Monday, September 03, 2012
Button enjoys Spa win after Alonso crashes
By Alan Baldwin
SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium (Reuters) - McLaren's Jenson Button won the Belgian Grand Prix from pole position on Sunday after a first corner pile-up ended the hopes of team mate Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari's Formula One leader Fernando Alonso.
Button enjoyed an untroubled afternoon in the Spa sunshine, making just one stop and taking the chequered flag 13.6 seconds clear of Red Bull's double world champion Sebastian Vettel, who won from pole last year.
Finland's Kimi Raikkonen, the 2007 champion, took third place for Lotus to strengthen his title challenge in his comeback year with a fourth podium in five races.
Alonso, who started the race with a 40 point lead over Red Bull's Australian Mark Webber, had hoped for a record-equalling 24th successive points finish but that was shattered in a cloud of carbon-fibre after a matter of metres.
His lead was slashed to 24 points, less than a race win, with Vettel rising to second overall. Webber dropped to third, 32 points adrift of Alonso. Raikkonen is one point behind in fourth.
The Spaniard could at least consider himself fortunate not to have been hit on the head by the flying Lotus of Frenchman Romain Grosjean, whose car took off after colliding with Hamilton and flew over the front of the Ferrari.
Grosjean was handed a one-race ban for causing the collision, which brought out the safety car, meaning he will miss next weekend's Italian Grand Prix at Monza.
Sauber's Sergio Perez also retired on the spot in a miserable afternoon for his Swiss team after a Saturday qualifying session that had promised so much with both their cars in the top four.
Kamui Kobayashi, only the second Japanese driver to start from the front row, was also caught up in the first lap mayhem and went to the back of the field and finished 13th.
His brakes had already started smoking before the start, which was jumped by Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado - who was handed a 10 place penalty for Monza for that and a later collision that ended his race.
Button's 14th career win, and first at the classic Spa circuit, came in his 50th race for McLaren and his satisfaction was evident as he posed for a team photograph with father and girlfriend in 'rocket red' T-shirts.
"This circuit is such a special one to most drivers, the way it flows and the history, so to get a light to flag victory is very special," said the 2009 champion after his second win of the season.
"It's a massive long shot to win the title but today proves that you can claw back 25 points very very quickly," added the Briton, now 16 points behind Hamilton and lagging Alonso by 63 with eight races remaining.
"If we can keep fighting for victories like this...there's still a small chance that I can really fight for that championship."
Champions Red Bull edged a point further ahead in the constructors' standings, with 272 points to McLaren's 218.
Force India's German Nico Hulkenberg came fourth, his team's best result of the season, ahead of Ferrari's Felipe Massa and Webber.
Seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher marked his 300th grand prix with seventh place for Mercedes after running as high as second at the circuit where he began his F1 career in 1991 and took his first win in 1992.
Toro Rosso pair Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo were eighth and ninth in a strong turnaround for the little Italian team ahead of their home race at Monza next weekend.
The stewards were given plenty to ponder with a stack of incidents investigated after the race.
While Grosjean and Maldonado were punished heavily, and Caterham were fined 10,000 euros for the unsafe release of Heikki Kovalainen at a pitstop, Webber and Schumacher escaped sanction.
Schumacher had cut across Vettel sharply to get into the pitlane after the two had battled for fourth place with 20 of the 44 laps gone.
Vettel, who started 10th and also did one stop as he battled through the field, described the race as 'crazy'
"I'm not bothered in terms of points and gaps at the moment. There are a lot of races ahead and... bloody hell, if you saw the first corner, you can see how quickly things can change. That's racing," said the German.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)