Domenicali rues bad weekend for Ferrari

Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali has said that the Belgian Grand Prix weekend was ‘disappointing’ for the Prancing Horse.

Fernando Alonso suffered setbacks and eventually crashed, while Felipe Massa could only manage a distant fourth place.

“For sure it was not really a positive weekend for us,” he is quoted as saying by Autosport. “From the points point of view for sure we lost ground, no doubt about it and it is more difficult but it is not impossible. Up to now I remember in 2007 that we were 17 points behind with two races to go. More difficult than that – I don’t know.”

He issued a rallying call to his team not to give up the fight just yet, however.

“For sure it is more difficult but we want to keep pushing because out of the top five drivers, we were one of the three that did not score a point,” he said. “Maybe in the next couple of races something will happen the other way around, so we just need to be there and to not give up.

“We did not go out this weekend with the performance that we were expecting, and we need to understand why. We need to be very cautious because two races ago we saw one of our competitors, McLaren, seemed to be suffering and now it seems to be that they were very strong.”

He went on to allude to the competitive and unpredictable nature of the season so far.

“Race by race, the scenario is changing so quickly that it is difficult to predict something. It is important to be there because with these conditions anything can happen.”

Horner backs Vettel after Button crash

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has defended his driver Sebastian Vettel after the German had a torrid race on Sunday in the Belgian Grand Prix.

Quite apart from Vettel’s eventually finishing 15th, he was also involved in a number of incidents, in particular when he crashed into Jenson Button under braking for the Bus Stop chicane.

Vettel has come under fire from many quarters as a result, but Horner said he had faith in his star driver.

“I think Sebastian, without a shadow of a doubt, is a very, very talented driver,” Horner is quoted as saying by Autosport after the Belgian GP. “Here was one of those races where it just did not go his way. He needs to stay calm and focused and eventually it will come his way.

“It was difficult for him. You have to make split second decisions and I think he made one mistake when he was racing Jenson.”

Horner went on to echo what he had told the BBC immediately after the race – namely that Button braked earlier than he should have and caught the following Red Bull man unawares.

“Jenson, braking where he did, just took him completely by surprise. In trying to avoid him he got himself into a spin that ultimately collected Jenson in very, very difficult conditions. He is a great racing driver, he is still a very young guy and it is easy to be very critical on somebody who is relatively inexperienced but for sure he will learn a lot from what happened.”

Vettel’s mistakes at the weekend will not have endeared him to the team hierarchy at a time of the season where they may be considering favouring one driver over another for championship reasons.

Alonso vows to fight on

Fernando Alonso says he will not give up on his title ambitions, despite crashing out of the Belgian Grand Prix.

The Spanish driver endured a disappointing race, after first being hit by Rubens Barrichello on the first lap and then spinning out of the race after running wide at turn 8.

Despite this, the 29-year-old believes that Ferrari remains firmly in the title hunt and has vowed to give his all at the next round of the championship in Italy.

Meanwhile Felipe Massa was pleased with his fourth-place finish, after benefiting from the accident between Vettel and Button.

Stefano Domenicali: “This weekend definitely did not end well for us, even if Felipe’s fourth place, at the end of an impeccable and error free race in conditions that were far from easy, is an important result. Fernando saw his race compromised right from the first lap, the unwitting victim of an accident and then, despite fighting his way up the order, he ended up off the track in the sort of incident that can easily happen in a rain-affected race. Apart from that, and any other considerations, we must recognise that our performance in this Grand Prix did not match our expectations and interrupted a positive trend that began a few races ago: we have to understand why immediately and take the necessary countermeasures. The situation in both championships is certainly more difficult, but it is still not impossible for us to reach our targets: for those with short memories, I remember that three years ago, we found ourselves in a much worse situation and we all know how it went in the end.”

Felipe Massa – 4th: “I think this is a positive result and, given the way the race went and the accidents that put Vettel and Button out of the game, we can even say we were a bit lucky. This weekend, Red Bull and McLaren were stronger than us, but we worked well as a team, making the right choices before and during the race. Our set-up was a bit more efficient in the dry, while we suffered a bit in the wet, especially in the middle sector, while in the first two we were reasonably competitive. Now we go to Monza, for our home race: we hope to do well at a track where speed and stability under braking count for a lot. We will continue to fight right to the end, even if the situation in the championship is ever more compromised.”

