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Belgian race analysis - Raikkonen runs riot at Spa 17 Sep 2007

Ferrari celebrate winning the Constructors Championship.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Belgian Grand Prix, Race, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Sunday, 16 September 2007 Fernando Alonso (ESP) McLaren Mercedes MP4/22 leads team mate Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren Mercedes MP4/22.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Belgian Grand Prix, Race, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Sunday, 16 September 2007 Alex Wurz (AUT) Williams FW29 at the start of the race.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Belgian Grand Prix, Race, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Sunday, 16 September 2007 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Renault R27 leads Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1.07.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Belgian Grand Prix, Race, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Sunday, 16 September 2007 Adrian Sutil (GER) Spyker F8-VII. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 15 September 2007

Dominant win in Belgium keeps Finn's title hopes alive

When Kimi Raikkonen burst into the lead of the Belgian Grand Prix, the writing was already on the wall. The Finn only lost that lead during his first of two pit stops, and controlled it throughout. Ferrari team mate Felipe Massa rode shotgun all the way through, and just as the McLarens had been untouchable in Monza, so the red cars were dominant on the twists and sweeps of Spa-Francorchamps.

It was the third one-two finish for the Scuderia this season, and cemented the world championship for constructors’ for Ferrari with 161 points, barring a successful appeal from McLaren who have lost all their points.

McLaren just didn’t quite have the same zip this weekend - team boss Ron Dennis hinted at a smidgeon of conservatism in the interests of their drivers’ fight for the other world championship - and had to settle for third and fourth.

Yet again, Nick Heidfeld made his BMW Sauber ‘best of the rest,’ but he had to work for it after having to run wide going into La Source to avoid the duelling McLarens. That dropped him behind Nico Rosberg, Heikki Kovalainen and Mark Webber, and left him to battle his way back up to fifth. He duly did this, to earn the team another four points to bring their total to 90.

Rosberg didn’t have the pace to challenge him, but did manage to stay four seconds clear of Webber’s Red Bull. That was another major boost as Williams was again the fourth best team, and now have 28 points. The fact that Alex Wurz spun down to the tail of the field, later lost a place to Sakon Yamamoto after another mistake, and retired with fading fuel pressure went virtually unnoticed.

Webber was very happy with his score for Red Bull in seventh, and expressed gratitude to team mate David Coulthard who kept Kubica at bay for many laps and thus helped to preserve his chances of points. Now the team have 18.

It was a far from happy day for Coulthard. He was deeply saddened by the death of former world rally champion Colin McRae and his son and friends in a helicopter accident, and a miserable day ended for him when his RB3 stopped with a hydraulic problem that affected the power-steering and throttle.

In a race in which most people merely seemed happy to finish, Kovalainen and Robert Kubica kept things on the boil throughout with a nip-and-tuck battle in which the Finn just kept the Pole’s BMW Sauber behind his Renault. Since this battle was for the final point, Kovalainen was well pleased with his own day’s work, and with the R27’s performance. Renault’s tally is now 39 points.

Unfortunately, team mate Giancarlo Fisichella had a terrible time. Put from 11th in qualifying to the back of the grid after a post-qualifying engine change, the Italian started from the pits so that the team could use a lower downforce set-up to try and enhance his chance of making up places. But on the opening lap he locked up on the entry to Les Combes, hit the wall, and broke the front suspension. He made it to the pits, but that was it.

Toyota’s race was not particularly distinguished, especially as Jarno Trulli started eighth but was down to 11th by the end of the first lap after having to brake hard in the first-corner melee. Both he and Ralf Schumacher pushed as hard as they could, but 11th and 10th places respectively were the best they could do.

Toro Rosso lost Sebastian Vettel early on when a steering problem afflicted his STR02 in right-hand corners, as he was trying to keep Tonio Liuzzi in sight. The Italian drove a great race, marred only by a small moment when his right front wheel gave problems during his single pit stop, and 12th, on Honda’s pace, was as good as the team had any right to expect here.

Honda expected Spa to be a fight, and it was. Jenson Button drove hard as his RA107 veered between understeer and oversteer throughout each lap. Then the clutch started slipping, the power-steering failed, and he finally had to quit six laps from the end with a hydraulic problem. Rubens Barrichello, meanwhile, crept home 13th, barely ahead of hard-driving Adrian Sutil. The German was really giving it a go in his Spyker. He and team mate Sakon Yamamoto were the only two drivers to start on the soft Bridgestone rubber, and Sutil was flying as he challenged and passed several names and was running a strong 12th before his pit stop. The team were delighted with 14th, though Yamamoto was hampered by understeer initially and lost time. A switch to harder rubber and a front wing adjustment helped that, but he still finished only 17th.

Super Aguri, like Honda, expected a tough event, and got it. Takuma Sato had a strong race with Jenson Button on his way to 15th. Anthony Davidson started from the pit lane after experiencing a front-end problem on the grid out lap, but was half a minute behind his team mate by the end.

David Tremayne