Hark at him, writing something in the same calendar week as a motor race.

The usual folk are at the front of the grid for the Belgian Grand Prix, having done their usual brilliant job of navigating the magnificent ribbon of tarmac at Spa-Francorchamps, as fine a racing circuit as you could ever hope to find.  Let’s take a moment to celebrate some of the drivers  further back in the field, roundly condemning one of them while we’re at it.

On a day when both men had trouble-free runs through qualifying, Jaime Alguersuari outqualified Fernando Alonso.  The odds of the two Spaniards finishing the race in the same order grow more remote the drier it gets (tomorrow is forecast to be completely dry, but Spa is to accurate weather forecasting what McDonalds is to Slimming World), but Jaime should be very, very happy with his afternoon’s work.  Toro Rosso’s updated car appears to be working well, with only a late mistake in Q2 keeping Sebastien Buemi out of the top 10, but 6th on the grid is more than anyone could have expected.

[Correct me if I’m wrong on this, folks: I can only think of one race in which one of STR’s cars has started higher than 6th, the 2008 Italian Grand Prix in which Bourdais started 4th and Vettel won from pole position.  Right or wrong?  Drop me an email or a comment if I’m missing any other instances.  Ta much – Adam]

It took a little misfortune for some of the more fancied runners, in the shape of Schumacher’s detachable rear wheel and di Resta’s team having a late attack of overconfidence, but whenever one of the tail-end teams has the chance to sneak into Q2, it always seems to be Heikki Kovalainen grasping the opportunity.  Watching Heikki trying to break into the lower midfield ranks with Lotus, it’s easy to forget that he spent two seasons as Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren team mate.  It’s also tempting to wonder how many races he might have won had he always drove this well.

Though it still seems a lot like Renault have given the heave-ho to the wrong race driver, Bruno Senna did a fine job today.  Senna would have had every excuse for binning it at some stage of the qualifying hour; there are few greater challenges in motor sport than a half-wet, half-dry Spa in changeable weather, particularly in a car you’re unfamiliar with.  Instead, he’s another member of the Faster Than Fernando club, having also outpaced his new team mate Vitaly Petrov first time out.  It’s still asking a lot to expect a points finish tomorrow, but Bruno did himself no harm at all today with a steady, consistent run.

The same can’t be said for Pastor Maldonado.  It should be pointed out, for the sake of balance, that his victim wasn’t entirely blameless in the clash that marred the end of Q2.  In sneaking up the inside of the Williams at the Bus Stop, Hamilton did absolutely nothing wrong – Pastor had left a gap, appeared to be allowing the McLaren to come past and had no business trying to reclaim the racing line once he’d done so.  There are however ways to register your displeasure, and jinking across the circuit in Maldonado’s direction as the Venezuelan driver came past at the end of the session probably wasn’t the most sensible method Lewis could have chosen.  He put his sudden dart to the right down to wheelspin, the stewards quite correctly felt it had more to do with him steering in that direction and a reprimand seems a reasonable enough punishment.

None of which excuses Maldonado for running the McLaren off the road halfway down a straight.  A Formula 1 car is a finely-tuned racing machine.  It isn’t a battering ram, or indeed a weapon of any kind, and nobody should seek to justify the actions of any racing driver who tries to demonstrate otherwise.  You run so many risks with any kind of accident – driver injury through striking a wall or being hit by debris, the possibility of harm to trackside marshals and spectators, the potentially disastrous consequences of cars locking wheels and becoming airborne – that to cause one deliberately is idiotic in ways beyond words.  That, irrespective of his frankly pathetic attempts to plead ignorance afterwards, is what the Williams driver did.  A 5 place grid penalty is Pastor’s punishment, but it could – should, in fact – have been much, much worse.

For those of you who are into your motor sport history, Maldonado isn’t the first Williams driver to mete out his own brand of justice during a qualifying session.  After being baulked by the Tyrrell of Julian Bailey at Jerez in 1988, Riccardo Patrese did a much, much better job of it, as the first few seconds of this video illustrate:


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