2010 Belgian Grand Prix
|Race 13 of 19 in the 2010 Formula One season|
|Date||August 29, 2010|
|Location||Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Spa, Belgium|
|Course||Permanent racing facility|
|Course length||7.004 km (4.352 mi)|
|Distance||44 laps, 308.052 km (191.415 mi)|
|Time||1:49.069 on lap 32|
The 2010 Belgian Grand Prix was the 66th Belgian Grand Prix and the thirteenth round of the 2010 Formula One season. It was held at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Spa, Belgium on August 29, 2010. Williams driver Rubens Barrichello celebrated his 300th Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton claimed victory, to take the championship lead from pole-sitter Mark Webber, who finished second. Robert Kubica finished in third position, taking his last Formula One podium finish to date.
The race was contested by 24 drivers, in 12 teams of two. The teams, also known as "constructors", were Ferrari, McLaren-Mercedes, Renault, Mercedes, Force India-Mercedes, BMW Sauber-Ferrari, Red Bull-Renault, Williams-Cosworth, Toro Rosso-Ferrari, Virgin-Cosworth, Lotus-Cosworth, and HRT-Cosworth.
Before the race, Red Bull driver Mark Webber led the Drivers' Championship with 161 points. Four other drivers were within 20 points (with 25 points awarded for a race victory): McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton on 157; Webber's teammate Sebastian Vettel on 151; Hamilton's teammate and reigning world champion Jenson Button on 147; and Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso on 141.
The race weekend was the first after the summer break, a four-week gap between races that includes a mandatory two-week shut-down for all teams. The time of the shut-down (at the beginning, the end, or in the middle of the month) is left to the discretion of teams, though the break had proved to be unpopular with some teams, particularly those perceived to be struggling. After the events of the Hungarian Grand Prix involving an incident between Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher, the stewards found Schumacher to have breached article 16.1 of the sporting regulations earning him a ten place grid penalty at this race.
The race has also been earmarked by several teams – most notably Renault – for the introduction of a passive version of the F-duct system pioneered by McLaren, mostly owing to the high speeds of both the Spa-Francorchamps circuit and the next race in Italy. Unlike many of the other teams who simply tested the system in Friday practice, Renault brought the F-duct to Belgium with the express intention of racing it unless the practice sessions reveal serious flaws in the design. In addition to this, several teams approached the FIA seeking clarification of the rules following claims that Red Bull and Ferrari had developed flexible aerodynamic parts – namely the front wing – after footage from the race in Hungary showed both the RB6 and F10 running with a front wing closer to the road surface than their rivals despite the long-standing ban on flexible parts. Despite both cars being cleared of illegal parts during scrutineering checks in both Hungary and Germany before it, the FIA announced their intentions to invoke a clause within the rules that would allow them to double the conditions of their flexibility load tests; the direct implication being that Red Bull and Ferrari had developed flexible parts that would only move under higher loadings so as to avoid detection in scrutineering. While less efficient than a wing that would flex under all conditions, such a system would have the advantage of being undetectable by standard testing procedures. Red Bull later passed these new testing procedures and was given the all-clear to race.
Several changes were made to the circuit ahead of the race, including the addition of high kerbs – similar to the ones used on Monza's chicanes and the bottom chicane at Singapore – and an expanded tarmac run-off area at the Les Combes complex, as well as artificial grass being placed on the exit of the La Source hairpin.
The Friday practice sessions were inundated with heavy rain, though lap times fell as the day wore on and the track dried out. Fernando Alonso spearheaded Ferrari's campaign in the first session, though the conditions meant that his lap time around the seven-kilometre circuit was still over two minutes. Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton were also quick in the session, with Renault's Robert Kubica using the team's brand-new F-duct to good effect, also placing highly in the session. Despite the conditions, there were no incidents in the ninety minutes of the session. Timo Glock and Virgin Racing led the newcomers, with Lotus struggling to match them on pace, coming under threat from the Hispania of Bruno Senna at one point.
The track rapidly dried out for the second session, which was once again topped by Alonso. Force India's Adrian Sutil was second-fastest, cementing his reputation as one of the sport's best wet-weather drivers, but the team ruled out a repeat of their 2009 performance. After leading the new teams in first practice, Timo Glock crashed out, glancing the tyre barriers. The damage was heavy enough to end his session. Sakon Yamamoto pulled over when a warning light on his Hispania F110 turned on, but the team were unable to find the problem and were uncertain as to whether the car had developed a genuine fault or if it was an error with the light. The session was stopped during the last fifteen minutes following reports of spectators attempting to climb the safety fences near the Les Combes-Malmedy complex and Pouhon, further limiting running in the drying conditions.
The third and final session was still considered to be wet, but a dry racing line had appeared and early times in the session were immediately three seconds quicker than in the second Friday session. Ferrari's dominant streak ended with championship leader Mark Webber fastest before a torrential downpour struck in the second half of the session. Lewis Hamilton was second, with Sebastian Vettel third; Vettel also experienced an unknown mechanical failure and ground to a halt in pit lane. After dominating the Friday practice sessions, Alonso was sixth after an encounter with Jarno Trulli, once again the fastest of the newcomers half a second ahead of Bruno Senna.
