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GP Week : Issue 27
>>F1BELGIUM s McLaren dudded ... again THE headlines should have been positive. They should have been glowing. The 2008 Belgian Grand Prix was set to be recorded as a classic, in which two of the finest drivers on the grid and of their generation battled for glory as the changeable conditions for which this race is renowned came to bear. But that’s not how the race will be remembered. The headlines today will be negative. The sport will suffer. Again. As it always seems to do. Twelve months ago, McLaren arrived at the Belgian Grand Prix with a $100 million fine in its pocket. There were those who believed the penalty fair, and those who believed, rightly or wrongly, that McLaren had been stitched up good and proper by the powers that oversee the sport. The punishment, to many, simply did not fit the crime. This year, McLaren made no mention of the lengths to which it had moved on from the unfortunate events of 2007. Instead, it celebrated the 40th anniversary of its first Grand Prix victory at that same Belgian track. They should have been celebrating yet another win. But they’re not. The rights and wrongs of the stewards’ decision to penalise Lewis Hamilton for his chicane crossing moment will be debated long and hard over the coming weeks. Should the world championship go to either Ferrari driver, the decision will become even more debated. But was it the right decision? In by far the quicker car at that moment, one could argue Hamilton should have held his nerve and passed Raikkonen after Eau Rouge on the next lap. But those who argue such a point are unlikely to be racers themselves, and fewer still will know the pressures of attempting to win a Formula 1 Grand Prix … whilst fighting for an F1 championship. Did Hamilton cut the chicane? Yes. But only because he’d been edged off the track by Raikkonen in the first place. Did he gain an advantage? In terms of receiving a slingshot down the straight, WiLL BUxtON GPWeek Editor yes one could argue he did. Did he give back the position? Again, yes, he did. He crossed the line behind Raikkonen, slipped back into his slipstream and then made a new move at the hairpin. Far greater misdemeanours than this have gone unpunished in 2008. Formula 1 today seems to be intent on bastardising its circuits. The Spa of today is still an awesome challenge, but the swathes of tarmac run off leave little punishment for those who push above and beyond their limits. Had the old chicane existed, we wouldn’t be having this argument. Had there been no opportunity for Pos # Driver 1 2 Hamilton to cut the new chicane, no car park sized piece of tarmac for him to drive over, we wouldn’t be having this argument either. He would have been bedded in the gravel, stuck in a tyre barrier or, in an ideal world, would have lifted and slotted in behind Raikkonen. We’ve ruined racing circuits to the point where mistakes are not punished. And then when the two best drivers of the day have the balls to race each other, we’re penalising the one who comes out on top. Is this sport? Is this racing? Of all the images that will stick in my mind from Spa, the clearest is this. As we left the circuit late on a rainy Sunday night, many of the McLaren boys were still wearing their orange celebration “victory” t shirts. Some people scoffed and said they should probably change out of them. I argue not. They won that race. Fair and square. FORMULA 1 Round 13 SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS Team Felipe Massa 2 3 Nick Heidfeld 3 22 Lewis Hamilton 4 5 Robert Kubica Fernando Alonso 5 15 Sebastian Vettel 6 4 Ferrari BMW Sauber STR-Ferrari BMW Sauber 7 14 Sebastien Bourdais STR-Ferrari 8 10 Mark Webber 9 12 Timo Glock David Coulthard 12 7 Nico Rosberg 13 20 Adrian Sutil 14 8 Red Bull-Renault Toyota Red Bull-Renault Williams-Toyota Laps 44 44 McLaren-Mercedes 44 Renault 44 44 44 44 44 44 10 23 Heikki Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 43 11 9 43 43 15 16 Jenson Button 16 11 Jarno Trulli Kazuki Nakajima Williams-Toyota Honda Toyota Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari Ret 17 Rubens Barrichello Honda Ret 6 Nelson Piquet Force India-Ferrari 43 43 43 43 17 21 Giancarlo Fisichella Force India-Ferrari 43 18 1 Renault 42 19 13 Time 1:22:59.394 +9.3s +10.5s +14.4s +14.5s +15.0s +16.7s +42.7s +67.0s Transmission +1 Lap +1 Lap +1 Lap +1 Lap +1 Lap +1 Lap +1 Lap Accident Gearbox Accident Grid 2 5 1 6 10 8 9 7 13 3 14 15 18 19 17 11 20 4 16 12 Points – Drivers: Hamilton 76, Massa 74, Kubica 58, Raikkonen 57, Heidfeld 49, Kovalainen 43, Trulli 26, Alonso 23, Webber 19, Glock 15. Manufacturers: Ferrari 131, McLaren-Mercedes 119, BMW 107, Toyota 41, Renault 36, Red Bull 25, Williams-Toyota 17, Honda 14. 29 opinion