x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

How it happened: Force India score first points

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen took the chequered flag, but Giancarlo Fisichella will emerge as the hero of the day at Spa.

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen took the chequered flag, but Giancarlo Fisichella will emerge as the hero of the day at the Belgium Grand Prix. The Italian driver pushed the Ferrari all the way to the end, and may even count himself unlucky to not be finishing on top of the podium after a chaotic start to the race. A huge pile-up at Les Combes saw the retirements of Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Jaime Alguersauri and Romain Grosjean as the safety car came out without a lap completed. Fisichella looked to have the pace to compete with Raikkonen despite the Finn's car packing the kers system, but Force India team owner Vijay Mallya will walk away from Spa a happy man tonight having seen his team finally break their 29-race duck. Championship leader Button will have been happier to see the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel finish in third rather than that of Mark Webber, who finished outside the points in ninth place. Brawn teammate and championship rival Rubens Barrichello finished in seventh. Speculation is rife in Italy that this race could be Fisichella's parting gift to the Force India team, with stories emanating that he is to replace Luca Badoer for the next race in Monza, with his fellow Italian having disappointed once again, finishing in last place, 47 seconds behind Kazuki Nakajima. Raikkonen has now won four of his last five races at Spa Francorchamps. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ End of race Raikkonen takes the chequered flag at Spa. Fisichella, who will be the toast of Formula One fans everywhere tonight, finishes in second place and gifts Force India their first ever points in F1. Vettel finishes in third with Kubica fourth ahead of Heidfeld, Kovailanen, Barrichello did well to hold on for seventh and Rosberg finished eighth. Lap 43 There is smoke billowing from the back of Barrichello's car who was desperate to find a way past Kovalainen. Must be a delightful sight for Rosberg behind him. Lap 42 Is it harsh to mention Luca Badoer is in last place? Lap 41 Three laps to go and we have Riakkonen leading Fisichella by o.8 seconds. In third is Vettel followed by Kubica, Heidfeld, Kovalainen, Barrichello and Rosberg. Webber is in ninth place. Lap 40 I don't think I'm alone when I give Fisichella the biggest imaginary pat on the back in history right now. The Italian veteran has driven superbly today. Lap 39 Vettel might also have something to say here as he has just set the fastest lap of the race. The German driver needs to win this race really if he is to get his title challenge back on track. Lap 38 What do you think Fisichella's instructions are right now? Push hard for the victory or settle for second? The Ferrari is fixed up a treat with Kers so the Italian driver might be best settling for a podium finish. Lap 36 Vettel puts in a great pit stop and rejoins in third place ahead of the two BMWs, championship leader Jenson Button won't mind that so much, especially as Webber is struggling for a top eight finish. Lap 35 Top 8 recap: Vettel leads from Raikkonen who is 0.7 seconds ahead of Fisichella in third. Kubica, Heidfeld, Kovalainen (who looks to be on a one-stop strategy), Barricehello and Rosberg are all among the points. Lap 34 Vettel tries to put some distance between him and Raikkonen but the German driver still has to pit. Lap 33 Heidfeld ducks in for his second stop but Vettel is still out there, it's going to come down to a straight shootout between Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen and Force India's Giancarlo Fisichella - and please remember you heard it here first at 3.59pm that Force India would break their 29-race duck and register their first points in F1. Lap 31Vettel back in front but still has to make his second stop, as does Heidfeld. Lap 30 We have less than 15 laps remaining. Raikkonen and Fisichella both pit at the same time and crucially, the Finn gets his Ferrari out ahead of the Force India car. That could be the deciding moment of who wins this race. Lap 29 Doing some calculations, I think Raikkonen definitely has to stop again as he has not used both tyre compounds yet - something mandatory when it's dry. Fisichella is stalking him in second, less than a second behind. The rest of the top eight reads: Vettel in third ahead of Kubica, Heidfeld, Rosberg, Glock and Webber. Lap 27 Just received an email from Chris in Abu Dhabi ranting about the Toyota team not having one tyre ready for Trulli: "Surely they knew he was coming in? They were the ones who told him to do so!" Can't argue with that really can you? Lap 26 Alonso can be forgiven for coasting his car back to the pits. He's completely faultless but has been forced to retire and once again Renault will have two drivers failing to finish a race. Lap 25 We've just seen replays of the mayhem at the start of the race. The Force India of Adrian Sutil crashes into Alonso which may have been the reason it took so long to change. Lap 24 Fernando Alonso, who has been going aboput his business in a workman-like fashion, has come in. The Spaniard is on a one-stop strategy we think. Oh no! They can't get one of his tyres on. The Renault driver rejoins in 14th after pitting from third place. Lap 22 I think there is something wrong with the person in charge of the stats. It's just flashed up that Luca Badoer has done the fastest first section of the race. He certainly doesn't look like he is breaking any records from back there in last place. Lap 21 Trulli in for his second pit stop of the race and it is about as successful as trying to avoid the Abu Dhabi sun. One mechanic doesn't have a tyre ready and then the fuel rig gets stuck. The same