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GP Week : Issue 165
HE WAS AGAIN MR ON-RAILS, LIGHT OF TOUCH, NIMBLE OF STEP. HE WAS AGAIN THE EPITOME OF THE RACING DRIVER’S ART. 24 GPWEEK.com // F1 >>> SPA 24 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: T he frustrating thing about the glorious circuit in the Ardennes forest they call Spa-Francorchamps is that it’s very difficult to get yourself around it. It’s big, it’s hilly and, these days, it’s full of plenty of ‘No Admittance’ signs. Watch at Eau Rouge and you can only imagine what they’re doing through Pouhon; spend the morning out at Pouhon and the mysteries of Blanchimont – and the hard braking zone after it – remain exactly that. So forgive me if you saw other wise: for my part, I can only say that not once – not in the wet on Friday nor in the dry thereafter – did I see Jenson Alexander Lyons Button even approach the zone we Philistines call ‘opposite lock’. He was again Mr On-Rails, light of touch, nimble of step. He was again the epitome of the racing driver’s art. (Correction. Of course there was a moment. Silly me. He flicked the wheel from side to side in adulation as the chequered flag flew. For a millisecond, the rear of that beautiful McLaren broke lose. Jenson, by his pit wall, allowed himself a slide.) I mention this because we need to find some way of explaining Jenson’s two exemplary pole laps at Spa – laps that left him free of any first-corner skirmishes. You can overtake at Spa – but you can also quickly run to ground at La Source if you qualify amongst the dross. Pole, then – orthefrontrow–isvitalatSpa...as vital as it is at Monaco. I watched qualifying, as it happens, from the exit of La Source – a relatively boring location, you may think, given the menu of corners from which to choose. It was convenient, though – and there is always something about that run through the gears down the hill, towards Eau Rouge, grandstands to the left of them, GP2 stars to the right, that makes the blood tingle. What we saw there was Jenson feeding on the power in perfect proportion to the unloading left rear. We saw Jenson steering – not power-sliding – to the exit. We saw Jenson’s gloved hands moving hardly at all. We heard no ripples from the Merc engine as he reached the edge, for Jenson met the kerb; he didn’t ride it. And then we saw his McLaren, straight and true, barking its way down the hill. What we didn’t see, of course, was what Jenson had been doing on entry and mid-corner. We didn’t see the decreasing brake pedal pressure against steering load; we didn’t see the actual substance of the corner from Jenson’s perspective – the moment when he felt that he could rotate the car with maximum benefit to the rear; where we were, we only caught the result. Even so, the view was selective. Lewis looked as smooth and as seamless in the other McLaren. So did Kimi in the Lotus- Renault and Michael in the Mercedes. Fernando, though, came into view with one slide already under half-control. And then there was another – out there on the kerbs, as he gave it full throttle. His wrists flicked to the left as the revs peaked in first, rippling their complaint as the Ferrari fanned the kerbs. Romain was the same – perhaps more so. Felipe, too – although his movements, like Romain’s, were a reaction to what was happening to the rear of the car rather than actions in anticipation. Felipe’s and Romain’s exits were slightly more segmented than Fernando’s or Kimi’s. You could see the joins; the telemetry would show the spikes. Then came Kamui Kobayashi. This’ll be fun, we thought. Not a bit of it. In Q3, with but a minute to run, Kamui looked to be Kimi. Car tightly wound mid-corner, when he burst into view, the throttle and steering were then released as one. Perfectly. It was Sergio Perez, in the