Fernando Alonso- DNF: “The first of the seven “finals” went badly for me and for two of the other five finalists, while the remaining two got the maximum results: that means we will have to make up the ground lost today somewhere else. At the start, I immediately made up some places and the signs were that I could have a good race. Then, I found myself in the wrong place at the wrong time, when Rubens could not control his car under braking and crashed into me. I came straight back to the pits to change the tyres and to check the car was alright, when we fitted intermediate tyres, expecting more persistent and harder rain, but that was not the case. Yesterday we were hoping for rain, but when it came it was already too late to be of much use to me; on the contrary it prevented me from getting the chance to overtake the cars which would have had to stop to fit the soft tyres. Then I went off the track, when I went over a kerb and that was my race over: a shame even if the points I could have brought home would not have been a lot. It is very disappointing, because this is a bad result, but it does not mean I have given up on my chances of winning the title.”

Chris Dyer: “Felipe had a good race, always keeping out of trouble and he made the right choices, bringing home a good result, given our performance level in this Grand Prix, which definitely did not live up to our expectations. However, on the other side of the garage, the mood is one of great disappointment, because the lack of points seriously complicates Fernando’s chances in the title fight. His race was immediately an uphill struggle, because of the collision with Barrichello, which meant he had to pit immediately. At that point we took the gamble of fitting intermediate tyres, given that we had nothing to lose, but then we had to bring him in again for dry tyres. It was a good climb up the order, but in the end he went off the track in the wet which ended any last chance of scoring points. Clearly there is much work to do in order to tackle the remaining six races of the season in the best way possible.”

2010 Belgian Grand Prix: Sunday News Round-Up

Vettel apologise to Button but is slammed by Whitmarsh; Webber: Red Bull will soon have to choose; Tilke tips Korea to be ready on time

Sebastian Vettel has taken full responsibility for the accident which eliminated Jenson Button from the Belgian Grand Prix.

The German driver lost control of his RB6 as he tried to overtake the reigning world champion into the Bus Stop Chicane.

However, while the 23-year-old escaped with only a broken front wing, Button was eliminated on the spot – effectively dashing his title hopes.

“First of all, I’m sorry,” Vettel told television reporters. “Obviously it was not my intention to destroy his race or mine.

“I was close, I was faster than him. The moment Robert [Kubica] got close behind I knew that he could pass us on the straight because we are not the fastest on the straight. I was very close a couple of times, unfortunately never really close enough.

“I tried to out-brake him on the outside. When I changed from the inside to the outside, I lost the car under braking on the bump and then I then I couldn’t really control it anymore and unfortunately crashed into him.”

However, the German driver was later slammed by McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh who questioned the standard of his driving in Spa.

“It was not what you would expect to see in F1 – more reminiscent of junior formulae,” Whitmarsh is quoted as saying by Autosport. “A drive-through seemed a pretty light punishment to me.”

“It was a bit of a strange mistake I have to say. I realise it was not intentional but it was a pretty strange one really.

“If he was going for the inside he had three inches to sneak down there, so God knows what he thought he was doing. That was frustrating. But that is motor racing; we’ve got to move on now.”

He added: “He [Vettel] is a nice guy and he didn’t need to do it, but when you keep doing these things you have to reflect on what is on your mind on this occasion. It looked like he was trying to go for an inside gap where, as I said, there were a few inches. What he thought he was doing there, I don’t know. And he lost it. I would rather he did it with his team-mates rather than do it with us!”

Meanwhile, Vettel’s team-mate, Mark Webber, has hinted that Red Bull may have to choose which driver it will back in the final stages of the 2010 championship.

With his second place in Belgium, the Australian driver moved 28 points clear of Vettel and later suggested that his team would have to decide how best to defeat McLaren in the title battle.

“McLaren have won many championships and have a good trophy cabinet, Red Bull have a good trophy cabinet but not as good,” Webber is quoted by Autosport. “I think it depends on how hungry we are to try and do that.

“I think it is too early at the moment to say that [one driver should be prioritised], but maybe there is a different strategy compared to McLaren.

“It’s still too early at the moment but not too far away.”

Finally, F1 circuit designer Herman Tilke has attempted to allay fear over readiness of October’s Korean Grand Prix.

Latest photographs showed the circuit to be far from finished, with tarmac having not been laid on some areas.

However, despite poor weather having delayed construction work in recent months, Tilke believes that the race will take place as scheduled.

“The track is not finished yet, but it will be,” Tilke told Autosport. “It will be ready.

“Of course it is tight. But every circuit is tight. With every F1 circuit, the problem is always that the race date is there and if there is bad weather or other circumstances then we cannot delay.

“With a normal building, they can say that it will be finished now one week or two weeks later. We cannot do that with an F1 track. We cannot have it one week later.”

