Watching Kimi zoom by me going up Eau Rouge, thrilled me like nothing else. To be at that mythic place and right in front of that mythic corner was a real treat. But nothing could have prepared me for what happened right in front of our grandstand during the race.
When Kimi passed Schumacher at the busstop chicane, emotions ran high. Only to come down to earth a few corners later when the Mercedes practically flew by and repassed the Lotus down the Kemmel straight. A real highlighter of the problems Kimi had during the race. Seriously lacking in top speed and lacking in downforce. The high speed strong Lotus we had seen so many times earlier was not present when it was needed the most.
So Kimi stays behind Schumacher and not known to anyone he hatches a plan to get by the old fox. We see him running close through Blanchimont but doesnt make a pass to the disappointment of the very high number of Kimi fans present. No dice at La Source either. But he comes charging down towards Eau Rouge like a bat out of hell and I remember thinking, “Nah, he is not gonna do that. Schumacher doesnt yield”. Boy, was I wrong.
He empties his KERS, gets alongside Schumacher and jerks the car to the left just as he goes into Eau Rouge and completes the pass in the most spectacular way possible! Needless to say the crowd went wild where I sat. Including me. I havent screamed like that since he won the special stage in Germany 2 years ago. Pass of the year so far.
Okay then. Lets get started. Trackside review like I had hoped for and promised 😉
On Thursday we arrived to the track for the pitwalk and started to make our way down the pitlane. It was easy to get by the Marussia, Toro Rosso, Force India garages and so on. But once we got to the Lotus garage, it was full stop. You could hardly even get by to go further down to the rest of the teams. And its not like we were late coming into the track or anything. Loads more people were coming. So my wife and me picked a spot towards the end of the Sauber garage since she likes Kobayashi and we could still have a somewhat decent view of the Lotus pit. That way we were out of the mayhem and I’m not an autograph kinda guy anyway.
Here is my wife after she got an autograph from Kobayashi. It was her first race and she had a great time by the way. So after walking the track at La Source, Kine getting loads more autographs from The Hulk, Perez, Ricciardo and others and seeing some tire change practice, we were pretty content and headed back to our tour bus. Nice day.
Friday we decided to go sightseeing and do our own thing. Not a bad choice since it rained all day on the track and hardly any action to be seen.
Unfortunately that also meant that testing of the Lotus double DRS device had to be postponed.
Most of us had really high hopes for this weekend. I mean its Spa, right? Kimis playground. He won in 2004 and 2009 with cars that honestly were dogs. So Kimi should have this race down for sure. As long as he could get a top 5 qualifying, then what could stop him? As it turned out, he qualified great. Second row, 4th on the grid. Upgraded to 3rd after Maldonado got moved down after getting penalised for impeding Hulkenberg in qualifying. But there were worrying signs. The biggest being almost 7 tenths down from the polesitter, Jenson Button.
Mentions go to Maldonado and Kobayashi for a fantastic qualifying result. Needless to say my wife was thrilled to be at the race where Kobayashi got his best qualifying result ever. She said, “Oh, maybe Kamui and Kimi could be on the podium together. Wouldn’t that be great?” Sadly the joy on Kamuis behalf didnt last. Thanks to a hotheaded frog-eating large jeans wearing frenchman. (No offense to French people. Frogs are awesome.)
Lights out, and its wham bam, thank you ma’am at the La Source hairpin. Before that, Kamuis brakes were smoking badly and it may have startled Maldonado somewhat because he jumped the start. Grosjean seems to have problems with the perception of his car because he cuts across the track and puts his rearwheel into Lewis’ front wheel. The McLaren gets out control and the nose hitches a ride on the rear of Lotus as the added weight of two cars put together smashes into the back of the Sauber of Perez. That launches the Lotus over Alonsos Ferrari, scarily close to the cockpit, while the McLaren torpedos and completely disintegrates the rear of the F2012.
