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GP Week : 01-Sep-2009
F1 BELGIUM >> GIANCARLO Fisichella, in a Force India, on Pole. Nope, we couldn't quite believe it either; but there it was, clear as day. He had to be light though, right? Pitting on Lap 3, maybe? Nope, he was fuelled sensibly. The Italian was just damn fast. Practice times can never be trusted too much, so when the Force Indias looked strong on Friday, we sort of just assumed it was a bit of showboating. But then came qualifying, and Fisichella, with a new upgrade package and on a circuit he loves, simply flew around Spa's 7.004km to record his team's first pole position. He was elated. So was the team. And, as it turned out, with good reason. The start of the race saw the veteran Italian make the perfect getaway, as behind him all hell broke loose. Jarno Trulli and Nick Heidfeld bunched the field up at the first corner, and there was contact between numerous drivers. Kimi Raikkonen ran wide as Robert Kubica dinked up the inside of his team-mate at La Source, and as Kimi scrapped to get past the Pole, Fisichella was streaking off. Trulli picked up damage, Raikkonen ran wide through Les Combes, the field bottlenecked once again, and Romain Grosjean, Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton and Jaime Alguersuari were all out on the spot. And it was in that one moment that the race was taken from Fisichella. Had the Safety Car not been called out, by the end of that mad first lap the Force India driver might well have had a lead anywhere in the region of five to 10 seconds -- possibly even greater. And given the pace he showed for the rest of the race, nobody would have been able to catch him. But with broken cars littering the track, the Safety Car was essential. On the restart, the KERS-equipped Ferrari of Raikkonen simply blasted past Fisichella into Les Combes, but not before the Italian had given re-passing the Finn a good go. From that point on, the duo were never really split by more than a second. Without KERS, however, Fisi just couldn't find a way past. Sebastian Vettel made the most of a disappointing grid slot of eighth to rise up through the field and take a podium in third behind the battling pair at the front. Had the race been a few laps longer he might well have caught their battle, but with his championship rival Button out of the points, Barrichello down in seventh and Webber in ninth, a podium would do just fine. That third place could have gone to Fernando Alonso, had tyre issues at his first and only pit-stop not again ruined his race. His left front had picked up damage in contact with Sutil at the start, and his stop took an eternity as his mechanics struggled to replace the wheel. On safety grounds he was pulled from the race. Vettel's most immediate challenge was to beat Kubica on a day when BMW made a return to form. The Pole beat his team- mate Heidfeld to the flag for the duo to record a double points finish in fourth and fifth and take their team above Renault in the championship standings. Heikki Kovalainen had an interesting afternoon and finished sixth, while Barrichello salvaged two points in seventh and Nico Rosberg bagged the final point in eighth. While his team-mate went on to win, Luca Badoer struggled again, and looked worse at Spa than he had in Valencia. Quickest in the first sector and rubbish everywhere else, the Italian's days at Ferrari must surely be numbered. And the man thought most likely to replace him is the one who gave his victorious team-mate the biggest scare in the race itself. Fisichella had driven a wonderful race in Spa, to record a famous result that saw him grinning from ear-to-ear. One wonders what he might achieve in a Ferrari, at Monza, in a fortnight's time. Because from the way Fisi race at the Belgian Grand Prix, Kimi should start getting worried. 25