2010 Belgian Grand Prix: Post-Race Press Conference

Belgian Grand Prix winner Lewis Hamilton is joined by Mark Webber and Robert Kubica in the Post-Race Press Conference.

1. Lewis HAMILTON (McLaren), 1h29m04.268s
2. Mark WEBBER (Red Bull), 1h29m05.839s
3. Robert KUBICA (Renault), 1h29m07.761s


TV UNILATERALS

Q: Lewis, brilliant win but not without its nervy moments.
Lewis HAMILTON: No. It was a great weekend. Very, very tough race for me. I think same for everyone but praying just for a race that went smoothly. But with the tricky conditions when it started to rain, losing temperature in the tyres and not really knowing how much you can push in each corner. I braked quite late and locked my wheel and went wide at turn eight and jeez, the Lord definitely had his hand over me there as I was able to get away with it. Then staid ahead of the guys here. The team did a remarkable job this weekend. We are constantly pushing and some places we are not as fast as these guys but it is great that when we are close we maximize, so very proud of the job they did this weekend and I am so happy to be up here.

Q: Talk us through the struggles. As the rain came down it really looked like you wanted to come in for a change of tyres a lap earlier than you were allowed to.
LH: Yeah, it is a difficult call. The team are telling you there is rain coming and in the previous times it was just a light shower and it dries up very quickly. You didn’t know what to expect. Although there were very dark clouds above but it begun to rain and quite heavily and you are praying that you wish you could come in but it is too late once you get past the pit lane. Fortunately I got round and changed the tyres and had a fantastic pit stop. The best one I have had this year and I guess that’s what helped get us out there.

Q: Then just the one safety car to try and survive until the end of the race.
LH: Yeah, I was hoping the safety car would stay out longer. But fortunately it did not rain anymore and the track got a little bit better. At the end it was just about nursing the car home and bringing it back in one piece. Just trying to keep a small gap between myself and Mark and try to bag those points. It is not many times you are in this position.

Q: Mark, it has been quite a few times this season that Red Bull have been in pole position and sadly for the team it has not always turned into victory. That was the case for you today, but what happened off the line? It was a very slow getaway.
Mark WEBBER: I had a big bog (down) on my formation lap and then we made a small adjustment to the clutch which I thought was hopefully going to get rid of that situation but then I had it even worse on the main start itself.  Did my normal procedure but in the end you need to go through it to see what happened. Obviously I was pretty surprised and once you have a micro moment on the start in a Formula One race it is massively exaggerated with the performance of the other guys getting normal starts. I was on the back foot through Eau Rouge. I had a pretty good fight with Adrian (Sutil) to start with. Got that back and passed Felipe (Massa) as well. Pretty close to having a look at Seb (Vettel) before the safety car came out. It was a pretty mixed up race after that. I think we had a good pit stop, the first one. I think the guys did a very good job there. It wasn’t quite enough to jump Robert, but very close,  but once you get to the limiter on the straight it is very, very difficult to do any moves at the top and someone with Robert’s experience is going to be pretty difficult as well. Happy with second in the end. To have the top three qualifiers here after a race like today, I think you would never ever get any money on that. The order is slightly the wrong way round for me. But in the end happy with second. A good day for the team. Lewis deserved the win and did a good job.

Q: It was the kind of race that when you are running for the championship if you cannot get the victory you have got to get as much out of it as you possibly could.
MW: Absolutely. These days it is very, very easy to come away with nothing with a small mistake from anybody, from the cockpit, pit wall or pit stops or whatever. Everyone did their bit today, so we got some good points and we go to Monza.

Q: Robert, good points for yourself with a third podium of the season but it could have been second. What happened in the second pit stop?
Robert KUBICA: It was a good race for us. It was very, very tricky and very difficult. On the first pit stop we did a very good job. A very good in-lap. The first pit stop was very good. It was close with Mark. Then I started pulling away. When it was quite wet, Lewis went off, I was catching him quite nicely. But then in the pit lane I had to change a few things on my steering wheel for the wet tyres and wing settings, stuff like this. Got distracted a bit and when I was done with all the switches it was too late. I jumped on the brakes and locked the front wheels and unfortunately it took some guys on my front wing. I hope they are fine. I lost second place there, but that’s racing. Unfortunately one mistake in the race which cost one position. But still I think it was a great weekend for us. The F-duct seems to be working very well. Performance is much better than it was in the last races, so I hope to continue this way.

