F1 2012

Jenson Button and Vodafone McLaren Mercedes F1 Team victorious after first-corner multicar pile-up at Spa

It was a day of mixed fortunes for the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, when Jenson Button coined his hard earned pole position into an impressive victory after an explosive start to the Belgian Grand Prix saw his team mate Lewis Hamilton eliminated along with championship points leader Fernando Alonso, Sauber’s Sergio Perez and Lotus’s Romain Grosjean.

The drama at the start was initiated, when Romain Grosjean moved over on Lewis Hamilton.

The right rear wheel of the Lotus hit Lewis Hamilton's left front, knocking the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes into a spin and triggering the domino effect.

As the other drivers braked for the first corner, Lewis Hamilton and Romain Grosjean, who were both car passengers, rather than Formula 1 drivers, continued at unabated speed, taking out Fernando Alonso and Sauber's Sergio Perez.

The Spanish Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso was especially lucky as Roamin Grosjean's car flew over the front of his car, missing his head only by a narrow gap. Spectators and the audience following the race on TV became breathless, after Fernando Alonso's head only moved slowly when all the participating cars in the crash came to a standstill and the medical team reached his car.

The incident caused a shake-up of the field and a safety car phase.

After the debris from their collision was cleared away, and the safety car went back in, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver Jenson Button easily controlled the race and sped home to score a dominant 13.6s victory - his first at Spa - over Sebastian Vettel who drove with sincere dedication and a clever tire-sparing strategy to take a supremely valuable second for Red Bull after starting the race from 10th position on the grid.

Behind them, car problems kept Lotus’s Kimi Raikkkonen from reaching his full potential, but the Iceman also took home valuable points on a day when the comfortable point lead of Scuderia Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso suddenly began to melt.

His team mate Grosjean was subsequently handed a one-race ban and a 50,000 Euro fine for triggering the first-corner mayhem. Three-time F1 World Champion Niki Lauda was very critical of the both immature and irresponsible driving style of the young Frenchman.

Nico Hulkenberg drove an impressive race for Force India and was always in the hunt for valuable points. He fought in a tough manner and beat both Kimi Raikkonen and Michael Schumacher in the early stages of the race to run second for quite some time, but ultimately had to settle for an honorable fourth.

Felipe Massa saved the face of Ferrari (after Alonso’s exit) with a hard-fought fifth ahead of Australian Red Bull driver Mark Webber, while Michael Schumacher faded to seventh after opting in the final laps to "plan B" strategy and doing a late tire stop in addition to losing the sixth gear on his Mercedes.

The speed of the Mercedes during the numerous phases of the race was very impressive and the battle between Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen reminded the audience of the epic duels these drivers had in the past.

Jean-Eric Vergne came through from a fantastic race-long battle with Toro Rosso team mate Daniel Ricciardo, Paul di Resta in the second Force India, and Bruno Senna, who also had to make a late tire stop after looking as a point contender for a long time.

Sauber’s promising race fell apart at the start when Kamui Kobayashi’s car showed signs of overheating brakes on the grid and was then hit by the flying cars of Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso; he recovered, but could not achieve better than a hugely disappointing 13th. Vitaly Petrov was Caterham’s leader in 14th after Heikki Kovalainen, who was initially 10th after the first-corner multicar pile-up, spun once and later spun again to finish 17th.

Between the green cars, the Marussia drivers staged a hard battle in the team’s 50th race. Eventually Timo Glock hunted down team mate Charles Pic, to finish 15.5s ahead. Pedro de la Rosa was the final finisher after HRT team mate Narain Karthikeyan’s span off backwards into the tire wall in the late stages of the race.

Besides Romain Grosjean, Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Sergio Perez, the other non-finisher was Pastor Maldonado who damaged his Williams in a brush with Glock on the restart on Lap five. The "lucky" Venezuelan driver was handed a five-place grid penalty by the stewards for the next race in Monza for that incident, and received another five-place grid penalty for Italy for jumping the start at the Belgian Grand Prix this week end.

The FIA also investigated two pit-lane incidents. The first came when Caterham unsafely released Heikki Kovalainen who struck an incoming Narain Karthikeyan, and the second when Mark Webber just managed to avoid an incoming Felipe Massa after Red Bull appeared to let him go prematurely. No further action against Red Bull was taken but the FIA fined Caterham 10,000 Euros for their misdemeanor.

The stewards also investigated another breath taking incident on the 19th lap when Michael Schumacher, who was on the left-hand side of the road, cut across Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull nose. Mercedes driver Michael Schumacher was heading for the pits, while the German Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel, who was at the right-hand side, dived inside the Mercedes at the Bus Stop chicane in order to overtake him, not knowing that the Mercedes driver was going for a pit stop. They decided to take no further action.

In the championship stakes, Fernando Alonso still leads with 164 points, but Sebastian Vettel is now second on 140 from Mark Webber on 132 and Kimi Raikkonen on 131. Lewis Hamilton is fifth with 117, while Jenson Button’s first victory at Spa leaves him sixth on 101.

For the teams, Red Bull continues to lead with 272 to Vodafone McLaren Mercedes' 218, Lotus’s 207 and Scuderia Ferrari’s 199.

Spa - London - Abu Dhabi

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