thing happened with Glock and the Toyota pit crew are in danger of scuppering their team's chances of finishing among the points. Trulli has had to retire. Lap 19 Word filtering through that stewards will be investigating Grosjean and Alguersauri's involvement in the pile-up that saw Britons Hamilton and Button retire from the race. The gap between Raikkonen and Fisichella is 0.9 seconds. Lap 18 Rosber in so Raikkonen retakes the lead but is being caught by Fiscichella in the Force India. Can my pre-race prediction come true for once? Lap 17 Vettel lead briefly but has also now pitted and we have a new leader in Nico Rosberg. But he is yet to stop too so Raikkonen will be back in the lead very soon with Fischicella driving a steady race in third. Lap 16 Yep, he does. Stewards confirm the Australian driver will receive a drive through penalty for an unsafe release. Lap 15 Webber could be penalised for pulling out in front of Heidfeld as they left the pits. Lap 14 There's more traffic in the pit lanes than there is on the track as Raikkonen, Fiscichella, Webber and Heidfeld all come in. Lap 12 Glock is fuming at his pit crew as a problem with the fuel rig sees him lose valuable time and rejoin 13th place. Lap 10 Recap of top eight places: Raikkonen leads ahead of Fiscichella, Kubica, Glock, Webber, Heidfeld, Vettel and Rosberg. Kubica and Glock into the pits early doors. Lap nine My pre-race prediction, Webber, is looking good in fifth place. Button will be keeping a watchful eye on how he and Red Bull teammate Vettel perform today. No doubt wishing them as many mechanical problems as he can. Lap eight Pit stops for Truli, Sutil and Barrichello. Barichello was running 13th having made a terrible start where he almost stalled his Brawn. Lap seven Badoer is slowly starting to work his way towards the back of the grid. Reports in the media are rife that Fiscichella will replace him at Ferrari for the next race at Monza. Lap six Safety car is back in. Vettel overtakes Rosberg in seventh place. The Red Bull team were asking race control for permission for the Germans to swap positions as they believed Rosberg had overtaken Vettel while the safety car was out. Lap five That was short-lived. Raikkonen kicks in the kers and powers past Fiscichella into first at Les Combes. Lap four It really is a weekend full of surprises; Luca Badoer isn't in last place (yet). We have Force India's at polar opposite positions with Fiscichella in first and Adrian Sutil in last place. Lap three Despite the collision, the Ferrari of Raikkonen is still running and is up into second behind Fischichella who still leads. Kubica is third followed by Timo Glock, Mark Webber, Nick Neidfeld, Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel. Lap one Ok, after several viewings from different angles, it appears the pile up was caused further back when Button spun after being hit by Grosjean. Raikkonen run wide and was clattered by BMW's Robert Kubica. What I definitely can confirm is it's race over for Button, Hamilton, Grosjean and Jaime Alguersauri. It's been a terrible weekend for Button who will not score points for the first time this season. Lap one What a disastrous start. A massive pile-up and the safety car is out. Kimi Raikkonen has just crossed his name off a few Christmas card lists as he takes out Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and Romain Grosjean. This weekend has been a disaster for the two British drivers. GO! GO! GO! 4.02pm A few emails in, all backing Rubens Barichello to back up his win last week in Valencia. 4.01pm They're off on their warm-up lap. Predictions please! 3.59pm My colleague next to me has pointed out that Kimi Raikkonen has won three of the last four races at Spa. He doesn't rate my prediction about Force India either and thinks normal service will be resumed before the end of the race with one or both drivers finishing out of the points. Do you agree? Prediction time; I'm going to stick my neck out and say Force India will break their 29-race duck and score at least a point in Belgium. To win... I'll go with Mark Webber of Red Bull. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- In a season that has been filled with surprises, seeing the Force India of Giancarlo Fiscichella on pole today at Spa has still managed to raise more than a few eyebrows. A driver, and indeed a team, who boast a combined total of zero points this season will start from the front of the Belgium Grand Prix after clocking the fastest time in qualifying yesterday, although it remains to be seen how much fuel is in the car. It will be the Italian driver's fourth career pole and team boss Vijay Mallya will be hoping it heralds a change in fortunes for the F1 perennial strugglers, who are still looking to break their 29-race duck in the sport. Toyota's Jarno Trulli will start from second and the BMW Sauber of Nick Heidfeld in third. So in a complete flip of normal service, Jenson Button's Formula One world title hopes suffered a crushing blow. For the first time this year Brawn GP's championship leader failed to make it into the top-10 shoot-out, with the 29-year-old down in a miserable season-low 14th. The 15-minute middle session was not just a disaster for Button, but also for the McLaren duo of reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen. After victory in Hungary and starting on pole last weekend for the European Grand Prix in Valencia, it was a return to McLaren's poor form from earlier in the year. Hamilton starts 12th, with his car struggling in the twisty middle section of the track, while Kovalainen is 15th, his second worst qualifying display this season. You can follow all the action from Spa Franchorchamps right here with The National's live text service. We want to hear from you during the race so please feel free to email the address below and we'll do our best to get your comments up as soon as possible.

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