Former F1 star Martin Brundle believes that Giancarlo Fisichella could have gone one better than his second place in Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, if only the Italian had made a better getaway at the race's early restart.

Having managed to qualify on pole position for Force India, the veteran managed to hold on to his advantage on the run to La Source, and then maintained the lead along the high-speed section from Eau Rouge to Les Combes, despite the presence of Kimi Raikkonen's KERS-equipped Ferrari in his wake. When the Finn then made a minor error at the chicane, catching out Robert Kubica in the process, Fisichella's lead looked even more secure.

However, behind the lead group, chaos erupted when Jenson Button was tipped into a spin by rookie Romain Grosjean, and the safety car was called to clear away the stranded cars of both the Briton and his French rival, as well as those of Lewis Hamilton and Jaime Alguersuari, who had been caught up in the aftermath of the original incident.

The reduced pace, which lasted through to the end of lap four, eliminated Fisichella's early cushion, although the Force India continued to lead into Eau Rouge in lap five, once the pack had been released for a second time. It was on the run from the top of the hill back to Les Combes, however, that the Italian was undone, as Raikkonen made the most of his KERS system to draft up to the rear of the leader and then pass him into the chicane.

From there, Fisichella may have been expected to wilt and fall away, but he kept tabs on the Ferrari, even lapping faster than it for much of the race, before coming home just 0.9secs adrift after 44 laps. It is because of this race-long performance that Brundle believes that, had he remained in front, Fisi could have been on the verge of an even more historic result for his tiny team.

"I honestly believe that, if Fisichella had been a little bit sharper on the restart after the first-lap safety car, and hadn't got caught by the power-boost KERS of the Ferrari up the hill, he would have waltzed off and won by several seconds," the BBC analyst claimed, "He should have backed the pack up at the restart and then bolted like a rabbit. He had a fundamentally fast package and he clearly wasn't overwhelmed to be at the front - he knows how to win a race, even if his memory is a bit rusty."

The Briton admitted that he was among those surprised by Force India's performance at Spa although, on reflection, perhaps he should not have been.

"Fisichella's pole position and second place finish at the Belgium Grand Prix isn't so much of a shock when you look at the basic ingredients and where Force India has been heading of late," he mused, "They've been gathering pace and threatening to do this for a while, but haven't delivered - in Germany last month, Adrian Sutil started seventh on the grid [and], in Spa, both drivers were near the top ten from the beginning of practice.

"This was the first race of the year requiring a medium-downforce set-up on the cars, and their package simply worked from the get-go with regard to grip, balance, and straight-line speed. Fitting new tyres and making small front-wing changes seemed to make them go ever faster.

Fisichella raised his game, too. In qualifying he wasn't fastest in any of the three sectors on his pole lap, but had pure pace all the way round and, fuel-load corrected, he was genuinely faster than Raikkonen. It really struck me, when Fisichella was behind Raikkonen, that he was using ten per cent less track than the Ferrari, and that's always a sign that a car is handling nicely and the driver is confident."

Brundle was also quick to play down suggestions that Force India's success was largely down to its 2009 partnership with McLaren and Mercedes.

"It clearly has, along with McLaren and Brawn, the best engine on the grid in Mercedes Benz, [and], with the engine, will come other knowledge with regard to installation, electronics, and transmission which is handy, [but] are Force India relying heavily on McLaren-Mercedes know-how? The answer is they are not 'McLaren-lite' - their chassis and aerodynamics are very different and they are developing their own package. McLaren are busy trying to rescue their own season without sorting Force India - [and] any help they were giving will stop now, for sure!

"Force India definitely don't have the McMerc KERS system installed, so you have to say that it's all Force India in terms of making the car work. This is an experienced team who have somehow survived the Jordan/Midland/Spyker/Force India ownership changes of recent years. What I think we saw in Spa was the effect of the ban on in-season testing. The big teams just can't relentlessly pound round and leave the little teams for dead. That's why we are seeing ever closer and more unpredictable racing too as cars are developed on the hoof."


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