Hello there, this is the F1 Advent Calendar 2012 and you are very welcome. We’re rapidly moving towards the halfway point of this mini series, recapping the highs and lows of the season just gone, picking out the key moments that made it what it was. This time, we are on to Day Twelve - A Surprise Pole.
After the Hungarian Grand Prix, Formula One headed off on its traditional summer break - albeit a lengthy one due to the Olympics. Well-rested after five weeks off, the F1 circus returned to action at the ever-popular Spa. As is traditional, it was wet when the action began, and Free Practice Friday gave us no clues about who would do well over the coming days.
Kamui Kobayashi was fastest in the first session with a time well over two minutes, whilst the afternoon session was practically a wash out. Only ten drivers set lap times, and six didn’t leave the garage at all. It was Marussia’s Charles Pic who topped the times, and Force India’s Nico Hülkenberg who completed the most laps - five.
Thankfully, the rain cleared on Saturday, leaving the sessions to go ahead unimpeded. We still saw a mixed up grid, though, perhaps due to the significant lack of preparation time. Nico Rosberg was knocked out in the first session, teammate Michael Schumacher was out in the second. Sebastian Vettel was also unable to get into the top ten shootout, leaving room for Pastor Maldonado and Kamui Kobayashi both to impress.
The Williams driver qualified third, with Kobayashi hauling his Sauber onto the front row of the grid, qualifying second. It was Jenson Button who took the surprise pole position, however, posting the fastest time and then beating his own provisional pole just to make sure. It shouldn’t be a surprise to see a McLaren on pole, and it wasn’t - the surprise came from the fact it was Button’s first P1 grid slot since he moved to McLaren.
Button thanked his team, but later in the media pen, Hamilton seemed surprised that Jenson hadn’t been on pole position before. Team boss Martin Whitmarsh also suggested he wasn’t aware it was Button’s first pole position for the team. Presumably, this is because they’re all so happy with Button’s work that they had all assumed he had done it already, rather than because no one was paying any attention.
Nevertheless, it was the McLaren driver who led the field away on Sunday, with the sun still shining over the Spa circuit. Being out in front was a big advantage for the Brit, as behind him... chaos. Romain Grosjean, starting from ninth, managed to pull alongside and cut in front of Lewis Hamilton. In the ensuing collision, both Fernando Alonso and Sergio Pérez were taken out - all four drivers were forced to retire on that first lap.
Kamui Kobayashi also got tangled up in the mess, which knocked him to the back of the field, a disappointing result for Sauber after there had been celebrations following such a promising qualifying. The mixup allowed both Toro Rosso drivers to move up into the top ten, as well as Michael Schumacher - who was back on form after some difficult races. Both Force India drivers also picked up points, with the midfield teams capitalising on the misfortunes of others.
Button, unscathed at the front, took a lights to flag victory whilst behind him there were plenty of drivers scrabbling to get themselves into the points. Vettel improved from his eleventh place grid slot to finish second, with Kimi Räikkönen securing himself yet another podium position. Vettel moved into second place in the championship, closing the gap to Alonso to just 24 points, and pushing teammate Webber down to third.
A chaotic race, a new polesitter, and an epic first lap crash all in one race weekend - the second half of the 2012 season was underway with a bang.
That’s all for this episode of the F1 Advent Calendar 2012. We’re racing through this series of bite size shows, with another one due very shortly. That one will move us on from Spa to see what happened next.
All content in the series F1 Advent Calendar 2012
Filed under Mini Series
References Charles Pic, Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button, Kamui Kobayashi, Kimi Räikkönen
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