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GP Week : Issue 165
Romain Grosjean got too heavy once too often at the start ... 25 GPWEEK.com // F1 >>> SPA 25 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: other Sauber, who expended the arm energy. He was Romain – all reflexes and reaction. All tail-on-the-kerbs. Out came Pastor Maldonado, having only just made it up from Q2 in the Williams FW34. Minimal movement. Wonderful release. Lewis-like. Paul di Resta had looked similarly poised (save for a last-millisecond twitch at the rear, nudging the Force India onto the exit kerb). Nico Hulkenberg used more opposite lock from mid-corner to apex. The flashes of steering correction quickly evolved into a di Resta exit, however, as if he was reminding himself of how it should be (rather than playing it how he wanted!). Up there on the big screen to our left they were on-boarding with Mark Webber. And you could see why the FOG (Formula One Group) Director had selected him: Mark looked Fernando- quick where I stood at La Source; and, that morning, during Third Practice, his RBR8 had had seemed particularly stable through Eau Rouge (relative to the twitchiness of the Ferraris). The lap time, though, was not there. As quickly as you can read this, the names appeared in order: BUT, KOB, MAL. No HAM! No RAI! In this sense, my vantage point had mattered not a jot. My eye could discern no difference between, say, Jenson and Kimi. It was only later, when we learned that Jenson had been running a lower- downforce set-up, that the quality of his driving came into focus. If he was able to make the McLaren look that good on corners like La Source, what was he doing over the full lap of Spa, where the long straights and fast corners would reward less drag? Lewis, it transpired, was using a higher-downforce wing that left him with almost zero feel for the road. Under the circumstances, his La Source work was also a piece of art. Kimi and Romain were not running the team’s new wing-stalling device (sadly) and were thus playing Lewis’s game. Fernando was on the limit of grip- versus-top speed wherever he went. The Ferrari was edgy, nervous. The Williams was again a major contender – and Pastor was again maximizing it. (Bruno didn’t make it out of Q2 but not for the want of trying: a half-lift into a fast corner left the DRS still open; a massive spin was the result.) And the Saubers were amazingly quick “through the air” thanks to the genius of Willem Toet. The job then for the drivers was to lose no time on the slower stuff. This they did not. You know what happened on Sunday. Romain made a great start, headed for a diminishing gap ... and didn’t back off, as young guys on big waves of expectation rarely back off. Spacial awareness didn’t really come into it: he was an arrow, heading for a tiny target. It was going to be up to the others to give him room. I think Romain will tell himself that he didn’t cause the accident because his right rear hit Lewis’s left front (ie, he was half-a length ahead of the McLaren) and because he made just the one legal move to the inside; but that’s the problem, of course, with too much legislation: it takes away the common sense. Romain was the only driver out there in a position to prevent any sort of collision, given the dynamics and the positionings involved. He could have backed off. He could have given Lewis more room. As it was, Lewis continued on his dead-straight, inside line from which he was under no reasonable obligation to back away – and inevitably the combined energies erupted. I predicted last Wednesday, on The Flying Lap, that Fernando was likely to DNF at Spa because of some sort of drama at La Source – but I certainly never imagined the carnage that would actually take place. Out went Lewis, Fernando and Sergio Perez – and Romain, of course – and we can all be thankful that no-one was hurt, even though Fernando’s shoulder was a bit sore after wards (whiplash) and for a few seconds he was in the car, unable to breathe because of the extinguishent. Into the void, driving beautifully from mid-grid, rose Sebastian Vettel. The RBR8 was not a quick car in Sector 3 on Saturday afternoon, but Seb belied its mediocre chicane grip with some gorgeous track craft and sumptuous passes. So good was he, indeed, that he induced the worst from Michael Schumacher – incited Michael’s last- second dart into the pit lane entry from the wrong side of the track in the path As he emerged from the pits, Raikkonen (right) made it very clear who had the right of way ...