Raikkonen back to winning ways, but Fisi is the real Spa star

giancarlosFerrari hopeful Giancarlo Fisichella will be wondering if he shouldn’t stay put at Force India in Monza after taking the fight to Ferrari and Kimi Raikkonen in Spa.

Forumula1.com’s Hugh Podmore looks back at the action from Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix.

Kimi Raikkonen today took a no-nonsense win in the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps. The Ferrari man did nothing wrong all race, was clever and clinical at the required times, and showed some of his pace of old on this, the drivers’ track of drivers’ tracks. But the real star was Giancarlo Fisichella – who pushed the Finn all the way, had a fantastic Force India car and was the surprise of the weekend. Many will say it was only Raikkonen’s KERS button that won him the race ahead of the inspired Italian.

After qualifying yesterday it seemed that Fisichella had qualified on fumes, in order to boost team morale and raise his own profile ahead of being linked with Ferrari. But when the fuel-adjusted grid was published and even more so when the race started, it was rapidly clear that the Roman in his orange, white and green steed had ‘real’ pace. The words Force and India had become something of a byword for perennial backmarking. But today the Silverstone-based outfit proved they have enough technical nous to improve their car so much recently that, allowing for Raikkonen’s KERS, was the fastest at Spa in the hands of Fisichella.

And the performance of the man himself cannot be discounted. The possibility of a Ferrari drive either next race or next year spurred him on, as did the appeal of the track. Highly-rated team-mate Adrian Sutil could not extract nearly as much from the machine, although his performance was not shoddy either. Had Raikkonen not run (possibly deliberately) wide, gaining an advantage, at the first corner, or the Force India mechanics been a mite quicker with the second pitstop, Fisichella would have been the deserving victor today.

Apart from the front two and a spirited charge from Sebastian Vettel and the two BMWs, who were third, fourth and fifth respectively, this grand prix was marred by a raft of underperformances. Sixth-placed Heikki Kovalainen probably did as much as he could with a McLaren fundamentally unsuited to the track, but Rubens Barrichello and Mark Webber will be ruing a bad start and a lack of speed at the right times.

The first lap accident that claimed the afternoons of Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Romain Grosjean and Jaime Alguersuari was a racing one. But that immediately took away the strong possibility of the Brits fighting their way up the field. Money could have been bet on Button and Hamilton being combative and racy through the remainder of the race, but it wasn’t to be. Instead fans had to cope with watching singularly uninteresting combat from (in separate incidents) Heikki Kovalainen and Kazuki Nakajima, who both conspicuously failed to demonstrate killer instinct when required.

A usually aggressive Fernando Alonso was hampered by what seemed to be a down-on-power Renault, an issue that would also account for the mysterious underperformance of the Red Bull cars too. If that is the case, it does not bode well for the Renault-powered lot at Monza, a power circuit if there ever was one. The catalogue of underperformance continued with Williams, with even the fantastic Rosberg only managing to drag his car to eighth. The Toyotas failed to live up, again, to the promise of qualifying. McLaren were nowhere all weekend.

The last word must surely be a goodbye to the king of underperformers Luca Badoer, who will surely be replaced for two weeks’ time. It has been very difficult for him to come in and drive strange cars untested. But there was nothing to suggest in his ten years of testing and previous 48 F1 starts without a point that he would be able to perform at the highest level. Today he was last of the classified runners, a full minute and a half behind his winning team-mate. Save yourselves and him further embarrassment, Ferrari, and put that man Fisichella in the seat.

Jenson Button will marvel that his championship lead was barely eroded today. But Barrichello and Seb Vettel will still fancy their chances.