Sidepodcast - All for F1 and F1 for all

Class of the Field
Adam Barton

A Formula One fan since he was six, back while Häkkinen and Schumacher were having many an epic battle, Adam has seen a great deal. From German domination (twice), to British determination (once) and a Spanish invasion. A near compulsive fan who one day hopes to write about the sport for a living, outside of F1 Adam also authors his own blog One Guy's Opinion.

Hulk punches himself into the shop window - Where Grosjean caused chaos, new drivers were allowed to shine in Spa


F1 is back and aren’t we all glad! The Belgian Grand Prix certainly started with a bang, especially for Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, as 40% of the main title chasers were wiped out before they had made it through La Source. The incident mixed up an already mixed grid and the resulting safety car caused a very interesting difference in strategy. In fact, with overtaking all through the field and a complex strategy race, it was one of the better dry races from the magnificent Spa.

Hulk delivers Force India’s traditional Spa success

My driver of the day has to be Nico Hülkenberg for his controlled performance on his way to a career best fourth. He was the bigger winner at the start, diving down the inside where there was a huge hole caused by Romain Grosjean and Lewis Hamilton colliding. That allowed the German up to third and from there he was aggressive, overtaking Kimi Räikkönen for second and capitalised on the opportunity he had.

Hülkenberg races Schumacher in Spa
Credit: Sahara Force India Formula One Team
Nico's heading your way in Belgium
Credit: Sahara Force India Formula One Team
Nico shines for Force India
Credit: Sahara Force India Formula One Team

Praise Paul di Resta all you want but the truth is he lacks that landmark result that truly puts you on the map. Hülkenberg had that day yesterday, to go alongside his 2010 pole in Brazil. He was fast; he managed his tyres perfectly for a two stop strategy and completely outpaced his teammate (who admittedly did have a KERS failure) who went backwards for much of the race. Regardless of di Resta’s cruel luck, I think Nico was the faster of the two drivers in Belgium and he was rewarded with twelve crucial points.

In terms of moving forward, Hülkenberg has certainly raised his stock if Mercedes or Ferrari come calling in the next few weeks, particularly as he now has a three point lead over di Resta in the championship standings. Force India should be happy with a double points score and an impressive fourth. Their success was compounded by the fact that rivals Sauber and Williams failed to score and they outscored Toro Rosso. By those facts, it was a good weekend, but they will be frustrated that Di Resta’s KERS failure came on a day when they could have been fifth if everything had gone to plan, not to mention the fact that they’ll have to find someone to replace Nico Hülkenberg if he puts in more performances like that.

Button switches it on

Jenson Button produced a dominant display to dispel any talk of McLaren team orders in the near future as he reduced his arrears to 16 points. In truth, he won it on Saturday; with a mind-blowing pole lap, but also the disappointing qualifying session for his rivals as Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton qualified right in Martin Brundle’s ‘danger zone’. The Red Bulls qualified back in the pack, far enough back to avoid the turn one melee, but also too far back to mount a serious challenge on the McLaren.

I fully expected Kimi Räikkönen to be dominant but he provided Lotus’ usual trick of promising much and delivering little and the race could not get more perfect when Nico Hülkenberg moved up to second and slowed the chasing pack that little bit more. I’m not taking anything away from Jenson, he was clearly the fastest car on the track and, as he admitted, only had to race himself and ensure that his tyres could make a one stop strategy work. The result puts him back in range but he will have to back it up in Monza to make the most of his second chance.

Button's points analysis in Spa to championship rivals
Points gained from raceRemaining diff in standings
Fernando Alonso2569
Sebastian Vettel739
Mark Webber1731
Kimi Räikkönen1030
Lewis Hamilton2516

Raging Bulls charge through the field

The Toro Rosso boys have to be happy with their performance in Belgium. Jean-Éric Vergne’s self-professed love for the track was proven by one of his best qualifying sessions of the season, where he qualified 15th and ahead of Ricciardo for only the third time this year. He was seventh by Eau Rouge after avoiding the first corner calamity because of a poor start, just behind teammate Ricciardo.

After that the two youngsters held their own, unable to cope with the pace of the Red Bulls and Felipe Massa who had been delayed at turn one but they were able to pick off slower drivers such as Paul di Resta on their way to doubling their points tally for the season. Vergne opened up a 4 point gap to his Australian counterpart, which may be tough to overhaul given the outright speed of the car.

Elsewhere, a crucial result for Felipe Massa who scored fifth. For the first time in 24 races, he had the undivided attention of the Ferrari team (although I wouldn’t have been surprised if 80% of the Scuderia packed up and left shortly after Alonso’s retirement). Fifth place is probably the position that Alonso was aiming for in a clean race and while he may have been expected to jump Hülkenberg (ironically a frontrunner for his 2013 seat now), it was a step in the right direction.

Bad boys at it again

I’ll use my naughty step section to state my thoughts on Romain Grosjean’s ban for dangerous driving. The accident was clearly the Frenchman’s fault as he swerved to squeeze Lewis Hamilton in a careless though not malicious manner. I think that his one race ban is justified but the FIA is clearly making an example of the young Frenchman, because it is a long time since a driver has been banned from F1. Pastor was up to his usual tricks, earning another three penalties, taking his tally since Barcelona to nine, getting at least one at every track other than Hockenheim. Both men will need to learn fast because they are making themselves less and less employable with each incident.

Ferrari will have been targeting this race since the last Italian GP and will surely be right up there with Fernando

Up next is Monza and I am now officially losing patience with Lotus.

I gave them my full backing at Spa because I was sure that they would have the pace with the Double DRS and Kimi at his favourite track but he was clearly beaten and for the first time in Spa, he crossed the finish line without a win. The final straw was the announcement that they will be without the Double DRS again in Monza.

I think that McLaren do have their pace back now that they understand the tyres more and have adapted the car to better suit the Pirellis. But, Ferrari will have been targeting this race since the last Italian GP and will surely be right up there with Fernando. And of course, that usual final line, you can never write off Red Bull.