Button cruises to second 2012 victory at Belgian GP
McLaren’s Jenson Button completed a dominant weekend to win the Belgian Grand Prix. Only second-placed Sebastian Vettel could match the Briton’s ability to look after his tyres, using an almost identical one-stop strategy – medium compound P Zero White tyres, changed to hard compound P Zero Silvers just before the midway point – to finish 13 seconds behind Button, who led from start to finish. This was the first race at which a driver has achieved this in 2012 While Button’s imperious drive would have taken some beating, Vettel’s ascent from tenth on the grid was aided by a spectacular smash involving Championship leader Fernando Alonso and McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton at the first corner, over which Lotus’s Romain Grosjean has been handed a one-race ban.
Button started from pole position on the P Zero White medium tyres before stopping on lap 20 to change onto the P Zero Silver hard tyre, from which he emerged with his lead over Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel still intact. Mercedes driver Michael Schumacher, competing in his 300th Grand Prix, was the only other top driver to attempt a one-stop race but reverted to a two-stopper with nine laps to go while fighting for a podium.
Teams were forced to adjust their tyre strategies after the first corner incident that eliminated four cars and led to the safety car’s deployment for four laps while debris was cleared. As tyre wear is at its peak at the start of the race, with the cars on full fuel, the delay meant that a number of drivers were able to switch to a one-stop strategy while others stuck with a two-stop plan.
At the start only Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg started on the hard tyre, with the other competitors starting the race on the medium. Hulkenberg stopped twice and finished fourth from 11th on the grid, while Rosberg – who was forced to start from 23rd – also stopped twice and ended up 11th. The highest-placed two-stopper was Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen, who finished third after completing two final stints on the hard tyre, just under half a minute behind Button.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery commented: “This year’s Belgian Grand Prix was all about shifting variables, with Friday’s action rained off leaving the teams with minimal information about the slick tyres before qualifying and the race. Then, a long safety car period at the beginning of the race meant that the parameters were altered once more, with many teams having to quickly adapt their strategies to make the most out of another new situation.
“Jenson Button and McLaren gave us a master class in tyre management, stopping just once but at the same time pulling away from their rivals. The same was true for Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull, who also made a one-stop strategy work very effectively and gained eight places. Although Spa places heavier demands on the tyres than any other circuit on the calendar, our tyres performed well in terms of both performance and durability. Button made his final set of medium tyres perform effectively for 24 laps, or more than 160 kilometres, without any drop-off in terms of speed.”
As a result of the Belgian Grand Prix the drivers’ championship has also closed up, with Vettel moving up to second, 24 points behind Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso who continues to lead the standings.