Two Renault engined drivers stood on the podium following a classic Belgian Grand Prix at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit yesterday. Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel finished in second position after scything through the field from his starting slot of 10th, with Lotus F1 Team’s Kimi Raikkonen completing the podium in third. Mark Webber finished in sixth, giving Renault engines three of the points’ scoring positions.
After a first lap corner incident forced the deployment of the safety car, Vettel picked his way though the field, taking first Kovalainen, Massa and team-mate Mark Webber before passing Massa for fifth at half distance. When the reigning world champion made his first and only pit stop midway through the race he was in second position and made the tyres last to finish 13secs behind race winner Jenson Button. The result closes the gap to Fernando Alonso at the top of the drivers’ championship to 24 points.
Raikkonen’s teammate Romain Grosjean was involved in the first corner shunt and was eliminated on the spot. Raikkonen however moved into second at the start and although passed by Nico Hulkenberg and then Michael Schumacher before his first pit stop, he remained in touch with the pack and a spectacular move on Schumacher through Eau Rouge put him back into third. He faced pressure from the German until the end of the race but resisted to secure his third consecutive podium.
Williams F1 Team had a disappointing weekend, with Pastor Maldonado caught in the first lap mêlée and dropping down the order before eventually retiring on lap 5 with a broken front wing. Bruno Senna made up significant ground at the start and ran in the top ten for a great percentage of the race, but ultimately finished just outside the points in 12th after a late pit stop.
Caterham F1 Team finished with Vitaly Petrov 14th and Heikki Kovalainen 17th. The Finn had an excellent start to the race, running 10th on the restart after the safety car was withdrawn, but had a couple of spins through the race and dropped back. Both were however able to get into a good rhythm and achieve another double finish.
Red Bull Racing remains in the lead of the championship with 272 points to McLaren’s 218. Lotus F1 Team is third with 207. The drivers’ title has tightened up with Alonso in front with 164, Vettel with 140, Webber 132 and Raikkonen 131.
Rémi Taffin, Renaultsport F1 head of track operations
A double podium at Spa is a top achievement for any engine supplier as the demands placed on the units is higher here than at any other circuit. The length of the lap spent at full throttle, the compressions and crests and the intense pressures put on the internals of the engines make it the most difficult of the year to prepare.
We introduced new units across all our partners this weekend to maximise top speed and minimise reliability concerns, and generally, everything has gone according to plan. Respective race pace has been good – with such a tight field, making every detail count is crucial.
In this regard, it’s promising for Monza, with a similar set of requirements from the engine. We’ll return to Viry for a short time to fully optimise the engines for the long straights in Italy and work on some of the finer points to help our partners maximise their results at this important part of the season.