The first session was red-flagged almost immediately, with Renault's Vitaly Petrov spinning off the circuit and into the slippery wet grass meaning the Russian failed to set a lap time and would start the race from the very back of the grid. As was the case in Malaysia, the wet qualifying interrupted the natural order of the grid. Lucas di Grassi set a time of almost two minutes and twenty seconds before returning to pit and staying there, but team mate Timo Glock and Lotus rival Heikki Kovalainen both advanced through to the second period. This came at the expense of both the BMW Sauber drivers, with Kamui Kobayashi and Pedro de la Rosa both slipping off the circuit in the changing conditions. They were separated by the Hispania drivers, meaning the first seven drivers eliminated were Trulli, Kobayashi, Senna, Yamamoto, de la Rosa, di Grassi and Petrov. Michael Schumacher narrowly avoided claiming the 24th and last position – after his aggressive driving penalty from Hungary had been applied – by graduating to the second session at the fall of the first chequered flag.
The conditions dramatically improved ahead of the second session with lap times improving by ten seconds almost immediately. The wet conditions played into the hands of Kovalainen and Glock, with the two drivers trading blows with Vitantonio Liuzzi before the circuit dried out and the gap between Lotus, Virgin and the established teams opened itself up. Kovalainen finished 16th and Glock 17th, though a glut of penalties – including one for Glock who was deemed to have blocked Hispania's Sakon Yamamoto – meant that Kovalainen would start the race thirteenth on the grid. Elsewhere, Michael Schumacher narrowly missed the cut for the final session and qualified eleventh, his retroactive penalty meaning he would start the race in 21st; the German was unconcerned following weather forecasts that predicted rain. Nico Rosberg qualified twelfth, but a gearbox change ahead of qualifying netted him a five-place grid penalty of his own. Jaime Alguersuari and Vitantonio Liuzzi qualified thirteenth and fourteenth respectively, but would start the race from eleventh and twelfth by virtue of the Mercedes penalties. Alguersuari's Scuderia Toro Rosso team-mate Sébastien Buemi finished the session 16th overall, but was issued a three-place penalty for blocking Rosberg, but penalties to Schumacher, Rosberg and Glock negated his and the Swiss driver started the race in 16th.
The final session was marked by a shower at the very end that compromised many drivers, particularly Fernando Alonso. The Ferrari driver could only manage tenth over all, his best time half a second slower than Nico Hülkenberg in ninth. Jenson Button also expressed frustration at the shower, but he was still able to qualify fifth. Mark Webber claimed Red Bull's twelfth pole in thirteen races – drawing ever closer to Williams' 1992 record of fifteen poles in sixteen races – ahead of Lewis Hamilton in the second McLaren. Robert Kubica was third, despite a fuel pick-up problem that meant he was only able to complete one flying lap. Sebastian Vettel was fourth ahead of Button, with countrymen Felipe Massa and Rubens Barrichello sixth and seventh. Adrian Sutil claimed eighth ahead of Hülkenberg and Alonso.
The race started with Mark Webber allowing the engine revs to drop too low, causing his RB6 to default to the anti-stall setting and resulting in a poor getaway that demoted him to sixth. At the same time Felipe Massa started slightly ahead of his grid slot, with his error going unpunished. Lewis Hamilton took the lead with Robert Kubica second, but Kubica's grip on the position relaxed quickly as Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel passed him. Although the early stages of the lap were clean, the end was considerably less so, with almost every driver in the top ten overshooting the braking zone for the Bus Stop chicane. Fernando Alonso was the only driver to hold on long enough to make the corner, but found himself on the receiving end of an out-of-control Rubens Barrichello, the Brazilian's 300th Grand Prix start ending there and then. Alonso was lucky enough to escape with minor damage, and quickly pitted to change onto wet tyres in anticipation of heavy rain.
The forecasted weather, however, never eventuated save for a few minor spots around the circuit in the early laps. Perhaps learning from the early stages in China, the majority of the field stayed out, predicting that the rain would end almost immediately. Those who were on intermediate or wet tyres were forced to pit again; Alonso was the big loser as he stayed out the longest and his subsequent pit stop shuffled him back down the order. This foreshadowed the rest of his afternoon as he would struggle to find his way through the field.
Bruno Senna was the second retirement of the afternoon, his Hispania F110 returning to the pits and staying there with a mechanical fault. His retirement was overshadowed by that of Jenson Button at the hands of Sebastian Vettel; on the approach to the Bus Stop, the Red Bull driver was spotted weaving aggressively behind the 2009 World Champion. He ran too deep into the corner and lost control, effectively throwing himself into a spin whilst still travelling in a straight line. In a collision similar to his collision with Webber in Istanbul, Vettel's inevitable trajectory saw him make contact with Button. Vettel was able to pit almost immediately, but the damage to Button's McLaren was catastrophic, destroying his sidepod, and with it his radiator. Vettel was subsequently handed a drive-through penalty – his second in as many races – for causing an avoidable accident. Button's retirement and Vettel's double pit stop promoted Robert Kubica back to second and a recovering Mark Webber up to third.
