The Belgian Grand Prix at Spa Francorchamps is at the top of the list for many fans and driver’s lists. It is also on the top of Lewis Hamilton’s list this weekend as he has now officially won twice at the epic race track nestled in the Ardennes Forest.
While Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg looked quick all weekend, it was Lewis Hamilton who managed to make the best of the non-team-coached start procedure to lead early and never look back. Hamilton managed his race perfectly even after a Virtual Safety Car session closed the gap between he and his teammate.
Mercedes claimed their seventh one, two finish in eleven races this season and the silver arrows hadn’t had that kind of result at Spa for 60 years.
Certainly Lewis Hamilton’s performance is a big win for the team as well as the jet-set world champion. While NBC’s Leigh Diffey is continually rubbing fans noses in their criticism of Lewis’s extravagant and global lifestyle and the lack of any ill-effects of kicking it with celebrities and models, most fans couldn’t care less and Lewis seems to have found a balance between his lifestyle and the task of winning in the grid’s most comprehensively dominant car. It’s the era of Hamilton and he’s peaked at the right time and at the right team which is no easy thing to do for any driver. This kind of career positioning takes skill, cunning and strategy and Lewis has done a yeoman’s job of it.
A big win for Frenchman Romain Grosjean who muscled his Lotus to 4th for qualifying only to suffer a grid penalty that saw him press flat-out back through the grid to a podium finish. Sure, there was some attrition ahead of him and most notably the tire failure of Sebastian Vettel which handed Grosjean the podium but it’s been two years since Romain has stood on the podium and the tears he shed over the radio after the race said it all.
A huge win for Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat who was putting a master class on how to pass at Kemmel Straight. Sure, DRS is in play but the cars he was passing were also using DRS and the Russian brought home the hopes of the team as teammate Daniel Ricciardo suffered a DNF. Kvyat’s inspired driver now presses him ahead of his teammate in the Driver’s Championship.
A win for Force India’s Sergio Perez who suffered from too little downforce on his B-spec chassis prompting high tire degradation that most likely cost him the pace he needed to claim a podium. Still, finishing fifth is a big points haul and some comfort from the DNF suffered by his teammate, Nico Hulkenberg even before the race started.
With attrition comes opportunity for points and thankfully Sauber’s Marcus Ericcson took full advantage this time along with Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen as the two finished 10th and 9th respectively.
Fails have to go to Scuderia Toro Rosso (STR) and Force India for the DNF’s suffered by Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg. T STR’s credit, they did manage to get Sainz back out after the start of the race only to retire him later on. Hulkenberg wasn’t as lucky after prompting a second formation lap as he stalled on the starting grid and the car never regained consciousness.
A fail for McLaren who drove what Jenson Button called “embarrassing” and that sums up McLaren’s season so far. Even teammate Fernando Alonso, who did not suffer from energy deployment like Button did, finished 13th with Button another 40 seconds adrift.
Red Bull suffered a fail for Daniel Ricciardo’s DNF as the Australian could have had a strong whiff of a podium finish but regardless, a large points finish. Red Bull’s ongoing controversy over dumping Renault at the end of this season dominated paddock rumors and given their achievements this season, it’s easy to see why.
The WTH moment of the race had to be Williams scuttling the race of Valtteri Bottas by fitting a Prime tire on the right rear while the Option tires were on the remaining three wheels. This is a breach of regulations that forced a drive-through penalty taking Bottas well out of contention for a podium and allowing his teammate, Felipe Massa, to surge ahead of him in the Driver’s Championship. The team seem to continue struggling with some of the basics in pit stop and team strategy and for a team that has been in Formula 1 as long as they have, it seems unacceptable as evidenced by the body language of Bottas post race.
Ferrari/Pirelli get a WTH for the Belgian GP as Sebastian Vettel was livid having missed a podium finish when his right rear tire exploded just after Eau Rogue which brought back memories from Friday when Nico Rosberg suffered a similar event.
Pirelli said they reckoned the Rosberg issue was a piece of debris while they were quick to suggest that Ferrari’s tactical gamble of a one-stopper for Vettel was a lap too far for the tire. Vettel said:
“Things like that are not allowed to happen,” he told the BBC.
“If it happened 200 metres earlier, I’m not standing here now, I’d be stuck in Eau Rouge.
“I don’t know what else needs to happen.
“I tell you what’s upsetting. What’s upsetting for one thing is the result. We deserved to finish on the podium.
“The other thing, like I said, if this happens earlier…
“[Tyres are] a theme that keeps coming around, that nobody is mentioning, but is unacceptable.”
“What was the answer [from Pirelli]? The same as every time: ‘yeah, well there was a cut, debris, there might be something wrong with the bodywork, the driver went wide’,” said Vettel.
“If Nico tells us he didn’t go off the track, then he didn’t go off the track.
“Why should he lie to us?
“It’s the same with me, I didn’t go off the track, just out of the blue the tyre explodes.
“If this happened earlier then I’m f****d.
“It’s probably not as bad as it was at Silverstone some years ago [when Pirelli had a spate of failures in 2013] but it’s not acceptable.”
Pirelli’s Paul Hembery was careful not to rebuke Vettel’s outrage too strongly with a measured understanding of the driver’s frustration but he did suggest that Ferrari took the gamble and ran too long on the tires saying:
“It was at the end of wear-life,” said Hembery. “Any tyre in the world, when it gets to the end of its wear-life, you’re going to have a problem.
“[He did] 28 laps, it was more we thought the strategy would be based on two or three stops, as the majority did, but they clearly felt they could make it work on the one stop. They obviously felt that was feasible.
“Wear-life was indicated at around 40 laps, but it’s an indication and race conditions can change that and some factors involved in racing mean that sometimes it’s not a precise datum. Other teams were taking a different direction.”
“Rosberg was an external cut; this was pure wear,” he said. “The images show the carcass was still intact [on Vettel’s blown tyre]. If the race was one lap less, he’d be on the podium and we’d be calling it a genius move – sometimes the margins are very fine. So it’s tough.”
As for Vettel’s harsh words? Hembery said:
“You’ve got to give him the benefit of doubt.
“He’s a driver, he’s been out there and frustrated that he’s only one lap away from getting a result. So I’m not going to criticise him for that.”
Overall, Spa didn’t disappoint but perhaps you like the circuit when it’s wet and in that case, you may have been slightly annoyed. The race weekend was sunny, dry and delightful as was the race and victory by Lewis Hamilton.
|4||Daniil Kvyat||Red Bull/Renault||45.692s|
|5||Sergio Perez||Force India/Mercedes||53.997s|
|8||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso/Renault||56.076s|
|13||Fernando Alonso||McLaren/Honda||1 Lap|
|14||Jenson Button||McLaren/Honda||1 Lap|
|15||Roberto Merhi||Marussia/Ferrari||1 Lap|
|16||Will Stevens||Marussia/Ferrari||1 Lap|
|–||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso/Renault||Retirement|
|–||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull/Renault||Retirement|
|–||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India/Mercedes||Not started|