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August 31, 2009

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Raikkonen roars to victory

KIMI Raikkonen won the Belgian Grand Prix for Ferrari's first success of the Formula One season yesterday after championship leader Jenson Button crashed on the opening lap.

Italian Giancarlo Fisichella finished second, just 0.9 seconds behind the Finn, to give his Force India team its first points in 30 starts. He secured Force India's first pole position the day before in Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium.

Germany's Sebastian Vettel was third for championship contenders Red Bull.

Button's failure to score points for the first time this season left the Brawn driver 16 points clear of Brazilian teammate and closest rival Rubens Barrichello, who collected two points for seventh place.

Barrichello, winner in Valencia last weekend, made a poor start and then had a scare in the closing laps when his engine started smoking. The Brawn car caught fire moments after he crossed the finish line.

Button, winner of six of the season's first seven races, had already suffered his worst qualifying of the year with 14th place on the grid.

The Briton 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.

"I got a very good start. I got past Lewis, and obviously Rubens had his problem. I made up like four places," Button told the BBC.

"As we were going down the straight through turn five, Grosjean out-braked himself. It's frustrating to be taken out like that."

Button has 72 points, Barrichello 56 and Vettel 53 with five races remaining. Red Bull's Australian Mark Webber has 51.5 and slipped to fourth overall after finishing ninth.

Brawn has 128 points to Red Bull's 104.5. Ferrari is third on 56. At the back, Force India leapfrogged Toro Rosso to go ninth.

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 win in 26 races and 18th of his career.

"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 his Ferrari teammate at the next race at Monza in Italy.

"This is going to help us a lot."

Fisichella, who has been widely tipped to replace Ferrari stand-in Luca Badoer, was disappointed despite the breakthrough for his team.

"I was quicker than Kimi, he could just overtake me because of the KERS at the beginning," said the 36-year-old, referring to the Ferrari's 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 teammate Nick Heidfeld and McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen.

Germany's Nico Rosberg took the final point for Williams. Badoer started and finished last.

"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."



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