Q: How confident are you that you can continue this good form into the next few races?
RK:
Monza will be quite a tricky race. Quite difficult to predict because it is a completely different downforce level track and I most probably will not have the F-duct there. But then we go again to the overseas races. Singapore should be a good one for us. It is good track for us but most probably we won’t have the F-duct there unfortunately. We will see. Things can change very quickly as we have seen this season. But what is important to us is to keep working, keep developing and keep seeing good things for next year’s car.

Q: Lewis, a victory that takes you back to the top of the championship which will give you a reason to smile and a victory that next year when we look at the record books will still be yours which I am sure will make you smile even more.
LH: Yeah, I am so happy. I am so grateful to be in this position. When you have a weekend and a race like that as Mark said it can be a lottery, to come out on top even though you are faced with so many difficult situations and one of which I was very, very blessed and fortunate to get away with. I am just so grateful to be here and I am really happy. Absolutely ecstatic, so good, good.

Q: It makes up for 2008?
LH: Absolutely.


PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: Lewis, yesterday we spoke a little bit about what it would mean for you to win here and now you have done it. Tell us.
LH: I think you can probably see by my reaction just how happy I am. I love racing. It is in my blood. I missed it so much in the break and what the whole team works for is that win. We came here surprisingly to see that we were very competitive, if not a little bit faster than the others. To then try and put that into a win in these changeable conditions was very tough. It is one of those I can tick off now and say that I have won. I get to keep this one which is great. So very, very happy and the team did a great job.  Sorry to hear what happened to Jenson (Button). It was very unfortunate for him and for us as a team. He was doing a fantastic job to get up to second and those points were very, very valuable. I am pretty sure it wasn’t his fault. I did happen to see it on the screen.

Q: There was the incident at the final corner on the first lap when you all went wide and off the circuit and I guess there were a few other moments as well.
LH: Everyone behind me did the same thing. When you are out there in those tricky conditions, I had gone so far I couldn’t come back across. It was impossible. But everyone behind me did exactly the same thing. The biggest moment was later on in turn eight. I made it all the way out to the wall and just clipped it a little bit with the edge of my wing. Fortunately not the whole car but very fortunate to get away with that. It was so slippery out there. There is nothing you can do. Obviously you tip-toe around. I felt I was braking quite early, but the thing just did not want to stop and locked the wheel and I was gone.

Q: The tyre calls must have been very difficult. It is all very well being in the pits here but they don’t necessarily know how much rain is out there. How did that all work out? Were you on intermediates for the last stint as well?
LH: I was on intermediates. Same as everyone right at the end. But it was very, very tricky. You have to stay out as long as you can and when you are in the lead you are the first one to arrive at whatever is ahead of you. You have really got to be very sharp and very much in control. But at the end we put the tyres on at the right time. Fortunately we kept our position through the pit stop. The team did a great job with the pit stop. That was the best pit-stop I think we have done, so rally hats off to them. Great, they deserve it. They work hard all the time. lt is great coming back after the break to have this result, so I am very, very pleased..

Q: Mark, you mentioned the clutch just now. Was there any residual problem during the rest of the race?
MW: No, it was OK. No problems with the car after that. It was pretty obvious the start didn’t go according to plan. I did the pretty normal procedure, we’ve got very good guys working very, very hard and you can’t always get them, so… Today’s run was fortunately one of the shortest to the first corner. The boxing gloves will be on if they do it again in Monza next weekend. We got away with it here. I was obviously on hold through Eau Rouge and up to the top at Les Combes on the first lap. Managed to just hold the position that I had out of La Source which was good because it’s very easy for people to get a tow on you. And then, yeah, the first lap, as you said, the rain had already arrived. The top two or three guys went across the chicane obviously, but that can happen. As Lewis says, it’s such an acute corner and very, very slippery in the braking area. We all scrambled through there. I passed Felipe on that next lap and also felt pretty good at that part of the race. And then the safety car came out. I settled in, felt pretty comfortable. Jenson looked like he was struggling for pace, so the four of us were just biding our time and looking like we had to go quite long in that stint because it only really warranted doing a pit stop if it rained or anything unusual happened. It was not really a normal grand prix in terms of strategy in that sense. So we had to hold fire a little bit longer than normal. I obviously had a crack at Robert, trying to get underneath him with the undercut; it nearly worked but obviously his boys did a good job in the pit lane too because our guys really did a good stop. From then on it was really just getting the car home. It wasn’t very easy to follow Robert, to be honest. I wasn’t that comfortable on the prime at certain points. I was actually happier when it started to get drizzly on the slicks, I felt a little bit quicker and I could close the gap a little bit. I wouldn’t say comfortable, but I felt like I could be slightly quicker than maybe Robert. Then we had the pit stops, I went a little bit long but it looks like Robert went even longer, so that was the difference between us getting in and out. It’s so easy to over-jump your pit in those conditions. Dangerous for the mechanics, but they got away with it and that’s where we got second place. Intermediates got the car home. I was hoping this guy (Lewis) would make a mistake but it’s not his first race, so I’m very, very happy with second place, to be honest, after the start I had. Sensational points, for myself.

