Button celebrates dominant victory in Belgium
2 September 2012 – Jenson Button has won at Spa for the first time, confirming that McLaren is the first team to celebrate four victories in 2012. Sebastian Vettel collected a crucial second place, with Kimi Räikkönen on the podium for the third consecutive event. Both championship leader Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton were taken out in a frightening incident at the first corner, triggered by Romain Grosjean.
The legendary track set deep in the Ardennes forest has delivery a truly memorable weekend to re-launch the F1 campaign after the summer break. Following the washout of Friday, which significantly limited dry running time, spectators were treated to a warm day and blue skies this afternoon. There was pre-race drama for Michael Schumacher; not only did Mercedes need to change his engine, but also dealt in rapid fashion with a KERS issue.
Nobody could have predicted the drama of the start. As Pastor Maldonado moved set off before the lights went out, the Williams shot towards the front. Romain Grosjean then moved over on Hamilton, forcing the McLaren onto the grass and out of control; the resultant accident saw both cars, and the Ferrari of Alonso, thrown high into the air. Both Saubers, which had qualified in excellent second and fourth places, plus Maldonado were also affected as debris was strewn all over the circuit. Fortunately, nobody involved was injured despite the Lotus of Grosjean missing Alonso’s head by millimetres.
At the Lap 5 restart, Button proceeded to pull away from the pack and was never headed during the race. Only he and Vettel made one stop at the front, but the Englishman – who had yet to win since the season-opener in Melbourne – was far enough ahead never to lose his position. Vettel’s own drive was impressive, fighting back through the field after intelligently avoiding the errant car parts at La Source on the opening lap. His recovery included a strong move on team-mate Mark Webber and an entertaining battle with Schumacher, whose 300th race required two pit-stops and ended in seventh place after running as high as second.
The carnage of the day allowed several underdogs to pick up the pieces. Force India finished fourth and tenth with Nico Hülkenberg and Paul di Resta, unbelievably out-scoring Sauber by 13 points on a day when the Swiss team had threatened to take victory. Felipe Massa beat Webber to a top five result as Toro Rosso celebrated a double points finish, with Jean-Éric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo – often running in tandem – coming home eighth and ninth.
It was also a dramatic day for F1’s three newest teams. Marussia saw their two drivers in an entertaining battle for 15th position in the closing stages, whereas the HRT of Narain Karthikeyan spun out at Stavelot. Heikki Kovalainen spun twice during the race, but it is his pit lane release into Karthikeyan which is more than likely to result in a hefty fine. A similar moment for Webber and Red Bull is also being investigated by the stewards, as are the first-corner crash, the jump start for Maldonado – who retired in a crash at Les Combes – and pit entry for Schumacher, who had unintentionally moved in front of Vettel during a dramatic duel.
Jenson Button’s 14th career victory confirms that McLaren is the first team to win four races and two consecutive Grands Prix in 2012. With Vettel jumping to second in the title race and eating into Alonso’s lead by a mammoth 18 points, Räikkönen - who pulled a stunning Eau Rouge overtake on Schumacher - is now fourth overall and ahead of Hamilton. Today’s result marks the 75th victory for the McLaren-Mercedes partnership, which celebrated its first with David Coulthard in Australia 15 years ago.
The 2012 Formula 1 season now moves to another historic venue, Monza in Italy, for Round 13 of 20 next weekend