Kobayashi is another innocent victim and experiences not one but two cars sliding over his front wheel and suspension. Unbelievably it is not damaged. There was a big hole in his sidepod however, which Im sure did no favors to his performance. So from 2nd to 20th position – now that 4 cars had retired. Kimi was just a couple of meters ahead of the madness and narrowly missed it. Thank goodness for Maldonados penalty or he would have started in the position that Perez started. And we all saw what happened to him. A very big chance that Kimi would have suffered the same end to his race.
But that didnt happen. Its safety car and Kimi is in second place behind Button. I get flashbacks to 2009 where a first lap safety car was also deployed. By the way – guess who started that one? Oh yes. Mr. Grosjean fancy big pants did. Aint it grand? He tapped the back of Button which led to the taking out of Button, Alguersuari, Hamilton and himself. Well done. You had your one race ban coming, didnt you. That being said, with Alonso getting 0 points, this would be a perfect opportunity for Vettel and Kimi to catch up. The two people I think are most likely to challenge Alonso for the title.
Anyway, back to the safety car business. In 2009, it was up eau rouge and through Raidillon after the restart and blammo! Passed Fisichella with KERS. In 2012, not so much. Instead he loses a place to Hulkenberg down the straight. The high downforce setup Kimi needed just to have some feel for the car means a pretty crappy top speed. Not to mention the safety car period does no favors to the Lotus when it comes to tire temperatures. Unfortunately it is a sitting duck in those situations. So its 3rd place for Kimi. And his first stint is horrid. He never really gets the tires up to speed. He tries to work them but slides more and wears them out faster and he has to make an early stop on lap 11. He loses another place to Schumacher just before his pit stop.
He puts on the harder tire, comes out a few seconds behind Rosberg and immediately sets a blisteringly fast middle sector. Things are looking up. But how much? Button is disappearing into the distance. But thanks to two quick laps he retakes the position from Hulkenberg as the German emerges behind Kimi. He also makes up another position on the track as he eases his way past Rosberg in the DRS zone.
Ahead of him, his main rivals are on a 1-stop strategy. Kimi, being in a car that is capable of the same cannot do so due to his early stop forced by the safety car. So what does he do? What he always does. Makes the most of it. And apparently even goes for broke. Because that brings us to his dice with Schumacher. They have 10 wins at Spa between them and the Mercedes is one of the fastest cars down the straight. Well, I already went through it. But the genius of Kimis move is that he planned to stay behind Schumacher in the detection zone so he could use the DRS after he had passed him. Otherwise he knew that the Mercedes would just repass him. But to do that he would have to make the pass through eau rouge. Cold as Ice. Relive it here:
Race rating is 8 out of 10 for me. I was naturally a little disappointed that Kimi didnt win. But as it emerged how much he struggled with the car this weekend, it is some achievement to just drag it onto the podium. Vettels second place puts him 24 points behind Alonso. Kimis 3rd place brings him to 33 points behind the leader. It is very much still on.
As James Allison put it: “A third place won for us by the driver rather than the car”. Exactly. And with Grosjean completely out of contention while D’Ambrosio steps in for Monza, it is time to put every sail, every effort, every nut and bolt behind Kimi and his car. For the love of God, Lotus! You can win this. Give the Iceman what he needs and he WILL deliver. Its time to nut up or shut up. Or both. Bring on Monza. The tifosi will remember who they cheered for 3 years ago. Whether they want to or not. That is my prayer.
As for me I had a great time. I love the track. It is second to none. But I do love Monza a whole lot as well. The atmosphere is really special. So I will probably set my sights for there next year. My wife loved it too, so she is up for another trip, so I’m happy for that as well. We walked on the track after the race. You really have to do that to understand how steep it is. All in all, it was a wonderful trip. Thank you to the people that contributed to make that possible. You were not many but everything counts 🙂 And thank you to the people that follow this blog. Feel free to share. If you are not a member of our fanclub on Facebook, the link is here:
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