Q: You sort of avoided the question of straight-line speed yesterday; were you happy with it in the race itself?
MW: Well, yes, I was, I think. The guys have done a very good job to get the combination right. We have the same engine as Robert. He was very competitive today, so I think all in all most cars were pretty even today. Lewis drove a very, very good first stint. It would have been interesting, obviously, if some of the rest of us were in free air, away from JB (Button) if we could hold his place. Lewis did a good first stint and if it was a normal dry race it would obviously have been his as well. But maybe answering a question we might get, we’re looking forward to Monza to see how we might go around there. We learned a bit in the race today to go forward in that event as well. I’m happy with today’s result.

Q: Robert, it seemed like it was a little bit difficult against Jenson and Sebastian in those early stages; tell us about that?
RK: Difficult, conditions were very difficult. On the second lap, going through Eau Rouge, I saw Lewis going wide actually, I was also very wide but I tried to make the apex in order to attack him on the back straight if he lost a lot of speed. Unfortunately, when I went up the hill, I lost the car completely, first to the left, then to right and actually I was very lucky to be able to continue. Then I lost position to Jenson. On the restart I had very poor grip and going into turn one I locked the rear wheels then the front wheels and then on the exit of course, I was no longer on the good line and Sebastian went through. We were then stuck behind Jenson. I think with better pace, as soon as the others crashed, we managed to settle into quite a good speed and the car felt good.

Q: What about the weekend and the F-duct as a whole?
RK: I don’t think anyone thought we could be so competitive here. We were in the top five in all conditions in every single session. Today we have seen good pace. Unfortunately we lost second place due to my mistake. I got distracted in the pit lane. In order to change tyres we have to adjust the front wing, change some settings on the steering wheel. I couldn’t do it on the race track because it was so slippery, so I had to do it in the pit lane before stopping and unfortunately there wasn’t enough time and when I managed to change everything it was quite late to brake and I locked the front wheels and unfortunately I didn’t manage to get into my pit box. I went wide, went to the right, hit some guys, mechanics but fortunately they are fine and lost second place there. It was a very tricky race but we’ve seen very good pace. Started third, managed to finish third, of course thanks to some bad luck and good luck, but it was a good place.


QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Livio Oricchio O Estado de Sao Paulo) Mark, you now have 20 points more than your team-mate; Lewis you have 35 more than yours. Do you expect that in the remaining six or five rounds that your teams will concentrate more on you instead of your team-mate?
LH: I don’t think so. I think Jenson was very unfortunate today. I get the same treatment as Jenson and vice versa and that enables us both to score maximum points and so I don’t feel there should be any preferential treatment. Obviously the team do the best they can possibly do, to the maximum for each of us. There’s no more they could do.
MW: McLaren have won many championships, so they have a pretty good trophy cabinet. Red Bull have a good trophy cabinet but not one like McLaren’s, so it depends on how hungry we are to try and do that. I think it’s too early, at the moment, having said that, but maybe there is a different strategy compared to McLaren. I’m not sure but it’s still too early at the moment, but not far away, I would say.

Q: (Heikki Kulta Turun Sanomat) Lewis, condition-wise, which was rougher, the last four laps in 2008 or the last ten laps today?
LH: The last ten laps now I would say were definitely twice as hard as 2008. Obviously 2008 was incredibly tough but I felt more on the limit here, maybe because I’d been off and had a wide moment and the changeable conditions. The last four laps were obviously much easier than 2008 because in 2008 we were on slicks and that was incredible, but the lead up to those few laps was pretty intense.

Q: (Mike Doodson) Lewis, a question about the F-duct in the wet. Do the wet conditions change things for the F-duct? Do you use it in different places because it has a different effect or you want more downforce here or everywhere? Is it a different technique in the wet?
LH: No, there’s no different technique, you just use it less. It depends where you’re grip limited. Obviously I was using it through Eau Rouge in the dry and then in the wet it was impossible to use it through Eau Rouge, so you just use it a little bit less.

