SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium, (Reuters) – Kimi Raikkonen won the Belgian Grand Prix for Ferrari’s first success of the season yesterday after Formula One championship leader Jenson Button crashed out on the opening lap.
Italian Giancarlo Fisichella finished as runner-up, 0.9 of a second behind the Finn, to give his stunned Force India team their first points in 30 starts after taking their first pole position the day before.
Germany’s Sebastian Vettel was third for title contenders Red Bull after rival and Australian team mate Mark Webber saw his race wrecked by a drive-through penalty for a pit lane infringement.
Button’s failure to score for the first time this year left the Brawn driver 16 points clear of Brazilian team mate Rubens Barrichello, who battled through to seventh place from a poor start, with five races remaining.
“It’s still open,” Vettel said of the championship battle. “It’s a little bit crazy, to be honest. It’s up and down and it shows how important it is to be consistent.”
Raikkonen, the 2007 world champion, has now won four times in the past five years at Spa.
Yesterday’s success was the Finn’s first in 26 races, and 18th of his career, and he was hounded all the way to the chequered flag by Fisichella and a car that had ranked among the tail-enders only a few races ago.
“My aim has been to win at least one race and we try to keep third place in the (constructors’) championship,” said Raikkonen, who could have Fisichella as Ferrari team mate at the next race at Monza in Italy. “This is going to help us a lot.”
Button, winner of six of the season’s first seven races, was hit from behind by Renault’s French rookie Romain Grosjean in an accident at Les Combes that also took out McLaren’s world champion Lewis Hamilton and brought out the safety car.
“I got a very good start. I got past Lewis, and obviously Rubens had his problem. I made up like four places,” said Button, who started 14th.
“As we were going down the straight through turn five, Grosjean out-braked himself. It’s frustrating to be taken out like that.”
Stewards investigated and decided to take no further action.
Button has 72 points, Barrichello 56 and Vettel 53. Webber has 51.5 after finishing ninth.
Brawn have 128 points to Red Bull’s 104.5. Ferrari are third on 56. At the back, Force India overtook Toro Rosso to go ninth.
Fisichella, widely tipped to replace struggling Ferrari stand-in Luca Badoer, made a clean start but his hopes of pulling away were thwarted by the safety car. Raikkonen swept past when it came in at the end of lap four.
“I was quicker than Kimi, he could just overtake me because of the KERS at the beginning,” said Fisichella, referring to the energy recovery system that gives a brief boost at the push of a button. “It’s a little bit sad for that.”
Poland’s Robert Kubica was fourth for BMW-Sauber, ahead of German team mate Nick Heidfeld — who almost collided with Webber in the pit lane incident that penalised the Australian — and McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen.
Barrichello, winner in Valencia last weekend, had a scare in the closing laps when his engine started smoking but hung on for seventh. The Brawn caught fire moments after he crossed the finish line.
Germany’s Nico Rosberg took the final point for Williams. Badoer started and finished last.
Toyota had a dismal race, with Italian Jarno Trulli qualifying on the front row but retiring with a brake problem while Renault’s double world champion Fernando Alonso also stopped with a wheel problem after running as high as third.