• Belgian Grand Prix

Button cruises to victory after first corner crash

ESPN Staff
September 2, 2012
The first corner crash accounted for four drivers, including championship leader Fernando Alonso © Sutton Images

Jenson Button kick started his ailing championship hopes as he comfortably won the Belgian Grand Prix after a spectacular first- corner crash accounted for Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Romain Grosjean.

Sebastian Vettel came through to take second from tenth on the grid as he and Button proved that a well-managed one-stop strategy was the fastest way to complete 44 laps of Spa-Francorchamps. Kimi Raikkonen finished third on a two-stop strategy but appeared to have some KERS problems and ended up just 2.5s ahead of Nico Hulkenberg in fourth at the finish.

The first corner incident was a dramatic one, with Grosjean and Hamilton coming together before the former flew over the front of Alonso's Ferrari. Sergio Perez was also taken out in the crash, while Kamui Kobayashi, who had started second, also suffered damaged. Fortunately nobody was hurt but Grosjean was given a one race suspension for the Italian Grand Prix after the race.

A safety car period then ensued with Button leading Raikkonen, Hulkenberg and Paul di Resta. Michael Schumacher had made his way up to fifth during the carnage and at the restart made use of his strong straight-line speed to move up to third before the two-stoppers made their first tyre changes.

Vettel also picked his way through the field but had to be cannier with his overtaking manoeuvres as his car didn't have the top speed to make a move stick in the DRS zone. Instead he used quick runs through Blanchimont to pass into the final chicane and was about to try a similar move on Schumacher for second place when the Mercedes dived for the pits. The incident is set to be investigated after the race as Schumacher appeared to cut across the Red Bull.

By the time the pit stops panned out, Vettel was comfortably ahead of Schumacher with the two-stoppers Raikkonen, Hulkenberg and Mark Webber just behind. Raikkonen, who had been told to adjust his KERS setting to save 10% per lap, was not a match for Schumacher on straight-line speed, and even after passing into the final chicane was re-passed on the long straight to Les Combes. Eventually Schumacher's tyres started to fade and Raikkonen took advantage by getting a better exit out of La Source on lap 34 and passing with a brave move through Eau Rouge.

Two laps later and Schumacher pitted for new tyres before rejoining in seventh, which is where he finished. Ahead of him Webber lost a place to Felipe Massa in a battle for fifth, which rounded off a disappointing race for the Red Bull driver. Webber had been ahead of team-mate Vettel under the safety car but finished 18 seconds further back.

Jean-Eric Vergne finished eighth ahead of Toro Rosso team-mate Daniel Ricciardo after both gained from the first corner accident and then managed their two-stop strategies well to take their first points since the Australian Grand Prix. Di Resta took the final point in tenth after a KERS problem meant he struggled to match the pace of his team-mate Hulkenberg all afternoon.

Nico Rosberg finished just outside the points in eleventh after starting 23rd. He attempted to make a one-stop strategy work and was running in the points until his tyres gave up and he made a second pit stop eight laps from the end.

The results at Spa-Francorchamps mean Vettel is now 24 points behind Alonso in the drivers' championship, with Raikkonen 33 adrift and Button now 63 points off.

© Sutton Images
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