Q: (Frederic Ferret L’Equipe) Lewis and Mark, as you are the only two contenders to score points, do you think you are sitting beside your main rival for the title?
LH: You’ve seen in the last few races how quickly things can change, so we will still have a long way to go, so there are still many points to be grabbed by any of us drivers who are fighting for the championship. Clearly for me, my closest rival in the championship is Mark in terms of points, but I still think the championship is open, but obviously we want to make sure that that’s not the case after another few races.
MW: I think if you beat Lewis in the championship you are doing very well.

Fluctuating fortunes for McLaren in Belgium

Lewis Hamilton was happy to bounce back from his retirement in Hungary to take victory in the 2010 Belgian Grand Prix.

The McLaren driver took full advantage of Mark Webber’s poor start to lead in to the first corner and, despite a late scare when he went off at Rivage,went on to take victory and the initiative in the championship.

Meanwhile, Jenson Button was bitterly angry to have his race cut short by Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel.

The reigning world champion had been running in second behind his team-mate before the incident and now faces an uphill battle to remain in the title hunt.

Lewis Hamilton – 1st: “After the DNF in Hungary, this last push in the championship couldn’t have started better for me; this victory was the perfect way to bounce back. Spa is always one of the most challenging races on the calendar, and I’m ecstatic that I’m now able to tick it off and say that I’ve won here.

“At the start, I was able to pace myself and maintain the gap – every time the cars behind increased their pace, I was able to answer. Then, when the conditions changed, I had a wide moment at Turn Eight and I was on the edge of my seat! Fortunately, I got out of it, took a step back, regained my focus, and took control again. I was so relieved to cross the line at the end of the race it was an overwhelming feeling!

“I feel really sorry for Jenson, though. He did a great job. I got around Turn One, looked in my mirrors, saw him picking up places, and thought, ‘That’s good, that’s good.’ Then he got up to second, and I thought, ‘That’s fantastic another opportunity for a one-two.’ Then, cruelly, he was taken out through no fault of his own which was really unfortunate for him, and for the team, because he did everything he could to get us the most points in the constructors’ championship today. But he’ll bounce back even stronger.

“It may sound an obvious thing to say, but I’ll say it anyway: I love racing. It’s in my blood, and I missed it so much during the summer break. So to finally get a win here at Spa in the trickiest of conditions is fantastic. I couldn’t have done it without the team though. Without them putting in such a great effort, we wouldn’t be here today.

“It almost feels like this is my first win it’s just phenomenal!”

Jenson Button – DNF: “It was looking really good this afternoon. I got up to second easily enough, but my left-hand front-wing endplate had been damaged on lap one, which meant I had to dial maximum angle into it, and that made the rear twitchy without giving me any more front.

“As a result, it was pretty tricky to keep the others behind, but I was having a good fight in the wet conditions, and I seemed to be able to find grip better than the other people around me. I was doing a decent job of keeping my position, and doing it fairly.

“Then, as everyone knows, I had an incident with Sebastian [Vettel]. I certainly didn’t brake any earlier than usual. All I know is I suddenly felt a big bang in the sidepod, which ripped the radiator out, and then I lost drive.

“I’ve watched it on TV now, and I’d say it was a very strange incident. Clearly, he didn’t do it on purpose, and I gather he’s now apologised, but I have to say I’ve got no idea what he was doing. It’s a massive blow to my world championship hopes.

“All I can do now is look forward to Monza. I love that track, and I’ll be doing my best to score a lot of points there.”

Martin Whitmarsh – Team principal: “There’s no doubt about it: today we saw a truly fantastic race and an utterly brilliant victory.

“Apart from one heart-stopping excursion, Lewis was in command of things from lights to flag, and drove prodigiously well all afternoon all weekend, in fact.

“From the moment he went out on Friday morning, he was palpably excited about being here at Spa, and it was clear that he always felt confident that a win was on the cards. He really is at the top of his game at the moment.

“He’s back at the head of the drivers’ world championship standings too and, but for Sebastian, we’d be leading the constructors’ world championship as well.

“Clearly, had Jenson’s race not been ended by Sebastian’s error, Jenson would have scored a hatful of world championship points and today is therefore a deeply frustrating day for him. He drove superbly he’s so good in changeable conditions such as we saw today but he’s very mature and I know he won’t let this setback get to him.

“Finally, I want to say a big ‘well done’ to everyone at McLaren Racing in Woking and at Mercedes-Benz HighPerformanceEngines in Brixworth, without whose relentless efforts we wouldn’t be back where Vodafone McLaren Mercedes belongs: at the front of the field, on the top step of the podium, in rocket-red victory T-shirts, spraying champagne.

