Belgian GP: McLaren Mercedes race report

Lewis Hamilton third after 25sec time penalty Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton was classified third in the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, behind Felipe Massa (Ferrari) and Nick Heidfeld (BMW-Sauber); he lost victory...

Lewis Hamilton third after 25sec time penalty

Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton was classified third in the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, behind Felipe Massa (Ferrari) and Nick Heidfeld (BMW-Sauber); he lost victory following a Stewards' decision that imposed a 25sec time penalty on him. The team has registered its intention to appeal this decision. Heikki Kovalainen retired on the final lap due to a gearbox failure. Both drivers were on two-stop strategies; Lewis pitted on laps 11 (6.8sec) and 25 (8.7sec) while Heikki came in on laps 13 (8.8sec) and 33 (6.2sec). In addition, Heikki had to complete a drive-through penalty. After 13 out of 18 races, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes lies second in the Constructors' Championship with 119 points behind Ferrari with 131 points. Lewis leads in the drivers' ranking 76 points ahead of Felipe Massa on 74 points. Heikki is sixth with 43 points.

Race

The start: For the fifth time this year, Lewis started from pole position whilst Heikki had qualified third. On a damp track following a rainshower short before the race, Lewis accelerated into an immediate lead; Heikki was involved in a start incident at the La Source hairpin and dropped to 13th place. At the end of the opening lap, Lewis was first and Heikki 11th.

The race, lap 2: Lewis spun at La Source allowing Kimi Raeikkoenen to catch up. The Finn overtook Lewis at the end of the long straight before Les Combes. Heikki was ninth.

Lap 4: Heikki overtook Nelson Piquet (Renault) and improved to eighth.

Lap 9: Heikki outbraked Robert Kubica (BMW Sauber) before Les Combes and took seventh position.

Lap 10: At the chicane before start and finish, Heikki tried to pass Mark Webber (Red Bull Renault); on the damp track he touched the Australian's car and received a drive-through penalty.

Lap 11: First pit Stopp of Lewis Hamilton (6.8sec); he resumed in seventh place.

Lap 13: Heikki came in for his first pit stop (8.8sec); one lap later, he completed his drive-through penalty.

Lap 15: Lewis was second behind Raeikkoenen; Heikkii was 14th.

Lap 25: Lewis and Raeikkoenen came in at the same time for their respective second stops; Lewis was stationary for 8.7sec and resumed behind the Finn.

Lap 29: Lewis was second and gradually closed the gap behind Raeikkoenen. Heikki was 10th.

Lap 33: From eighth place, Heikki pitted for the second time (6,2sec) and rejoined the race in ninth place.

Lap 42: Rain. Lewis attacked Raeikkoenen at the final corner.

Lap 43: Before La Source, Lewis squeezed by and took the lead. In the course of this lap, both Lewis and Kimi spun and went off; however, Lewis maintained the lead. Kimi retired due to an accident.

Finish (lap 44): Lewis achieved his ninth Grand Prix win. Heikki retired on the final lap due to a gearbox failure.

Lewis Hamilton

"That was one of the most exciting races of my whole career -- it was incredibly tough. My spin on lap two put me on the back foot for the rest of the race, but I could see Kimi ahead and I was just pushing, pushing, pushing to close that gap, hoping he would catch traffic and allow me to get nearer.

"When the heavens opened, Kimi was a little cautious under braking and I was able to get really close. When I had a look around the outside at the chicane, we almost had an accident, and I needed to steer left to avoid him. As we crossed the start/finish line, I left him the space to get back ahead and then managed to get my car up the inside at La Source."

Heikki Kovalainen

"I got squeezed between two cars at the first corner, and it cost me a lot of places. But I knew I had the car to claw things back and was making good progress until I came up alongside Mark Webber at the final chicane. I knew I was faster than him, but maybe he didn't realise I was on the inside and we touched, spinning him in front of me. That's racing.

"It was a racing accident, but it earned me a drive-through penalty and knocked me back down the field. Still, my pace was good on the prime tyre, and I still managed to overtake quite a few cars. In the last few laps I thought I could take advantage of the damp conditions until I started to lose gears. In the end, the gearbox failed on the very last lap and I had to stop."

Ron Dennis

"That was a sensational grand prix, which kept everyone on the edge of their seat, whomever they were supporting. On the second lap, Lewis made a rare mistake, dropping him to second place behind Kimi Raikkonen, whom he put under considerable pressure thereafter. But our car is slightly superior to that of our opposition in slippery conditions, so when the rain came we were reasonably confident that Lewis would be able to press home his advantage. He duly took the lead, finished first on the track, but then received a 25sec time penalty. After the race we registered our intention to appeal it.

"Heikki didn't get away cleanly at the start, but then drove fast and well through the field until his charge was interrupted by the incident with Mark Webber. He was awarded a stop-go penalty, but continued to push hard until being forced to stop on the very last lap.

"All in all, it was a challenging race for all the drivers, all of whom handled the conditions responsibly, and both our guys showed pace and determination throughout."

Norbert Haug

"After a thrilling race, Lewis took victory on the track which he lost following the stewards' decision. In our opinion Lewis did not achieve this win because of an illegitimate advantage. However, we will keep our heads up. We are now looking forward to the next race in Monza on the coming weekend -- we need to continue to be fully focused as nothing is decided in the World Championship yet."

-credit: mclaren

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Mark Webber , Nick Heidfeld , Kimi Raikkonen , Norbert Haug , Lewis Hamilton , Felipe Massa , Nelson Piquet , Heikki Kovalainen , Robert Kubica
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , Sauber , McLaren