Raikkonen takes victory as Fisichella stars at Spa

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen has won his first race of the season after a race-long duel with Giancarlo Fisichella’s Force India at Spa-Francorchamps. Sebastian Vettel finished in third for Red Bull Racing.

It’s been a whole year since the Iceman last won a race (his previous victory was at the Spanish Grand Prix) so this result, the first for the Scuderia this year was a great achievement. And yet the star of the Belgian Grand Prix was Fisichella. Not only did the Italian earned his first pole position for Force India but to finish in second (the team’s first podium) is an impressive performance.

The 2007 world champion was able to use his KERS system to gain extra positions in a chaotic opening lap which resulting in four cars retiring at the Les Combes corner.

Championship leader Jenson Button was caught out in the mayhem caused by the late braking of Romain Grosjean in the Renault. Button just passed the McLaren of Heikki Kovalainen and as he turned into the chicane, he was tagged behind by Grosjean and spun.

Lewis Hamilton was also caught out in this incident and in an attempt to avoid hitting the spinning Button, he backed off but was hit from behind by the Toro Rosso of Jaime Alguersuari.

Button rued afterwards that his poor qualifying position – P14 – left him vulnerable to this kind of accident. It ends his run of scoring points in every race this season and it might become highly significant in the world championship.

Not surprisingly, the Safety Car was called out to clean up the broken carbon fibre pieces at the chicane. At the restart, Kimi pressed the KERS button on his steering wheel to power pass race leader Fisichella on the run-up toward Les Combes. That key moment defined the Belgian Grand Prix as the race pace between the pair was close and super quick.

By finishing in third for Red Bull Racing, Vettel is slowly reducing the championship gap to the Brawn GP drivers of Button and Barrichello (who just managed to finish despite an oil leak in the closing stages of the race). The non-finish for Jenson means he still retains the lead in the drivers’ standings but he must be feeling quite anxious as the Formula One season reaches its conclusion.

The BMW Sauber pair of Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld finished in a solid fourth and fifth position. While the sole remaining McLaren of Kovalainen came home in sixth.

Rubens Barrichello was lucky to finish the Belgian Grand Prix in seventh despite stalling on the grid and then an oil leak in the final remaining laps. The winner of the European Grand Prix has reduced his team-mate’s lead in the championship to 16 points.

Taking the final point with eighth went to Nico Rosberg after a long first stint in the Williams, just holding off Mark Webber in the Red Bull.

Webber had a nightmare race at Spa. The Australian was running strong in the early part of the race but during the first pitstop, he was released into the path of Nick Heidfeld in the narrow pit lane. The two cars almost touched but that incident led to an immediate drive-through penalty. That moment cost Webber the opportunity of scoring points.

Timo Glock also had a moment in the pits, with a faulty fuel rig. The Toyota driver was running fourth in the early stages of the race but come the end, he finished tenth.

His Toyota team-mate Jarno Trulli had a difficult race. First, he was swallowed up by the fast-starting Raikkonen at the La Source hairpin. Then the two BMWs of Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica passed him with the latter overtaking the Toyota on the inside.

Somehow, Trulli clipped the back of Heidfeld’s car which ultimately led to the Italian’s later retirement.

Renault’s Fernando Alonso was another driver to retire with damage to his left-front tyre. Apparently the Spaniard broke his wheel-spinner aero device at La Source on the first lap against a rival and after a slow pitstop, the team called in Fernando a lap later to stop for good.

Yet again Luca Badoer struggled in the Ferrari despite racing on a circuit he knows. Finishing last almost a lap down compare to his team-mate (who won the race) is a frankly appalling result and questions are now being asked as to who will replace him in the following race at Monza. The rumours are Giancarlo Fisichella, who drove a fantastic race for Force India. That important phone call from Maranello can’t come soon enough for the popular Italian driver!

So a great result for Raikkonen. His 18th career Grand Prix victory and the fourth at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit. Rumours of whether the Iceman will continue in Formula One next season is a major talking point but this latest triumph should restore his enthusiasm in driving a Ferrari. Let’s wait and see if Fisichella is his new team-mate at Monza in a fortnight.

