Not to brag or boast, but both of my theories were proven right once again. Firstly, that inside the five yard line, running the option will always score a touchdown, and that racing in the rain WILL result in drivers having to become more than the sum of their parts. Nowhere was that more evident than the Formula One race that took place in Belgium this weekend.
With everyone’s fries covered in mayonnaise, the race was ready to begin. The weather lived up to the typical Ardennes Forest unpredictability that everyone loves to watch, but hates to drive in.
At the start of the race the track from the Bus Stop chicane through the La Source hairpin and down toward Eau Rouge was damp, but the rest of the track was bone dry. This meant that the only option was to have full dry tires on, because otherwise you would lose too much time around the rest of the track and your tires would disintegrate.
As the lights turned green Jarno Trulli made a truly epic start; only to be made the personal brake of Sebastian Bourdais. The best start though, had to go to the Kimster. Kimi Raikkonen shot though the field from fourth and flew up onto the gearbox of Massa who had run wide at La Source. He followed him through Eau Rouge and onto the Kemmel straight where he pushed Felipe almost onto the green stuff. He shot through at Les Combes and followed Lewis through the rest of the lap.
Down at the beginning of lap two Hamilton half spun at La Source and Kimi immediately took this to his advantage. He passed Lewis in the same spot he had Massa and shot ahead into the lead. The rest of the race saw a nice procession though the forest of Eastern Belgium up until all Hell broke loose.
Everyone knows that when it becomes wet, a race track becomes slick. This is not as bad if the track is straight and does not have any elevation change. However, a track like Spa-Francorchamps does not follow those rules. It is one of the best circuits in the world because it has elevation change and is long. When rain falls on Spa, every corner is going to be a nightmare. This became evident in one of the most entertaining finishes in recent history. And the best part is that it really showed off just how boring a stupid race like Valencia is.
The rain started to fall in the final three laps. But because Kimi and Lewis were engaged in an epic battle of wills and driving prowess that has not been seen for some time, neither of them could duck into the pits to fit intermediate rain tires. Also, even though the tires that these cars run on are super hot, when it begins to rain, all of that goes out the window. With their tires at an extremely low temperature, and nowhere for the water to run off because there really isn’t much tread, Lewis and Kimi were now engaged in a Formula One battle on ice. Every tiny input of the throttle resulted in the non-traction controlled cars twitching and wanting to unleash their power. But all the drivers knew it would be the end of their race to give in to the temptation to floor the throttle. Well, maybe all except one.
With two laps to go everything started to get exciting again. With the Finn and the Englishman caught up in their epic struggle, it would take a German, Nico Rosberg, to cause a whole catastrophic micro-chain of events, which caused me to jump up and down and then shake my head in disbelief. It all started in Pouhon where both Kimi and Lewis ended up running wide because neither of them wanted to go too slow and let the other by. But both ended up back on track and down through Fagnes they went. Around Stavelot, they crept until one Nico Rosberg was seen in the distance in the grass. He started to lurch back onto the circuit right in front of the two front runners. This caused Lewis to swerve to the left and into the wet grass. Kimi, meanwhile, jammed on the brakes and stayed on track. He proceeded to slowly go around Rosberg on the left as the German pulled over to the right. But Raikkonen’s right foot got to the pedal before his brain could say no, and he pushed too hard. With his cold slick tires, he shot off into the grass, spun the car and ended up in the wall just outside of Blanchimont and right before the Bus Stop. With two laps left, Kimi threw his best chance of the year out the window and retired with a broken car.
That left Lewis, followed by Massa, to crawl around the track to the end. Lewis frightened everyone by going through Eau Rouge (flat out in the dry but dangerously deadly in the wet) a little too fast and catching a slide before he also ended up in the wall. Meanwhile, Nick Heidfeld had dived into the pits with two laps left and put on intermediates. He came onto the front straight with no one in sight and no idea what position he was in. All he did was fly around the track and end up taking a podium finish. Would either of the Ferrari’s have benefited from diving into the pits like Nick? No one will ever know, but I suspect that it wouldn’t have made any difference. Lewis would have been too far in front after the stop to really make any ground, but I wish one of them would have just to see what would have happened. In the end, Hamilton came around to secure the win, followed (none to closely) by Massa, who said in the interview that he was happy with the eight points and didn’t want to take a chance, and eventually Heidfeld, who ended up passing many drivers on that last lap.
From this result, I have come to the conclusion that there are two drivers who need new nicknames. First off is Kimi. He can no longer be called the “Iceman.” He was not calm, cool and collected. He became frustrated and flustered and tried too hard when it came down to it. A true “Iceman” would have had the foresight to try harder somewhere other than a curve. The other is Lewis. He should earn the nickname “Lucky.” Sure, there is a heapload of talent there, but come on, when he didn’t crash into Rosberg and took the grass, only to have Kimi retake the lead and then spin himself into a wall, that, my friends, is luck. Plus, with Massa behind him, he could have gotten out and pushed his car to the finish because Felipe is certainly going to be crawling around a wet track.
But this race will definitely go down as a classic. The beginning and the end were some of the most tense and exciting racing laps I have ever seen, and with this season being closer than ever, every point is vital to championship positions. As I said in an earlier post, wet races will really be a big factor this year, both in who comes to the forefront to take the checkered flag, and who is a true driver. This race proved that wet races do make for more exciting television, and that old circuits are easily better than any sort of cookie-cutter new tracks that come up. I only hope that the rest of this season is as exciting as this race was. With Monza coming up next week already, another old style circuit, and the night race in Singapore (all bets are off with this one), the week after, anything can happen still. Massa is only eight points behind Hamilton for the lead and it should come down to the wire once again. Here’s to Spa-Francorchamps for providing what turned out to be one of the best races of the season so far.