• Karun Chandhok's ESPNF1 column

What might have been!

Karun Chandhok September 6, 2012
Championship contenders Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton were taken out in the first corner shunt © Press Association
Related Links

The Belgian Grand Prix further built the case for what is one of the most confusing world championships in F1 history! Four races ago, Jenson Button was in the midst of a real slump. The 2009 world champion was struggling for pace in qualifying and even in the races where his tyre management skills should've been helpful he looked like he was in big trouble.

Fast forward to last weekend and Jenson's victory was arguably the most dominant display we've seen from a race winner this season. With three laps good enough to take pole position, a perfect start and no real opposition in the early stages, he motored off into the distance and then just managed the gap and the tyres for the rest of the afternoon.

With Friday being a complete washout, the one hour on Saturday morning proved to be crucial for the drivers particularly with the parc ferme rules after qualifying and the dry forecast for the rest of the weekend. A lot of the talk this weekend centred around setup and particularly the downforce level that people were running. Red Bull and Kimi certainly looked like they were going for more downforce while Ferrari, Mercedes and Sauber had good straight line speed.

The big discussion point over the weekend seemed to centre around Mclaren particularly after qualifying and some interesting tweets from Lewis. The image of the data overlay between Lewis and Jenson showed a clear difference in straight line speed between the two cars, which was said to be due to Jenson having the new-spec rear wing. Looking at that data image though, what was more interesting for me was to see how little time Jenson lost in the middle sector. In fact, when you looked at the three sectors on the lap, Jenson only lost half a tenth in the middle sector to Lewis but gained over eight tenths across the first and third sectors. JB had clearly got the car dialled in well at Spa and the tyres were firmly in the right operating window giving him plenty of grip through the middle part of the lap.

Romain Grosjean's move at the start was a bit confusing I have to say. I've raced at Spa enough times in F3 and GP2 to know that it's normally chaos into La Source. Historically though, if you watch a lot of the starts even in F1, the guys who go around the outside are able to make places up and avoid chaos better as you have the tarmac run off area to use if you need it. Considering this then, I can't quite understand why he was trying to move all the way across to the inside of the track and the resultant carnage was a real shame because more than anything, I feel like we were robbed of a race.

Both Saubers were taken out in the first corner accident © Sutton Images

I felt particularly sorry for the Sauber team as this looked like being their best chance at victory. The car was very fast all through Saturday and they seemed to have very good straight line speed as well. Kamui looked like he had overcooked the brakes a bit on the green flag lap and that may have distracted him a bit as he made a slow getaway, but Sergio got away well enough to be in with a shout had he not got caught up in the mess. Fernando was due some bad luck I suppose and in some ways you could see this as being just that while in other ways, you could count him lucky for having his head and hands in one piece after that.

So what of the survivors then? Force India looked like they were in great shape at the re-start while running third and fourth. Di Resta's KERS problem sent him down the order but Hulkenberg scored valuable points for team who have often struggled with tyre issues on a Sunday after good qualifying results this year. The German switched from a three- to a two-stop strategy and had competitive pace when compared to the cars around him.

Red Bull and Vettel salvaged a healthy haul of points, and in many ways he was my driver of the day on Sunday. At the re-start he was still down in 12th place so didn't really gain positions thanks to the crash like Schumacher and the Force Indias. The team elected to split the strategies and put Mark on a two-stopper with Seb going for just one stop. Vettel may have had the benefit of an extra set of new option tyres but he drove very well to make the strategy work by being assertive and aggressive in his moves past Mark, Bruno Senna, Felipe and Michael into the bus stop chicane. He used the free air in front of him every time to make up time against people like Kimi and Hulkenberg so when it all shook out, he found himself in second place and just managed to tyres to the flag for a good haul of 18 points.

On to Monza next and the theatre of speed. What on earth is going to happen there in this most confusing, enthralling, extraordinary season I have no idea!