Race results from Spa-Francorchamps. 44 laps:

1.  Raikkonen     Ferrari               1h23:50.995
2.  Fisichella    Force India-Mercedes  +0.939
3.  Vettel        Red Bull-Renault      +3.875
4.  Kubica        BMW Sauber            +9.966
5.  Heidfeld      BMW Sauber            +11.276
6.  Kovalainen    McLaren-Mercedes      +32.763
7.  Barrichello   Brawn-Mercedes        +35.461
8.  Rosberg       Williams-Toyota       +36.208
9.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault      +36.959
10.  Glock         Toyota               +41.490
11.  Sutil         Force India-Mercedes +42.636
12.  Buemi         Toro Rosso-Ferrari   +46.106
13.  Nakajima      Williams-Toyota      +54.241
14.  Badoer        Ferrari              +1:38.177

Fastest lap: Vettel, 1:47.263

Not classified/retirements:

Alonso        Renault                  27 laps
Trulli        Toyota                   22 laps
Button        Brawn-Mercedes           1 lap
Grosjean      Renault                  1 lap
Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes         1 lap
Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari       1 lap

World Championship standings, round 12:


1.  Button        72
2.  Barrichello   56
3.  Vettel        53
4.  Webber        51.5
5.  Raikkonen     34
6.  Rosberg       30.5
7.  Hamilton      27
8.  Trulli        22.5
9.  Massa         22
10.  Kovalainen    17
11.  Glock         16
12.  Alonso        16
13.  Heidfeld      10
14.  Kubica         8
15.  Fisichella     8
16.  Buemi          3
17.  Bourdais       2


1.  Brawn-Mercedes        128
2.  Red Bull-Renault      104.5
3.  Ferrari                56
4.  McLaren-Mercedes       44
5.  Toyota                 38.5
6.  Williams-Toyota        30.5
7.  BMW Sauber             18
8.  Renault                16
9.  Force India-Mercedes    8
10.  Toro Rosso-Ferrari      5

Next race: Italian Grand Prix, Monza. September 11-13.

Fisichella grabs first pole for Force India

Giancarlo Fisichella has taken his first pole position for the Force India in a remarkable qualifying session at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit. No one expected the poplar Italian to take the top spot in a car that often occupies the last row of the grid, so this result is a fantastic achievement for both the Italian and the Silverstone-based team.

Jarno Trulli continued Toyota’s impressive pace at Spa with second position, joining his fellow countryman on the front row. BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld is next up with the winner of last weekend’s European Grand Prix, Rubens Barrichello in the Brawn.

Robert Kubica was fifth fastest in the other BMW, having briefly occupied a front row slot until the last minute shuffle in the Q3 session. The Polish driver will start just in front of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, who was sixth ahead of Timo Glock’s Toyota.

The Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber will start in eighth and ninth position with Nico Rosberg produce another fine performance in the Williams with tenth.

As for championship leader Jenson Button, he will start in a disappointing P14 – his worst qualifying performance this season. He was simply struggling from a lack of grip on his soft-compound Bridgestones.

To witness all the traditional frontrunners struggling was quite surreal even though the one-hour qualifying session was running in fine and dry conditions. The differences between the soft and medium-compound tyres offered by Bridgestone might be the main cause of the problem.

In the case of Button, he wasn’t confident on the option tyres, which resulted in a low grid position. Jenson’s advantage over his championship rivals is slowly diminishing by every race and this latest setback is not doing any favours if he wants to win the title.

Even the McLarens have difficulty in qualifying with Lewis Hamilton down in P12 with team-mate Heikki Kovalainen a further three places behind. Both drivers complained about a lack of decent pace.

Renault’s Fernando Alonso was also out in Q2 and will start the race at Spa in between his old rival Hamilton and the championship leader Button with an unlucky P13.

As for the under-pressure Luca Badoer, who had a nightmare race at Valencia last weekend, the Ferrari driver failed to go through Q3 after crashing at Les Combes. The Italian will start his second race for Scuderia in last place.

Qualifying times from Spa-Francorchamps:

1.  Fisichella   Force India-Mercedes  1:46.308
2.  Trulli       Toyota                1:46.395
3.  Heidfeld     BMW-Sauber            1:46.500
4.  Barrichello  Brawn-Mercedes        1:46.513
5.  Kubica       BMW-Sauber            1:46.586
6.  Raikkonen    Ferrari               1:46.633
7.  Glock        Toyota                1:46.677
8.  Vettel       Red Bull-Renault      1:46.761
9.  Webber       Red Bull-Renault      1:46.788
10.  Rosberg      Williams-Toyota       1:47.362
11.  Sutil        Force India-Mercedes    1:45.119
12.  Hamilton     McLaren-Mercedes        1:45.122
13.  Alonso       Renault               1:45.136
14.  Button       Brawn-Mercedes         1:45.251
15.  Kovalainen   McLaren-Mercedes      1:45.259
16.  Buemi        Toro Rosso-Ferrari     1:45.705
17.  Alguersuari  Toro Rosso-Ferrari     1:45.951
18.  Nakajima     Williams-Toyota       1:46.032
19.  Grosjean     Renault                 1:46.307
20.  Badoer       Ferrari                 1:46.359

Barrichello takes emotional victory in Valencia

Rubens Barrichello earned his first victory of the season thanks to an aggressive drive in the European Grand Prix at Valencia. It has been five years since the Brazilian last took the chequered flag for Ferrari. By coming home first Rubens has silenced his critics and after all that frustrations in previous events, this result was well deserved.

