Sunday, August 30, 2009
Raikkonen edges Fisichella in Belgium
SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium -- Kimi Raikkonen held off Force India driver Giancarlo Fisichella to win Formula One's Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday, the Ferrari driver's fourth triumph at the high-speed track in the past five years.
Kimi Raikkonen celebrates after winning the Belgian GP for the fourth time in the last five years.
The former world champion, who started sixth, immediately overtook pole sitter Fisichella after the safety car came in following accidents on the opening lap -- including one involving overall F1 leader Jenson Button -- and held for a 0.9-second victory.
"It's a proper circuit, an old-style circuit," said Raikkonen, who clinched Ferrari's fifth win in seven races at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit. "It's just been good to me."
Championship contender Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull, who had retired with engine failures in the last two races, finished third to gain on Button.
Button failed to finish in the points for the first time this season, and Rubens Barrichello moved within 16 points of his Brawn GP teammate after finishing seventh despite an oil leak with two laps to go. Barrichello's car caught fire as he rolled into pit lane.
Button leads the drivers' standings with 72 points, followed by Barrichello with 56 and Vettel with 53. Mark Webber of Red Bull, who finished ninth after a drive-through penalty, trails by 20.5 points.
"This championship is a little crazy to be honest," Vettel said. "It's up and down. [But] we're still in reach."
Raikkonen, the 2007 world champion, picked up his first win since last year's Spanish GP in a season made unpredictable by rule changes. The Finn is the sixth straight different winner of an F1 race.
A day after earning the Indian team its first pole, Fisichella managed to secure the former Spyker team's first points after 30 races.
"I'm a little bit sad for that because I was keeping [Kimi's] pace and exactly same strategy race," Fisichella said. "It's great for second. But actually we could have won the race."
Although rain didn't complicate the start, several accidents on the opening lap did -- including Button's.
Fisichella held pole into the high-speed Eau Rouge corner as Raikkonen passed the slow starting Barrichello to the outside to sit behind Robert Kubica, who had cut inside, for third.
Several cars touched in the opening corner, with Barrichello and Jarno Trulli having to pit for repairs, but Trulli eventually retired after starting second.
Romain Grosjean of Renault then ran into Button, who went spinning into the wall at Les Combes. McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton and Jaime Alguersuari of Toro Rosso also exited at the same turn after the young Spanish driver hit the defending F1 champion and sent them both into the wall.
"I didn't know what happened, but I got hit from behind," Button said. "It didn't matter anyway because we weren't competitive here."
FIA said that both accidents would be investigated.
Raikkonen passed Fisichella for the lead immediately after the safety car pitted as the two entered Kemmel Straight, and he held after the first round of pit stops when both pitted at same time.
Fernando Alonso, who was running third on a one-pit strategy, pitted after 24 laps in good shape but a problem removing his front left wheel -- which had touched against Adrian Sutil in the opening corner -- eventually forced him to retire.
Raikkonen and Fisichella both pitted with 13 laps to go, with the Ferrari nursing a 1-second advantage, but Raikkonen managed to pull out quicker and held to join Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher and Jim Clark as the only drivers to triumph at Spa on at least four occasions. Ferrari has won five of the last seven races in Belgium.