The F1 season certainly returned with a bang after its summer holiday.
The five week break seemed to have lent itself to lapses in concentration and some schoolboy errors for the returning drivers, for no sooner were the cars off the grid (some faster than others, but we'll get to that) than the carnage ensued.
In an ill-considered move that was more akin to a rookie driver, Romain Grosjean pulled across the track as the lights went out for the start of the race, running into the side of Lewis Hamilton and starting a collision that wiped four cars out the race. All of whom had been looking for a strong result at Spa: Grosjean, Hamilton, championship leader Fernando Alonso and Sergio Perez in the Sauber, who had started in a career best P4.
The crash was shocking to watch and considering Grosjean's Lotus went right over the top of Alonso, all the drivers were lucky to walk away from it.
Looking at all the replays it looks clear that it was an immature error by Grosjean, who really seems to have no grey area with his races. He either delivers really good results or makes catastrophic errors.
In interviews after the incident however, he pleaded ignorance saying he hadn't seen the footage, despite the fact that he was shown on the television coverage reviewing the footage on the pit wall with the team. Better luck playing that card next time Romain. Once his punishment was handed down by the stewards however, he issued a public apology to the drivers and their fans.
Ruling after the race the stewards banned the Frenchman from competing in the next race, leaving him out of Monza next weekend, and fined him €50,000 for causing the pile up. Some have questioned whether this was too harsh but I don't think so, given it was a horrific looking accident that could have turned out a lot worse than it did.
In their written ruling the stewards said: "This (was) an extremely serious breach of the regulations which had the potential to cause injury to others".
Alonso didn't hold any interviews during the race but went on to Twitter to send a message to fans to say he was fine and was already looking to Monza. Still it was a huge shame for the Spaniard who has scored points at the last 24 races.
The biggest casualty of the crash was definitely the Sauber team, who had looked like they could be right in the mix with the front runners this weekend, with Kamui Kobayashi starting on the front row in P2 and Perez just two behind places him.
Unfortunately, Kobayashi was forced to pit after picking up damage in the melee at the first corner, and ended up at the back of the pack. From there he was really limited in what he could do and finished in P13 out of the 18 cars who finished the race.
A sad end for a team who had hoped for big things this weekend.
It wasn't just the crash that caused controversy at the start of the race though. It's almost a mundane occurrence now for Pastor Maldonado to be under investigation by the race stewards and this weekend was no exception. The Venezuelan raised more eyebrows by making a blatant jump start at the beginning of the race, flying off his grid slot before the red lights went out.
Maldonado was out the race by lap six with a broken front wing after he collided with Timo Glock, so this eased the pressure on the stewards to make a quick decision and hand down a penalty, allowing the incident to be "investigated" after the race.
However, as anyone who saw the television coverage will see, the expression on Charlie Whiting's face left little doubt as to what outcome was heading Maldonado's way. The race director shook his head in disbelief as he watched Maldonado dive through the pack before they had even started moving.
Pastor had been in trouble before the race even started in Spa this weekend. He was handed a three place grid penalty after he held up Nico Hulkenberg in the first qualifying session, dropping him from P3 to P6 for the start of the race.
This may have been a factor in Maldonado's jump start, with him feeling added pressure to make up ground. The brakes on Kobayashi's Sauber ahead of him also started smoking worryingly as the cars lined up on the grid, so this may have been another element in his urgency off the line.
Nevertheless, the outcome was set, a jump start and a causing a collision with Glock earned Maldonado two five place grid penalties going into Monza, meaning he will drop ten places from wherever he qualifies.
The stewards were busy boys by the end of the Spa race with three other incidents to look at. The first was a close incident between Vettel and Schumacher, when Michael jumped into the pits while Vettel was trying to pass him. It was a near miss, but Schumacher had clearly been planning to pit as the team had come out into his box before the incident. In my opinion there was nothing either of them could have done. They said the same in their post race interviews and luckily the stewards agreed and let it go.
The other two incidents were alleged unsafe releases, one involving Mark Webber and Felipe Massa, the other Heikki Kovalainen and Narain Karthikeyan who clipped each other in the pits. The Webber/Massa incident was ruled as no-one at fault but Caterham, the team Kovalainen drives for, were fined €10,000 for releasing their driver when it wasn't safe.