“Monza? Bring it on!”

Hispania suffers Spa setback

Hispania Racing was left frustrated with its performance, as both Bruno Senna and Sakon Yamamoto suffered a disappointing Belgian Grand Prix.

While Yamamoto struggled to twentiefth place, Bruno Senna’s race was cut short after rear left suspension failure.

As a result, the team is hoping to bounce back at the next round in Italy.

Dr Colin Kolles, Team Principal: “It was a turbulent and difficult race today with changing conditions. We started on dry tyres and Sakon Yamamoto was in 13th position in the first laps. Bruno Senna got his front wing damaged in the first lap and so we had to change it in his pit stop, when he also went on intermediate tyres. Unfortunately, his rear left suspension failed and he had to retire early in the race. Later, heavy rain was expected and Sakon changed to wet tyres in his second pit stop. I want to thank the mechanics, who did a good job this weekend, especially in the pit stops. Now, we have to focus on the next round in Monza and we hope to show a good performance again.”

Sakon Yamamoto – 20th: “A lot happened in the race, where I had a good start and I could win some positions. It was difficult to push on the option tyres, so we changed on the primes. At the end of the race, the rain came back and we needed to change the tyres and played it as a gamble and changed to wets. With the low intensity in the beginning of this rain shower, the tyres got used too hard and started to grain. So, I lost a bit of performance when the rain was heavy. But I am happy and I want to thank the team for being able to finish the tough race again.”

Bruno Senna – DNF: “It was a bit of an unlucky race for us unfortunately. We had a really good start, probably the best we’ve done. But then into the first corner it got a bit tight, they got my front wing broken. So we came in and put the intermediate tyres which we need to change back after one lap as the rain stopped. One lap later, the rear left suspension failed. So we had everything going against us today. But this is how it goes in motor racing, we just have to look forward to Monza and hopefully it will be better there.”

Webber pleased with second place

Mark Webber was relieved with his second-place finish in the Belgian Grand Prix, after a poor start saw him drop down the order.

The Australian dropped as far down as sixth, before benefiting from his team-mate’s collision with Jenson Button and Robert Kubica’s late pit blunder.

Meanwhile Sebastian Vettel apologised to Jenson Button for taking him out of the race, as the German driver’s championship challenge was severely dented after yet another disastrous race.

Mark Webber – 2nd: “The start was a mess, it wasn’t ideal to lose that many positions, but fortunately it’s not Monaco or Barcelona where the positions often don’t change during the race. I was able to overtake a few guys on the first few laps and get some of the positions back – I knew the race would be quite long after that and to get second place was a good result. It was very challenging in the last part of the Grand Prix and it was difficult to keep the car on track. I can’t believe the top three qualifiers finished on the podium with all the changing conditions! It was a good day for me. It was unfortunate for the team that we didn’t get some more points, but we’re still leading the Constructors’ Championship and hopefully we will do in Monza.”

Sebastian Vettel – 15th: “What happened, happened and we can’t change it now. Obviously I’m not proud of it, I lost the car going over the bump as I was braking and unfortunately hit Jenson, so he couldn’t continue. I’m sorry for him. We’ll have to see what we can do at the next races.”

Christian Horner, Team Principal: “A great drive by Mark today, it was a very mature drive after a bad start. He recovered fantastically well and drove with great maturity at a track that we always knew would suit the McLarens. To come away with second place was a great result for him today and it was great pit-work by the guys to get Mark out ahead of Kubica. For Sebastian, unfortunately everything that could happen today did happen. He got pushed on to the grass on the first lap and then when he was coming back through the field was racing with Jenson. I think Jenson took him by surprise with how early he braked for the bus-stop and trying to avoid him Sebastian got into a bit of a moment and collected Jenson. He was then unlucky with Liuzzi, so not a great weekend for Sebastian.”

Fabrice Lom, Renault, Principal Engineer Track Support: “What a hectic race with a lot of action in mixed conditions. It was a solid race for Mark, who took no extra risks and did whatever he could to bring the car home for a well deserved second place. Hamilton was too strong for us today and I think second was the best we could achieve. Sebastian had an accident and I think his race was over after that. Congratulations to Kubica, I think to have two Renaults on the podium at this circuit is a great result for us.”

Sutil scores more points for Force India

Adrian Sutil continued Force India’s love-affair with the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, after coming home in fifth place.

The German driver made the most of his Mercedes engine to power his way up the field from eighth on the grid and was later delighted with the performance of his VJM03.