The Brawn GP driver inherited the win in what appears to be a mistake by the McLaren pit crew during Lewis Hamilton’s second pit stop. A delay in bringing out the Bridgestone tyres cost the chance for Lewis to take his second consecutive victory, which is a shame as the defending world champion was dominating this race from the front.

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen drove a solid race to finish in third ahead of fellow Finn Heikki Kovalainen in the McLaren.

Nico Rosberg continues to deliever more points for Williams with fifth, with home crowd favourite Fernando Alonso sixth for Renault. A big improvement compared to his early retirement last year.

Championship leader Jenson Button had a difficult race in the Brawn and was disappointed to finish the European Grand Prix down in seventh. His lead is the drivers’ standings have been reduced to 18 points with his team-mate becoming his nearest challenger for title honours.

But at least Jenson’s main title rivals Red Bull Racing failed to score any significant points with Mark Webber finishing in ninth while a second engine failure ended the race for Sebastian Vettel.

Robert Kubica finished a poignant eighth for BMW Sauber. An appropriate result given the events last month.

As for the rest, Adrian Sutil did a solid job in the Force India to finish tenth, ahead of Nick Heidfeld and Giancarlo Fisichella.

The Toyota pair of Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock came next in P13 and P14, with the latter setting the fastest lap of the race – two from the end.

The rookies took the final positions, with Romain Grosjean leading home Jaime Alguersuari and Luca Badoer.

The Ferrari stand-in driver seemed out of depth during the 57-lap race resulting in a drive-through penalty after crossing the white line exiting the pits and a spin in the closing stages of the Grand Prix.

Sebastien Buemi was the only other retirement with late-race brake failure in the Toro Rosso.

So Brawn increased their constructors’ championship lead over Red Bull, 126 points to 98.5, and Barrichello vaulted back to second place in the drivers’ with 54 points to Webber’s 51.5.

Barrichello’s win marked the 100th by a Brazilian driver, and fittingly he dedicated it to Felipe Massa, who had advised him on racing lines only last week. It was also the 250th race for the McLaren Mercedes partnership, and Bridgestone’s 150th victory. And it left the title fight wide open as the paddock heads to Belgium next week.

Race results from Valencia, 57 laps:

1.  Barrichello   Brawn-Mercedes          1h35:51.289
2.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes        +2.358
3.  Raikkonen     Ferrari                 +15.994
4.  Kovalainen    McLaren-Mercedes        +20.032
5.  Rosberg       Williams-Toyota         +20.870
6.  Alonso        Renault                 +27.744
7.  Button        Brawn-Mercedes          +34.913
8.  Kubica        BMW Sauber              +36.667
9.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault        +44.910
10.  Sutil         Force India-Mercedes   +47.935
11.  Heidfeld      BMW Sauber             +48.822
12.  Fisichella    Force India-Mercedes   +1:03.614
13.  Trulli        Toyota                 +1:04.527
14.  Glock         Toyota                 +1:26.519
15.  Grosjean      Renault                +1:31.774
16.  Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari     +1 lap
17.  Badoer        Ferrari                +1 lap
18.  Nakajima      Williams-Toyota        +3 laps

Fastest lap: Glock, 1:38.683

Not classified/retirements:

Buemi         Toro Rosso-Ferrari    42 laps
Vettel        Red Bull-Renault      24 laps

World Championship standings, round 11:


1.  Button        72
2.  Barrichello   54
3.  Webber        51.5
4.  Vettel        47
5.  Rosberg       29.5
6.  Hamilton      27
7.  Raikkonen     24
8.  Trulli        22.5
9.  Massa         22
10.  Glock         16
11.  Alonso        16
12.  Kovalainen    14
13.  Heidfeld       6
14.  Buemi          3
15.  Kubica         3
16.  Bourdais       2


1.  Brawn-Mercedes        126
2.  Red Bull-Renault       98.5
3.  Ferrari                46
4.  McLaren-Mercedes       41
5.  Toyota                 38.5
6.  Williams-Toyota        29.5
7.  Renault                16
8.  BMW Sauber              9
9.  Toro Rosso-Ferrari      5

Next race: Belgian Grand Prix, Spa-Francorchamps. August 28-30.

