on at the end.

This is a 44 lap race, low lap count because of the length of track but the total race time is comparable to other GPs.

Grid forming.

5..4..3..2..1..GO!

It has all gone crazy into turn one. Wheels banging. Cars wide. Awesome helicopter shot through Eau Rouge / Raidillon. Ferraris race each other. Kimi ahead of Massa! Alonso 4th. Where is Heikki?
Bourdais 5th. Replays. Lots of cars went wide at turn one. Piquet has gone from 12th to 7th, Kovi is 13th. Trulli spins, a Williams goes off.
Hamilton ran wide in turn one, didn’t see it but Kimi has a run and outdrags him!
It was a spin from Hamilton. Forced Kimi wide. Got back alongside and ahead, Kimi’s momentum carried him through up the hill.
Lap 3 – Kovi passed Glock for 10th.
I can’t get live timing fired for some reason. Kovi takes Heidfeld now.
Fisi had to stop for a nosecone change after contact on lap one.
Heikki takes Piquet AT SPEED. Piquet on inters needs a rain shower or he’ll drop back quickly.
We go to adverts for a breather.

Lap 7 – Kimi is going for 4 wins in a row at this track.
Fisi has been lapped already due to his stop for the nose change.
Massa is falling away.
L8 – Kovi is now 8th and catching Kubica quickly, just ahead of them Bourdais is with Webber.
I can’t make f1.com live timing work so I have no coverage during ad breaks. Java error. Annoying.

Kovi just drives by Kubica on the long uphill straight. Better run from La Source?
Sutil goes off road.

Kovi goes for Webber! Too late, Webber wasn’t ready, Kovi pushes him around. Kovi tries to back out of it but too late, Webber turned in. Half-hearted effort from Heikki, too far back, not committed enough so Mark took the racing line.

L11 – ITV guys say Hamilton is pitting shortly, Kimi in later. Here is Hamilton. Ted says this was a planned stop for Lewis. He emerges alongside Heikki, slots in behind.
Drive through for Heikki! For causing a collision with Webber. I call racing incident and no penalty but what do I know? Heikki backed out of it but it was too late. He should have backed out earlier or remained committed to the move.

L12 – Kimi pits now, only one lap more of fuel. ITV say ‘paddock wisdom’ had it at two laps more. Lewis had a 6.8sec stop, Kimi 7.1. Kimi emerges ahead of Bourdais who is ahead of Kubica and both McLarens.
Heikki trying to pass Kubica. Kubica is slowing Heikki, who in turn is slowing Lewis and possibly taking away a potential win. Heikki has 3 laps before he MUST take the penalty. He also needs fuel soon.
L13 – Massa pits. He’s out behind Hamilton and Heidfeld. Kovalainen stops for fuel and tyres, he’ll take the penalty next time.
DC is fighting Barrichello. They are old friends.

L16 – we’re back from an ad break. Bourdais and Kubica pitted during the break. Piquet spun off at the Fagnes chicane and into the wall. He’s out. Martin says that barrier used to be much closer and with only a short gravel trap – it used to hurt! Says Piquet’s only headache now is finding a way back to the pits and facing Flavio.
DC’s radio during an onboard shot: “Heikki has done his penalty, he’s now behind you.” HK took the penalty during our ad break. We cut to outside of the car and he’s RIGHT BEHIND Coulthard. Heikki is 14th. DC is still trying to get past Rubens, he does it now at Les Combes and simply drives away! He was being held up a lot behind RB.

L17 – Vettel pits. Out ahead of Glock and Heidfeld for 7th, that’s two places gained from running longer. Heidfeld moves on Glock around the outside at Les Combes and makes it work. Brundle says the outside has more grip, that move works in every formula.

L20 – The track has now dried everywhere. Bourdais is having an excellent run here, the Team B STRs are still faster than the Team A RBRs.
Kubica is told: “Bourdais is one lap shorter than you.” Martin decodes that: Stay with him, do a better in-lap.

ITV cuts to yet another ad break, not long after taking one, just as we see a Honda parked up in the garage with the driver getting out. Was it Button or Barrichello? We cut to ads too quickly to see which helmet it was.
This is a part I won’t miss about ITV when the coverage moves to BBC next year.

L22 – Halfway already?
Kimi is 5.8sec up on Lewis. The rest of the field is quite spread out but in groups it seems. The Honda out was Rubens Barrichello who is with Louise. “I lost 6th gear, with this [sequential] gearbox you have to go through 6th to get to 7th, it was overheating and damaging the engine so we decided to stop. We need this engine for Monza.”
Monza is very hard on engines so they need it in the best condition.

