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GP Week : Issue 131
Team-By-Team: Belgian Grand Prix, Spa A bitter-sweet weekend for McLaren’s drivers on all fronts this weekend, with fortunes reversing between Saturday and Sunday. While it was Button who endured a horror qualifying, after securing a dismal 13th place on the grid after a misunderstanding with the pitwall, it was Hamilton who was in the wars on Sunday. Hamilton was running fifth and challenging Kobayashi for fourth when the pair collided while going into Les Combes, at the same time that Button was busy recovering from 19th. He secured third after passing Alonso with three laps to go. Lying second and eighth at the end of the first lap, few would have bet on a Red Bull 1-2, especially at one of their weakest circuits on the calendar, but the world champions were able to turn it around to secure their second 1- 2 of the year. Concerns over tyres prior to the race prompted early pitstops for both drivers, while Vettel opted for a three-stop strategy and made it work thanks to a long penultimate stint on the soft tyre. Webber had a more circuitous route to the podium, dropping as low as 15th after an early first pitstop, before capping a great race with an exhilarating overtake of Fernando Alonso into Eau Rouge. Two meagre points was scant reward for Renault in Belgium, especially after qualifying both cars inside the top ten. Senna was the star of the show on Saturday after putting the R31 seventh on the grid on his debut, but braked too late into turn 1 at the start of the race and collided with Alguersuari, sending the Spaniard into retirement. After the ensuing penalty, Senna raced well and took the flag in 13th. Team-mate Petrov meanwhile finished ninth, after stopping twice. He was eighth going into the final lap but was caught by Felipe Massa before the finish. Michael Schumacher was one of the stars of the day in Belgium on Sunday, after coming from last place on the grid to beat team-mate Rosberg to a highly-deserving fifth place. Both drivers started the race well, with Rosberg jumping into the lead from fifth on the grid and Schumacher making up ten places on the first lap. But come the end of the race they were neck-and-neck, and with Rosberg on the mediums and Schumacher on the softs, the older German was able to get by to score ten valuable championship points. Schumacher was also helped by Rosberg having to save fuel in the closing laps, having pushed hard in the opening laps while in the top positions. A delighted Pastor Maldonado scored his very first Formula One world championship point on Sunday, after putting the controversy of his qualifying clash with Hamilton firmly behind him. Starting 21st on the grid, after a five- place grid penalty, the Venezuelan was up to tenth by lap 6 before pitting twice to take the flag in tenth. Barrichello was similarly paced throughout the race, and the pair raced nose- to-tail throughout the middle of the race, but the Brazilian then lost time around his final pitstop, before an unscheduled pitstop ruined his points chances after damaging his front wing off Kobayashi. Fernando Alonso’s run of four consecutive podium finishes came to an end in Belgium on Sunday after taking the chequered flag in fourth place, but the result was enough to lift him into third place in the championship and ahead of Lewis Hamilton. Although the Spaniard led the race on one occasion, he was lacking in overall pace compared to the Red Bulls and McLaren, especially in the final stint on the medium tyre. Team-mate Felipe Massa was racing competitively and could well have finished higher than seventh but for a puncture on his final set of tyres, just one lap after pitting.