Hamilton leads McLaren one-two in qualifying at Valencia

Lewis Hamilton earned his first pole position since China last year with a stunning lap around the Valencia street circuit, sealing a McLaren one-two.

The defending world champion grabbed the top spot in his very first attempt in Q3, by a margin of 1.3 seconds compared to his nearest competitor! The shock of that winning edge resulted him going off the track immediately at the first corner!

Even championship leader Jenson Button was unable to beat the one minute, 39.498 seconds benchmark and he will start the European Grand Prix down in fifth.

The only driver to challenge Hamilton’s pole lap was team-mate Heikki Kovalainen. The under-pressure Finn had the opportunity to take his second career pole but made a mistake approaching the final corner on his best lap… Still he can be satisfied in starting the race on the front row, the first for McLaren since Hungary last year.

Rubens Barrichello continued the Mercedes-power domination with third for Brawn GP. The Brazilian was the fastest of all in qualifying with a time of one minute, 38.076 seconds in Q2, so to line up on the second row was a great achievement especially when you consider that Rubens only used one set of tyres in Q3.

Red Bull Racing’s Sebastien Vettel (who recently has signed a new contract with the team to race until 2012) qualified in a surprising fourth position. This result was unexpected, as the RB5 seemed to be off the pace compared to its rivals. In addition, the German suffered a major engine failure in the morning practice session. Still, at least Vettel is ahead of his championship rival Button by one spot on the grid.

The series leader is struggling for balance in the BGP 001 and to end up fifth is not an ideal position for Jenson Button. He really needs to rediscover that winning momentum found earlier this year (Jenson last dominated a race back in June at the Turkish Grand Prix) or else risk losing more points to his championship rivals.

Kimi Raikkonen will start sixth for Ferrari ahead of Nico Rosberg’s Williams and home crowd favourite Renault’s Fernando Alonso.

Completing the top ten is Mark Webber – who looked uncomfortable with the balance of his Red Bull car – and Robert Kubica’s BMW Sauber.

As for the two new drivers making their Formula One debuts at Renault and Ferrari, Romain Grosjean and Luca Badoer respectively, the one-hour qualifying session was a difficult challenge for the pair. For Grosjean, he did a reasonable good job by taking P14, less than 0.4 seconds behind his more experienced team-mate Alonso compared to his predecessor, the recently fired Nelson Piquet Jr.

The same cannot be said to Badoer, who replaces the injured Felipe Massa and Michael Schumacher in the cockpit of the F60. With the lack of preparation bar those two demo runs this week, the Ferrari test driver simply struggled throughout the qualifying session and will start his first race since 1999 at the tail end of the grid… Luca looked out of depth compare to the others and the margin between the Italian to team-mate Raikkonen was nearly two seconds slower! Ferrari really needs to reconsider a more experienced driver in the next event if Badoer doesn’t improve in the race on Sunday.

Qualifying times from Valencia:

1.  Hamilton     McLaren-Mercedes       1:39.498
2.  Kovalainen   McLaren-Mercedes      1:39.532
3.  Barrichello  Brawn-Mercedes          1:39.563
4.  Vettel       Red Bull-Renault        1:39.789
5.  Button       Brawn-Mercedes          1:39.821
6.  Raikkonen    Ferrari                1:40.144
7.  Rosberg      Williams-Toyota         1:40.185
8.  Alonso       Renault                 1:40.236
9.  Webber       Red Bull-Renault        1:40.239
10.  Kubica       BMW-Sauber              1:40.512
11.  Heidfeld     BMW-Sauber              1:38.826
12.  Sutil        Force India-Mercedes  1:38.846
13.  Glock        Toyota                1:38.991
14.  Grosjean     Renault               1:39.040
15.  Buemi        Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:39.514
16.  Fisichella   Force India-Mercedes   1:39.531
17.  Nakajima     Williams-Toyota         1:39.795
18.  Trulli       Toyota                  1:39.807
19.  Alguersuari  Toro Rosso-Ferrari      1:39.9252
20.  Badoer       Ferrari                 1:41.413

Schumacher cancels his Formula One return

Michael Schumacher has announced he will not be returning to race at the European Grand Prix in Valencia, as a result of his neck injuries the German suffered in a motorcycle crash earlier this year.