Meanwhile, team-mate Tonio Liuzzi just missed out on a points-placed finish after damaging his front wing after a collision with the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel.

Adrian Sutil – 5th:“Another fifth place so I am very pleased as I started in P8. I think that was the best we could do. It was very tricky conditions out there and you never knew what would happen with the weather. When the rain came it was sometimes light in places and heavy in others and I had to really concentrate to drive it home safely. Of course I was racing closely so I had to keep pushing, particularly after the safety car periods when the field bunched up, so we had some great racing and overtaking. The upgrades worked well and we can still improve – it was just the start of the development, which looks good for the next race in Monza as well.”

Vitantonio Liuzzi – 11th:“It was a tough race and it was a shame we couldn’t get any points here today. We had a good start but I suffered a lot of front and rear graining on the soft compounds early on and also some damage to the front wing. We decided to pit earlier and do a long stint with the hard tyres and it was a pretty good decision as we had a good pace on this set and were in P11, not that far from getting into the points. But then Vettel tried to overtake me at the last corner and took my front wing off and that cost us points in this race. We lost more than 30secs changing the wing and without this I am pretty sure we could have finished in eighth or higher. But the race pace was still good, the car has been consistent and better than it has been all weekend so we could be proud of that. I’m now looking forward to my home race in 15 days time in Italy.”

Otmar Szafnauer, Force India chief operating officer
“We’re obviously very pleased to be back in the points again today. Both drivers demonstrated a strong race pace and we worked well as a team monitoring the changeable weather conditions. Tonio was unlucky to miss out on the points due to losing his front wing when Vettel ran into him. The points are crucial for the championship at the moment and the pace also bodes well for Monza in a couple of weeks’ time.”

*Tonio Liuzzi inherited the final points finish following Jaime Alguersuari’s 20-second penalty.

Rosberg and Schumacher happy with recovery drives

Nico Rosberg was reasonably pleased with his sixth-place finish in the Belgium – as the wet weather set-up on the German’s car came to fruition in the later stages of the race.

Despite sustaining damage, after contact with team-mate, the 25-year-old was happy to recover from his earlier grid penalty and bring home solid points for the Brackley-based outfit.

Michael Schumacher was also satisfied to finish seventh after a strong driver from twenty-first on the grid. Despite, being edged out by his team-mate in the final few laps.

Nico Rosberg – 6th:“My rain set-up finally worked out towards the end there and I made up two places on the re-start. Sixth place today is ok and it really is the most that we could have hoped for from this weekend. Michael and I had a couple of battles out there which was fun. We respect each other and you just have to be careful and it all worked out ok. It was a good recovery today but we really need to continue to try and improve our car to have a stronger end to the season.”

Michael Schumacher – 7th: “I am reasonably happy with today’s race, especially for the team. Coming where Nico and I started, I think we can all be pleased with the result, sixth and seventh places from 14th and 21st on the grid is not too bad, and it is important points for the Constructors’ Championship. For some reason, the number seven is somehow connected with me in Spa, so there is a further special feeling here. Without the weather being even crazier, we could not have achieved more today in my view. I ‘met’ Nico twice out on the track today. The first time, I had the better go in a nice racing duel and the second time was right after the re-start where I had to lift a little up into Eau Rouge due to the car in front which Nico used to fly past me. All in all, Spa turned out to be nearly as enjoyable as I had hoped for.”

Ross Brawn, Mercedes GP team principal
“We are obviously very pleased with the result today, and particularly with our strategy, which enabled us to achieve a strong points finish which looked difficult after qualifying. Nico and Michael both drove extremely well in testing conditions and kept us entertained on the pit wall although sometimes a little too entertained! But it was all done in good spirit and both drivers brought their cars home to give us as good a weekend as we could have hoped for. The result is very pleasing considering the relative performance of the car at the moment and a morale boost for the team.”

Norbert Haug, vice-president, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
“Nico, Michael and the team all did a good job today. Starting from 14th position like Nico and coming home in sixth place is very impressive and even more impressive when you start in 21st place like Michael and are in seventh position at the finish line. We adapted to the typical Spa weather circumstances as best we could which was the baseline for scoring points with both cars from very difficult grid positions. It is obvious that we are still lacking speed but this was a much better result than in the previous two races where we didn’t perform as well as we did with Nico’s podium finish at Silverstone. We are now looking forward to Monza which will be a very special race due to the unique high-speed nature of this circuit. Thank you to everybody in the team for the recovery after qualifying yesterday. These points show that never giving up and being measured and focused are always the right things to do.”