Another driver raising eyebrows this weekend was Lewis Hamilton who bizarrely posted a photo of him and his team mate Jenson Button's telemetry readings during their qualifying sessions. He seemed to do it to show where he was losing time compared to Button in the lap, but considering this data is kept strictly confidential by each team this seemed a glaring mistake by the Brit.
He was ordered to remove the image by McLaren but as with most things on the internet, once it's out there it's out there, and by that time nearly everyone had seen it.
Christian Horner, team boss at Red Bull, admitted they had had a good look at the information and found it "interesting".
Hamilton also removed tweets he'd posted on Saturday containing acronyms that stood for a swear word, presumably the WTF part of his tweet, which seemed a bit like overkill. I understand he has sponsors etc to think of and is a role model to others but still…relax. McLaren denied they'd told him to remove those tweets but it's clear someone had a word.
If Hamilton had a bad weekend however, it was a reverse situation for his team mate. Jenson Button, who celebrated his 50th race for McLaren this weekend, dominated the qualifying on Saturday bagging his first pole start since 2009. Then on Sunday he managed to avoid all the chaos going on behind him and ran away from the start, totally unchallenged until the end where he had built up a 13.6 second gap to second place man Sebastian Vettel.
The Red Bulls had a dreadful qualifying this weekend with Vettel going out in Q2 and eventually starting in P10 once all the grid penalties were handed out. Mark Webber qualified in P7 but was given a five place penalty for changing his gearbox and was dropped back to P12 as a result.
On race day however both cars finished in decent positions with Vettel coming second and Webber fifth.
Last season, Vettel's critics were frequently heard to say that the German couldn't overtake. I would say those voices have been well and truly silenced after this weekend which saw him pull off some heart-stoppingly close passes.
Overtake of the day however had to go to Kimi Raikkonen, who pulled a blinder of a pass on Michael Schumacher on the famous Eau Rouge. It was almost identical to the move pulled by Webber on Alonso last year at the same corner but it was still a stunning manoeuvre.
Kimi fans will have been looking to this weekend in the hope that the Finn could finally have his first win since returning to the sport this season, and with good reason. Raikkonen has won at the Spa circuit four times in the past. However he just didn't seem to have the straight line speed in his car to really push for the lead, something which clearly (and rightly) annoyed him. He still managed to finish in a strong third position having said all that, bringing home some decent points for Lotus after his team mate caused such a disaster at the first corner.
In every disaster there are winners though, and it looked like Force India could have been just that. When the cars lined up to restart after the safety car, Nico Hulkenberg and Paul Di Resta were up to P3 and P4 respectively after starting in P11 and P9.
Hulkenberg was the only one able to take advantage of this though, as Di Resta's KERS system broke just before the race started, leaving him at a disadvantage to not only his team mate but all the other cars on the track. However, the Scot fought bravely and held off to score a point, finishing in P10. Hulkenberg, with his fully functioning car, managed to finish in an impressive P4.
The Mercedes team also tried to use the crash to their advantage, but unfortunately failed to make their one-stop strategy work for either of their drivers. Michael Schumacher was the centre of more speculation this weekend off the track though, something he could have done without on the weekend he celebrated his 300th grand prix.
In a brief BBC interview, Bernie Ecclestone seemed to imply that the seven time world champion had decided to leave the sport after this season. The F1 boss said "it was a shame he was leaving without a win", but when asked if he knew something the public didn't, Ecclestone answered "I don't know" and appeared to backtrack. After the race Schumacher said that Bernie should have said "IF he leaves" but it's opened the door now so for the rest of the season everyone will be keeping a close eye on him.
Schumacher's team mate also had a race to forget this weekend. After getting hardly any practice running in before qualifying thanks to torrential rain and a broken gearbox, he was out of Saturday qualifying after the first session. Then because he had to replace his broken gearbox he was given a five place grid penalty, meaning he started on the back row in P23. He drove hard but could only manage a P11 finish.
All in all, it was some start to the second part of the season and F1 fans will be thrilled to get their sport back after the long summer break. Thankfully there's not long to wait for this weekend F1 heads to Monza in Italy.
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