In a statement issued on his personal website – full extract below – Schumacher said that he told the Ferrari team last night that he was not fit enough to race as a replacement driver for the injured Felipe Massa.

Yesterday evening, I had to inform Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo and Team Principal Stefano Domenicali that unfortunately I’m not able to step in for Felipe. I really tried everything to make that temporary comeback possible, however, much to my regret it didn’t work out. Unfortunately we did not manage to get a grip on the pain in the neck which occurred after the private F1-day in Mugello, even if medically or therapeutically we tried everything possible.

The consequences of the injuries caused by the bike-accident in February, fractures in the area of head and neck, unfortunately have turned out to be still too severe. That is why my neck cannot stand the extreme stresses caused by Formula 1 yet. This are the clear results of the examinations we did on the course of the past two weeks and the final examination yesterday afternoon. As there were no improvements after the day in Mugello, I decided at short notice on Sunday to do that thorough examination already yesterday.

I am disappointed to the core. I am awfully sorry for the guys of Ferrari and for all the fans which crossed fingers for me. I can only repeat that I tried everything that was within my power. All I can do now is to keep my fingers crossed for the whole team for the coming races.

The seven times world champion suffered a sizeable accident during a German superbike test at Cartagena in Spain on February 11 – which forced him to abandon entering motorcycle races. It had been hoped that the injuries he suffered in that crash would not impact on his Formula One return, but medical examinations have indicated that problems remain.

It is not clear who Ferrari will now slot in as the replacement for the injured Felipe Massa, with the team having little more than one week to find a suitable driver.

Test driver Marc Gene remains the possibility but we shall see if the Italian team will opt for the Spaniard in the next coming days. Another suitable driver is Luca Badoer. Who ever gets the role will do a good job representing Ferrari but it is still a big shame that Michael won’t be competing against the likes of Jenson Button, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton at the end of the month. Many Formula One fans including myself was looking forward to the European Grand Prix with great enthusiasm. And now this… oh well.

The Resistance

The forthcoming new album from Muse entitled ‘The Resistance’ will be release in September 14 but to entice the fans including myself, the award-winning band has unveiled some small details about the artwork and two tracks.

As you can see in this post here, the new album cover looks great. The bold use of colours and geometrical shapes works well and it reminds of the band’s debut album ‘Origin of Symmetry’ with its strong use of abstract shapes.

The first track taken from the new album is the ‘United States of Eurasia’, though the idea behind releasing parts of the track was certainly an interesting concept.

It required the diehard fans to search for special USB sticks in a worldwide treasure hunt.

By locating each of the sticks from the ‘agents’ in Berlin, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Moscow, Paris and Dubai the fans get to ‘unlock’ new segments to the song.

Each USB stick contains a code, which must be entered at Ununitedeurasia.muse.mu and once solving the cryptic puzzle, fans get to experience parts of the song.

Clues as to the whereabouts of these USB sticks were release via the site and it was down to the fans to find them!

It took just a week for all six USBs to be located and the end result is a grand and Queen-like tune from the Teignmouth-based band.

Vocalist and guitarist Matthew Bellamy reveals the song to be inspired by “a book called The Grand Chessboard by Zbigniew Brzezinski,” explaining that “Brzezinski has the viewpoint that the Eurasian landmass, i.e. Europe, Asia and the Middle East, needs to be controlled by America to secure the oil supply.” Bellamy goes on to suggest that the song is also influenced by George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.

You can hear the complete track here with the ending piano sonata “Collateral Damage” featuring the sounds of playing children, a jet fighter and perhaps a missile.

It certainly is a new musical direction from Muse after listening to this song!

As for the second track ‘Uprising’ which stuck to the convention way of promoting it – via radio stations – it feels like a dance record with a hint of the Doctor Who theme tune!

In fact, Matthew Bellamy described ‘Uprising’ as “like a heavy-rock take on Goldfrapp,” adding that “It has football-style chanting, with all of [the band] going ‘Oi!’ in time with the snare drum […] in protest at the banking situation.”

Click here to listen to the track thanks to YouTube. Details of releasing this as a download via the popular iTunes music store can be seen here.

After hearing these two excellent tracks, I am not surprise that amount of eagerness and excitement from fans to see Muse perform live again. After that amazing Wembley show two years ago, the popular rock band will certainly be victorious when the new Resistance worldwide tour starts next month.

As for me, I cannot wait to see them live at London’s O2 arena at the former home of the Millennium Dome. Getting those elusive tickets was a real nightmare but I still managed to score a pair for my mate and myself to see them live in November.

Roll on September 14 for The Resistance!