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Where Were the Spa-rkles?: The F1 Race Review

The Spa fireworks were missing. There were no biblical downpours and very little wheel-to-wheel action. But worry not, says Nikki Grubb-Clarke. We will get some classic F1 action soon. Till then, make peace with the Finger Sebastian Vettel on the podium. At least, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton made a comeback. Isn’t that a relief?

You can keep your massages, your facials and your manicures. I care not for pedi’s, body scrubs, or saunas. THIS is the only kind of Spa Day I have any interest in – the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francochamps; A mystical track where weather forecasting goes out the window. You might be told that rain will be torrential for the next fortnight, and go home with sunburn.

Trying to predict what will happen at Spa is like trying to predict the performance of Pirelli tyres on a Mercedes on a long run. Eye on impossible. So I won’t even bother trying.

One thing even I wouldn’t have even guessed was a protest by a group of environmentalists. The key word there is mentalists. They landed on top of the main grandstand and appeared to be preparing to abseil off it. Now I love me a polar bear as much as the next girl, but abseiling that close to very fast cars is really one of the stupidest ideas I’ve ever heard. Stray people + Super speedy cars do not mix. Now please, go and protest a sport that HASN’T made a huge effort and made itself carbon neutral, there’s a dear.

Sebastian Vettel grabbed the lead and held on till the very end. Oh well! Image courtesy Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool (for editorial use only)

Sebastian Vettel grabbed the lead and held on till the very end. Oh well! Image courtesy Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool (for editorial use only)

With such a short stint to La Source, the potential for a first corner incident at Spa is immense, so seeing all the cars get through safely was a huge relief! As perfect a start as Finger Boy got, Lew-Lew matched it and held the lead into the first corner. Rosberg behind took full advantage of a not-so-fabby start by Webber to take 3rd immediately, and all was good in the world. But then, just when you thought Lew-Lew had the measure of The Finger, the RBR does what can only be described as a turbo boost move and swept past him on the straight. Poo. He began instantly to pull away until at the end of the first lap he had a lead of over a second. Double Poo.

Fernando Alonso gave us a brilliant surprise by showing speed, something the Ferraris have been lacking. Image courtesy Ferrari  F1 team (for editorial use only)

Fernando Alonso gave us a brilliant surprise by showing speed, something the Ferraris have been lacking. Image courtesy Ferrari F1 team (for editorial use only)

Now I’ve been VERY quick to tut and shake my head at Ferrari this season, for their apparent lack of ability to produce a car that wants to actually do anything on the track. But it seems ‘Nando is determined to shut me the heck up today! Starting from 9th on the grid, by the end of lap 7 he’s up to 3rd, with some lovely overtakes and scuffles along the way! Someone certainly had their Oatibix this morning!

Ah Kimi Kimi Kimi. If there is a single driver on the grid who you can look to for reliability and FABULOUS team radio soundbytes, it’s Kimi. But on Lap 7, mahoosive black clouds were being dispatched from the front left brake every time it was depressed. A potential problem with the brake ducts caused overheating. And no, the irony isn’t lost on me. The Ice (Cream) Man being affected by overheating. Who would have though it?

As well as being a lover of all things Motor Sport, I am a mammoth football fan. I adore the beautiful game and am passionate in my love for Everton Football Club. Given that there is a rather large difference between driving cars and kicking an air-filled sphere about, I never thought I’d see a day when I would write about football in my review. Till now. Sergio Perez is fast becoming one of my favourite drivers. His tendency to slip a cheeky one up the inside has really endeared him. When he saw the chance to overtake RoGro, he took it. The cheeky little minx. He made the move, forced RoGro just a little wide, but left plenty of room, took the racing line through the corner and made it stick beautifully! RoGro wasn’t having a bar of it. In fact, from now on I’m going to call RoGro, Jurgen because what he did was tantamount to the Klinnsman Special dive in the box when not touched to try and get the penalty. Having gone a little wide, he just didn’t bother breaking and took to the escape road before rejoining the track, and having the obligatory whinge on the radio, prompting the team to confirm ‘Charlie is looking into it’. It was absolutely uncalled for. I’m SO disappointed in Jurgen! Last race it really looked as though he was moving forward with his driving, and then he goes and spits the dummy, drama queens up a perfectly good move, and gets Perez a thoroughly undeserved drive through penalty. Not cool, Romain. Not cool at all.

So we get to the first pit stop, in what most expect to be a 2-stop race. Lew-Lew pits first and frustratingly gets stuck behind Jurgen! He passes, but then loses the position AGAIN! As annoying as you like, particularly when Klinnsman is already in my bad books! Vettel pits 2nd and consolidates his lead, and Alonso comes out just behind Lew-Lew. On fresher tyres. With DRS. You can see what’s coming can’t you! Within a few corners, Alonso makes the move on Lew-Lew and makes it stick. And as early as Lap 23, Finger Boy is starting to run away with it. This does not make me happy.