Top 8 at halfway: Kimi, Lewis, Massa, Alonso, Bourdais, Kubica, Heidfeld, Vettel
Just 5 seconds covers Bourdais to Vettel.

L24 – Kimi set fastest lap on L23. Shot of a camera helicopter following the cars, James says he’s been flying very close to the track all weekend, different angles.
L25 – Kimi pits! Lewis was expected to pit now and Kimi a little later. Lewis does indeed pit.
Ferrari would have known how much fuel Hamilton has because the fuel hose delivers at a standard rate for everyone. Pit Kimi at the same time and cover him. Kimi still ahead of Lewis. Gap seems a little closer now?

Rosberg pits. Ted says Massa has a sickening engine, he will go down to Ferrari and investigate. Kimi has a new engine here, Massa is using the one from Valencia. Kimi’s engine went bang in Valencia.
Now they are saying rain expected in 20 minutes. Massa has set a personal best lap but still needs to pit. Maybe they will soon turn the revs down a bit to protect the engine.
Raikkonen to Hamilton is now 3.8 seconds.

L26 – Glock pits and he is one-stopping. Hamilton took 8 tenths out of Kimi this lap! Looks like Kimi had traffic, there’s a Toyota between them. 17 laps to go, ITV take another break.

L29 – Pits to Bourdais: “Pit in 3 laps. Poosh! Poosh!”
L32 – Ted on Massa’s engine, they haven’t had to turn down the engine yet but they did have to change some parts before the race. He must have pitted during the last ad break.
Yet another ITV ad break. They are coming up fast today and they are all about car insurance or banking.
During this break Kubica and both STRs stopped but Kubica was delayed for some reason, meaning Vettel and Heidfeld got ahead of him. Bourdais was already ahead. No replays of this from ITV. Alonso is now running 4th again, then the two STRs, then Heidfeld and Kubica.
Alonso radio: “Build a gap in case we need to stop.”
Scheduled stops have been done, they are worried now about rain and possibly stopping for intermediate tyres. 9 laps to go.

L35 – Hamilton is 2.3sec behind Raikkonen now. Dark clouds are visible again, they had cleared for most of the race so far. It will rain, the question here is whether the race can be completed before then.

Massa is catching Hamilton. These three are miles ahead of the rest and it looks like every driver out there is pushing.
More Alonso radio, he asks: “What do you think about the rain?” Reply: “Still a possibility, it will be light.”

L37 – Kazuki Nakajima gets lapped by Kimi. Hamilton is closing down on Kimi, Massa seems to be catching both. Kaz jumps out of Hamilton’s way. Alonso says drops of rain in turns 1 and 14. Ted chimes in – there are drops here too. Red Bull’s Christian Horner has sent a guy on a moped to the other end of the circuit with instructions to call him if it rains there.
Webber is catching Glock for 10th. 13 cars on the lead lap with 18 running from 20 starters.

L39 – Both Kimi and Lewis are pushing hard. Lewis is still catching, the gap is now 0,9 seconds. Massa is 7sec back from Kimi, 4th is Alonso who is a massive 40sec back. No Safety Car periods and the field really spreads out on this type of track without yellows.

L40 – Hamilton slides at the last corner, he’s now 2 seconds back. It was a slower lap anyway and then the car slides.

Rain in the pitlane! Martin says it is too late for a tyre change unless it comes down torrentially. I’m not sure that’s a word but I know what he means. 3 to go.

Hamilton – He goes for it! Side by side! Bang! Hits Kimi, cuts the chicane, backs out to give Kimi the place back. He’ll get a penalty if he doesn’t. Straight away tries again, gets him in turn 1!!
Up the hill together. Raining up here now, cars sliding, somehow they keep on track. Kimi runs very very wide. Heidfeld pits for inters. Lewis is off! Williams in the way. Kimi also misses him. Evasive manouvres! Kimi spins!! Fuck me!! He’s in the wall. Out. No points. Lewis vs Massa now. Tiptoe the last lap, or pit? What do you do?
Man this is nuts. Replay: Kimi puts the power down and SPINS, then can’t brake enough on the wet surface, hits the wall, out, he’s done. Reports of cars pitting for wets except for Lewis and Massa who continue. Both are slow slow slow. They had a massive lead over the opposition so they are gambling on making it around. If there was another lap left they would have pitted but this is the last one.
They are 36 seconds slower than they were in the dry – THIRTY SIX.
Where are the guys on inters? They must be catching very quickly indeed because these two are crawling. I can go faster than this in my road car. Can Lewis make it around before they catch up? What of Massa surely he’s a sitting duck? Stop showing us pitstop graphics, show us timing!