Whatever hopes Kubica might have had of reeling in Hamilton at the restart were quashed as the McLaren driver opened up a sizeable gap within minutes of the restart, and the race order quickly established itself. Further down the field, Ferrari's hopes rested on Felipe Massa as he battled with the Force India of Adrian Sutil. However, the biggest winners of the race were the Mercedes drivers and Vitaly Petrov. Despite their penalties and qualifying accidents respectively, Schumacher, Rosberg and Petrov spent the entire race from the restart running in the points. Others were not so lucky; Nico Hülkenberg made an unscheduled stop with a clutch problem, whilst several drivers explored the gravel traps around the circuit. Meanwhile, Vettel undid his dash through the field when he made contact with Vitantonio Liuzzi – again at the Bus Stop chicane – and developed a slow puncture. Where Liuzzi was able to pit straight away, Vettel was forced to limp around the circuit for the majority of a lap before having his delaminated tyre replaced.
The unpredictable Belgian weather reared its head once more towards the end of the race, with teams trying to balance the need to pit against the predicted rain; if they pitted too early, they risked wasting a pit stop, but if they stayed out on the circuit for too long, their tyres would eventually lose all grip. This strategy played into the hands of the Mercedes drivers, who elected to stay out as long as possible and thus preserve sixth and seventh place when the expected downpour arrived in spectacular fashion. The back half of the circuit was inundated within minutes, with the tricky conditions catching leader Lewis Hamilton out as he slid off the edge of the circuit at Rivage, brushing the outer wall with his left-front wheel; Pedro de la Rosa would have a similar experience several laps later at Stavelot. Fernando Alonso was the fourth and final retirement, making a mistake as he exited the Les Combes-Malmedy complex. Alonso ran wide and strayed onto the artificial grass strip lining the outside of the corner where he lost all grip and spun into the wall, his Ferrari coming to rest perpendicular to the circuit and triggering the second safety car.
The final chapter of the race came with a twist as the race leaders pitted for wet tyres. Despite his off-track excursion, Hamilton was able to pit cleanly; the second-placed Kubica was less fortunate. Overshooting his pit box, the Renault mechanics were forced to scramble to realign themselves with Kubica's position and lost second place to Webber. The three drivers would remain in that order as they crossed the finish line. Massa finished fourth, ahead of Sutil and the Mercedes of Rosberg and Schumacher, who had a late position swap at Les Combes. Kamui Kobayashi claimed eighth ahead of Petrov, with Jaime Alguersuari taking the tenth and final points-scoring place on offer after de la Rosa's off-track excursion removed him from contention.
The effect of the race result was to stretch the field out even further; with Button and Alonso failing to finish and Vettel failing to score points, Hamilton and Webber were able to build a twenty-point buffer over the other drivers. And while the race result meant Red Bull retained their grip on the World Constructors' Championship lead, Hamilton's victory meant that lead was cut down to a single point. Kubica's podium and Petrov's two-point haul were not enough to claim any ground on Mercedes, whilst Force India further extended their lead over the non-scoring Williams drivers.
|Pos||No||Driver||Constructor||Part 1||Part 2||Part 3||Grid|
|1||6||Mark Webber||Red Bull-Renault||1:57.352||1:47.253||1:45.778||1|
|4||5||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault||1:58.487||1:47.245||1:46.127||4|
|8||14||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1:58.730||1:47.292||1:46.659||8|
|13||17||Jaime Alguersuari||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||1:58.944||1:48.267||11|
|14||15||Vitantonio Liuzzi||Force India-Mercedes||2:01.102||1:48.680||12|
|15||16||Sébastien Buemi||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||2:00.386||1:49.209||163|
|19||23||Kamui Kobayashi||BMW Sauber-Ferrari||2:02.284||17|
|22||22||Pedro de la Rosa||BMW Sauber-Ferrari||2:05.294||245|
|23||25||Lucas di Grassi||Virgin-Cosworth||2:18.754||22|
|24||12||Vitaly Petrov||Renault||no time6||23|
- ^ Michael Schumacher served a ten-place grid penalty for aggressive and dangerous driving at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
- ^ Nico Rosberg was given a five-place grid penalty for changing his gearbox ahead of qualifying.
- ^ Sébastien Buemi was issued a three-place grid penalty for blocking Nico Rosberg.
- ^ Timo Glock was issued a five-place grid penalty for blocking Sakon Yamamoto.
- ^ Pedro de la Rosa was given a ten-place grid penalty for changing his engine and exceeding his eight-engine limit.
- ^ Vitaly Petrov failed to set a time in qualifying after spinning and nudging the tyre barriers in the first qualifying session.
- ^ Jaime Alguersuari received a 20-second time penalty in lieu of a drive-through penalty after cutting the Bus Stop chicane.
Championship standings after the race
- Note: Only the top five positions are included for both sets of standings.
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