Oh Kimi. His impeccable track record went bust because of some really bad luck, and really bad brakes! No pun intended. Photo: Glenn Dunbar/Lotus F1 Team (for editorial use only)

Oh Kimi. His impeccable track record went bust because of some really bad luck, and really bad brakes! No pun intended. Photo: Glenn Dunbar/Lotus F1 Team (for editorial use only)

With the status quo being pretty much maintained up the front, attention turns a little further down the field. By lap 34, Kimi – whose brakes appear to have given up their smoking habit – was together on track with Felipe Massa, and he was pushing, but just couldn’t quite get close enough to have a punt. Until on lap 36, Kimi has an AMAZING run and makes the move. It was an absolute BEAUTY, but his brakes are just not there! That pesky overheating problem apparently having done its damage, he overshoots MASSIVELY, turns it about and comes straight into the pits. The end of the road for the man with most consecutive points finishes in the history of the sport. A statistic that actually still means something, and I suspect will stand for a long time.

Pastor Maldonado returned in his Crashtor avatar. Pity! Image courtesy Williams F1 team (for editorial use only)

Pastor Maldonado returned in his Crashtor avatar. Pity! Image courtesy Williams F1 team (for editorial use only)

Williams have been pretty quiet this year, don’t you think? And Pastor certainly hasn’t been as…how shall we say…’active’ as he was last year. Just when everyone thinks he’s finally got to grips with driving between the lines and not taking out half the world, Crashtor Returns! Starting with a scuffle with Guttierez, he found himself completely out of position on track, on the outside of the first corner of a chicane. A tremendously foolhardy place to put your car – it really was NEVER going to work at all! Guttierez makes it through, but Crashtor is stuck heading right for the apex of the second corner of the chicane, with the Force India’s Sutil and Di Resta behind him. Sutil had nowhere to go, and clipped Crashtor’s front end, spinning him, where he collected Di Resta good and proper. Now I concede, he couldn’t avoid Sutil and was a sitting duck when he collected Di Resta. But Crashtor, what the absolute were you thinking trying to sit where you were through the Guttierez move in the first place? It was NEVER going to work and with 4 cars so close together on track, contact was absolutely inevitable. A 10-second stop and go penalty for a man I still consider an absolute liability. And you kept this man over Bruno Senna, Williams? Your idiocy is confirmed.

The McLaren spark returned almost! Phew. Fingers crossed for the next few races. Image courtesy Vodafone McLaren Mercedes (for editorial use only)

The McLaren spark returned almost! Phew. Fingers crossed for the next few races. Image courtesy Vodafone McLaren Mercedes (for editorial use only)

The McLarens pace has definitely looked better this weekend – about blooming time if you ask me – and with 10 laps to go, JB is staring a podium in the face having stopped once! The big question is whether he can hold off Lew-Lew who, with fresher tyres, is a threat. One can only assume that his tyres were on the way out, as on lap 35 he pitted, rejoining the track in 6th. I say one can only assume because I am hoping and praying this to be the truth. If not, they just threw away a podium, and I hate to think of a team I love doing anything that stupid. Still, 6th is a step forward and progress. OMG, now I’m happy with a McLaren in 6th. What is it that Dante says? ‘Abandon Faith All Ye Who Enter Here’.

With JB now down in 6th, and Finger Boy having built an unassailable lead, the chequered flag came out not a minute too soon.  Another chance for us all to want to grab that finger, break it off and shove it (Enter Desired Place Of Shoving Here)!

Daniel Ricciardo left a quiet but brilliant impact. Definitely the driver of the day. Image courtesy Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool (for editorial use only)

Daniel Ricciardo left a quiet but brilliant impact. Definitely the driver of the day. Image courtesy Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool (for editorial use only)

Driver of the afternoon…oooo this is a toughie.  For me it’s a shared jobbie. Firstly, Fernando Alonso drove brilliantly to go from 9th to 2nd in a car that still isn’t the fastest out there, but sharing the accolade is someone that I haven’t even mentioned yet! A gent who quietly kept it on the grey stuff, drove sensibly, made some great passes, and made up 10 places on his starting position. The chap who I don’t doubt will be announced the new Red Bull Driver for 2014 when Horner decides he’s milked the media attention for all its worth: Daniel Ricciardo started 19th on the grid, ended up 9th. Great job, Dan!

Now to be fair, this wasn’t a classic Spa race. There were no biblical downpours, there was very little wheel-to-wheel action and if I’m honest, I spent quite a long time trying to think of funny things to write in my review. And failing (yes, I thought I’d get in there first, cheeky!) But Lew-Lew was on the podium, and the Ferraris seem to be back in the ascendance. With the McLarens improving too, things are definitely looking up for the second half of the season. Have faith, Lovely Race Fans. The races will improve and we’ll be rallying cries of ‘Wow, what awesome action!’ again before you know it.

It was a bittersweet podium. But it brought with it promises of awesome races in the future. Image courtesy Ferrari F1 team (for editorial use only)

It was a bittersweet podium. But it brought with it promises of awesome races in the future. Image courtesy Ferrari F1 team (for editorial use only)

1 Sebastian Vettel – Red Bull Racing

2 Fernando Alonso – Ferrari

3 Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes

4 Nico Rosberg – Mercedes

5 Mark Webber – Red Bull Racing

6 Jenson Button – McLaren

7 Felipe Massa – Ferrari

8 Adrian Sutil – Force India

9 Daniel Ricciardo – Torro Rosso

10 Romain Grosjean – Lotus

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