Bourdais is third!! He’s also on dries on a wet track. Alonso stopped for inters.

HAMILTON WINS!

Amazing. The most action-packed ten minutes I’ve seen for a long, long time.

Massa 2nd. Kovalainen stopped on the grass before completing the last lap. Heidfeld gets 3rd, Alonso 4th, Vettel 5th, Kubica 6th, Bourdais 7th. Replay: Heidfeld goes outside of two cars! One STR and another. Then gets Bourdais. Both Heidfeld and Alonso stopped for inters and passed Bourdais and Vettel.
I’m not sure it worked for Alonso who was 4th anyway, if he’d stayed out would he have been 3rd ahead of Heidfeld, would Nick have caught him, or would he be in the wall?

Ron: “It was like talking in a jumbo jet with one pilot. Great job, fantastic race.”
Kimi walking back to the pits.
There’s no slowdown lap here as it would take too long, cars are straight into the pitlane in the wrong direction.

Martin Brundle: “Those who stopped for inters were half a minute faster on the last lap than those that weren’t.” I think that includes their pitstop. Amazing. I’d love to know what happened further back in the field, I look forward to reading about that.
Martin’s driver of the day: “Bourdais drove well but it has to go to Hamilton.”

Podium ceremony. Anthem. Champagne.

Steve and Mark in pitlane. Mark on Lewis: “He’s earned every penny of his retainer today.”
I’d say Kimi did up until the penultimate lap. Too much throttle when it counted.

Back from an ad break and ITV tell us both Lewis and Kimi are ‘under investigation’, speculating it was when they both cut the chicane. I thought only Lewis cut the chicane…

Press conference with Peter Windsor (of F1 Racing mag and Speed TV).
Lewis: “It was experience and a half. Could see Kimi ahead. I would catch up, then he would pull out a bit of time. I was like ‘please rain rain rain’. I know how to deal with it, then the heavens opened, Kimi backed off. I went wide and Rosberg was coming back on, he was coming back on at the place I was going off! Kimi pushed me wide. I had no room, he pushed me, I had to go on the escape route.”
You led at the start but half-spun.
“I got a good start, got away, feeling comfortable. Bits of the track were still wet. I think the last downshift locked the rears.”
“I think 3 or 4 laps from the end I thought, I can’t catch this guy. But then I thought what if he makes a mistake?”

Felipe – a difficult day?: “I saw many people going off including Kimi. I don’t want to risk 8 points so I was comfortable going slow [at the end]. Made a good start but then a mistake so Kimi passed me. All three of us were doing similar laptimes. We fight race to race to close the gap.” Talks about Kimi closing the door on him when he passed.

ITV cuts away here for a commercial break because we don’t want to hear from Heidfeld. He was only involved in a race-long tight four-car race until the rain came, before gambling on wets and passing 4 or 5 cars, what do we care what he has to say?

They only play one ad then come back to talk about Lewis again. Okay – so this time he earned it..
Ted with Ron again – what’s the investigan about?: “We don’t know, we assume Lewis & Kimi at the chicane. Lewis was ahead and got pushed wide. Was in the lead out of the chicane, we radioed him to let Kimi pass, then overtook him again before the line. We checked with Charlie [Whiting], who’s not the steward, he said it was okay.”
Charlie Whiting runs the race but doesn’t make the call on penalties, that’s the job of the Race Stewards. This frees Whiting to concentrate on calling yellow and blue flags instead of worrying about penalising someone.

ITV pretty much bail out of the coverage at this point. They ran a few replays but I had to take a phone call, sorry about that.

Results at the line [see below!]
1. Hamilton 1h 22m 44.933s
2. Massa +14.461 sec
3. Heidfeld +23.844
4. Alonso +28.939
5. Vettel +29.037
6. Kubica +29.498
7. Bourdais +31.196 (shame he got caught by those guys at the end)
8. Glock +56.506
9. Webber +57.237
10. Kovalainen + 1 lap
11. Coulthard + 1 lap
12. Rosberg + 1 lap
13. Sutil + 1 lap
14. Nakajima + 1 lap
15. Button + 1 lap
16. Trulli + 1 lap
17. Fisichella + 1 lap
18. Raikkonen + 2 laps
DNF Barrichello, Piquet

Points at the line
Drivers
Hamilton 80
Massa 72 (-8)
Kubica 58 (-22) [+1]
Raikkonen 57 (-23) [-1]
Heidfeld 47 (-33) [+1]
Kovalainen 43 (-37) [-1]
Kubica passes Raikkonen and Heidfeld passes Kovalainen.

Constructors
Ferrari 129
McLaren 123 (-6)
BMW 105 (-24)
etc.

Results taken from Autosport.com.

Next up is the Italian Grand Prix at the Autodromo di Monza in 7 days time. I will see you again for the Chicagoland IRL points finale in a day or two, and then the Monza preview later in the week.

* * * UPDATE * * *
After the race the stewards announced two decisions. In chronological order:
1. Timo Glock is penalised 25 seconds for passing Webber under yellow flags flying for Kimi’s crash. This moves him behind Webber who now claims the 1pt for 8th.
2. Lewis Hamilton is penalised 25 seconds for cutting the chicane when fighting Kimi Raikkonen.
(These were my words not those of the stewards. 25sec is a standard post-race penalty, the only other alternatives are a 10-place drop at the next race, or exclusion).

I understand Glock’s penalty. Passing under yellow isn’t on unless you are avoiding someone. But Hamilton gave the place back! He fell behind Kimi, okay they ran side by side but he didn’t just drive away ignoring it, he lifted off! Decisions like this suck and reinforce the opinion that the FIA stewards, whoever they are, remain favourable to Ferrari. Even if

The revised results are below, please note that these remain provisional because McLaren have lodged an appeal.

Results after penalties
1. Massa 1h22m59.394
2. Heidfeld +9.383
3. Hamilton +10.539 [inc 25sec penalty]
4. Alonso +14.478
5. Vettel +14.576
6. Kubica +15.037
7. Bourdais +16.735
8. Webber +42.776
9. Glock + 1m 07.045 [inc 25sec penalty]
10. Kovalainen + 1 lap
11. Coulthard + 1 lap
12. Rosberg + 1 lap
13. Sutil + 1 lap
14. Nakajima + 1 lap
15. Button + 1 lap
16. Trulli + 1 lap
17. Fisichella + 1 lap
18. Raikkonen + 2 laps
DNF Barrichello, Piquet

Revised gaps taken from GrandPrix.com.

Points after penalties
Drivers
Hamilton 76
Massa 74 (-2)
Kubica 58 (-18) [+1]
Raikkonen 57 (-19) [-1]
Heidfeld 49 (-27) [+1]
Kovalainen 43 (-33) [-1]
The gap to Massa has been reduced from 8pts to 2pts. Heidfeld gets 2 more points.

Constructors
Ferrari 131
McLaren 119 (-12)
BMW 105 (-24)
etc.

McLaren’s appeal goes to the FIA International Court of Appeal, a process which keeps the decision independent of the stewards of the meeting, this is a good thing, the downside being the length of time involved. The true result of this race may not be known for a couple of weeks yet.

Note – according to Autosport.com’s report on tyre strategies, with info supplied by Bridgestone, Piquet started on hard tyres not intermediates.

* * 2ND UPDATE * *
Comments taken from the ITV highlights show late this evening.
Lewis (paraphrased): “I cut the chicane, then moved clearly behind him.”
Kimi: “There is an investigation going on about it, clearly there’s rules about cutting chicanes.”
Massa: “I was driving really slow, like a grandmother, just to bring the car back.”
Heidfeld: “I called the team for wet tyres. It was obviously the right choice, it was pretty close, 2 laps. I didn’t see anyone for the first one and wondered if it was the right choice! But on the final lap I caught and passed some cars so it worked.”
Bourdais: “I don’t even know what position I finished because people pitted. There’s one thing you can’t do that’s crash the car. Frustrating.” He looked pissed off. Like his career depended on it and he blew it… Personally I think he might have saved his drive.
Matt Bishop, formerly of F1 Racing now of McLaren, looking very Ron-like, reads the press release which you can read on all the F1 news sites.
Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren: We will focus on the next race.
Ron Dennis, McLaren: Nothing that’s happened is new to us. We are leaving here totally focussed on Monza.
Steve Rider isn’t impressed. No doubt this one will run, more news during the week or in the Monza notes, whenever it happens.

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