Race Report: Belgian GP…Hamilton wins, Vettel slams

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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.

Win

Win

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.

FailFail

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.

WTHWTH

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.

PosDriverCarGap
1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1h23m40.387s
2Nico RosbergMercedes2.058s
3Romain GrosjeanLotus/Mercedes37.988s
4Daniil KvyatRed Bull/Renault45.692s
5Sergio PerezForce India/Mercedes53.997s
6Felipe MassaWilliams/Mercedes55.283s
7Kimi RaikkonenFerrari55.703s
8Max VerstappenToro Rosso/Renault56.076s
9Valtteri BottasWilliams/Mercedes1m01.040s
10Marcus EricssonSauber/Ferrari1m31.234s
11Felipe NasrSauber/Ferrari1m42.311s
12Sebastian VettelFerrariTyre
13Fernando AlonsoMcLaren/Honda1 Lap
14Jenson ButtonMcLaren/Honda1 Lap
15Roberto MerhiMarussia/Ferrari1 Lap
16Will StevensMarussia/Ferrari1 Lap
Carlos SainzToro Rosso/RenaultRetirement
Daniel RicciardoRed Bull/RenaultRetirement
Pastor MaldonadoLotus/MercedesRetirement
Nico HulkenbergForce India/MercedesNot started

DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP:

PosDriverPoints
1Lewis Hamilton227
2Nico Rosberg199
3Sebastian Vettel160
4Kimi Raikkonen82
5Felipe Massa82
6Valtteri Bottas79
7Daniil Kvyat57
8Daniel Ricciardo51
9Romain Grosjean38
10Max Verstappen26
11Sergio Perez25
12Nico Hulkenberg24
13Felipe Nasr16
14Pastor Maldonado12
15Fernando Alonso11
16Carlos Sainz9
17Marcus Ericsson7
18Jenson Button6
19Roberto Merhi0
20Will Stevens0

CONSTRUCTORS’ CHAMPIONSHIP:

PosConstructorPoints
1Mercedes426
2Ferrari242
3Williams/Mercedes161
4Red Bull/Renault108
5Lotus/Mercedes50
6Force India/Mercedes49
7Toro Rosso/Renault35
8Sauber/Ferrari23
9McLaren/Honda17
10Marussia/Ferrari0

Hat Tip: AUTOSPORT and Motorsport

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The Captain

I for one would like to thank NBC for literally starting off the weekend coverage during the opening of FP2 by telling me they where going to talk about Mercedes new rear wing, something I was really interested in. Then never mentioning it again until during the race when they used the 20 seconds they did speak of it to take away track time. But hey, they did show me 30-35 commercials for the “rich Texans douche bags talking down to the poor people” show and managed to fit in time during the race to show me Hamilton’s twitter feed.… Read more »

Negative Camber

As is usual, mots pit stops were missed and I never got to see what is most likely the pass of the race which was Max at Blanchimont. Never replayed it. Also, missed most of the VSC period where Lewis felt Nico may have gained some ground.

Also, I know NBC has big investments into NASCAR and Indycar but wow, the amount of itme they spent talking about Indycar and some of NASCAR was really hurtful. I want to see exhaustive coverage of F1, not chat about the Mid-Ohio race a while ago for indycar.

peter riva

It is shameful, NBC – stands for Not Bloody Caring

jcn115

Todd, that is why I will never watch an F1 race through NBCSN. For the last few years I’ve watched F1 online through SkyF1 and their coverage is second to none. NBC commercial fest is annoying. If you have Univision, they show the race non-stop and you don’t miss anything, but if you know Spanish, the commentary is as awful as NBC. They have Milka Duno, which I call her Milka Chocolate, her commentary is just like her driving, pointless.

Negative Camber

I know, it’s killing me because I like the guys a lot. Issue for me is that the broadcast package is a product now, not a program designed to cover and unpack the sport. It is designed to cross pollinate their other racing investments and fit within their programming timeline. All understandable as far as current TV goes but not very enjoyable as a fan. Feel more like target market than a passionate fan.

Shaolin

Todd, the issue is the broadcast by NBC is horrifically poor. Why try to make excuses for them when the product being offered is so bad, your core target audience is frustrated and angry, and switching off.
I just cant understand how Sky, a commercial channel largely owned by Rupert Murdoch also with many other huge investments in other sports, can get this so right, whilst American broadcasters don’t seem to know their arse from their elbow.

Negative Camber

I think one of the bigger issues is being on-site versus in a studio. They have a guy on the ground and rarely use him other than for talking head interviews occasionally. It seems like he’s underutilized for sure. I know the guys in the studio and they are terrific and I also know the constraints they are under according to the traditional programming model. Time for a new model?

runnah

It’s a shame that Will is so under utilized, you read his articles and realize that he is a very bright guy with some seriously good insights. To only check in on him to see if it’s raining in the pits is a crime. Secondly I am fed up with the 15-30 bumps after every commercial break. I don’t need an establishing shot of the local flavor every time! Just get to the damn race. Personally I think the broadcasters need to be switched out, they bring zero excitement to the coverage. You’d think you were watching the semi final… Read more »

The Captain

You mean you didn’t like NBC leaving free practice 2 coverage twice for 5 minutes at a time to send us over to whatever oval NSACAR was on to hear them talk about NASCAR stuff? Who would have thought it!

myspark1

I know I am waaaaay late to the party….but how, exactly, would I go about getting SkyF1 in the U.S.? I am past being grateful to have F1 available here and so loathe Hobbs and the inevitable, “These are called *tires*. They are different colors because….”, from poor Steve. I say dump Hobbs for Dario, Bring Buxton in for Leigh, and find a way to split screen all of the action so that we do not miss the pits and passes – or let me have SkyF1. Help!

Junipero Mariano

During one commercial break, Kimi jumped from 12 to 8th, hardly any mention was made of it. Although he did just seem to hold station after that. I thought he’d be able to progress further.

The Captain

Oh, I also have some fake outrage for fake Charlie Whiting. What is up with all this seemingly arbitrary enforcement of track boundaries? You can have all 4 wheels off at some corners, but not others? Some drivers get warnings some don’t (Kvyat gets warned, Vettle does it during qualifying and gets nothing). Some tracks they really seem to care and hand out a lot of penalties but at some they don’t? It’s getting a bit ridiculous to sort out as a fan.

GraemeD

I love the new tires! Explode rather than loose grip when they reach the end of life. Talk about a cliff.

Negative Camber

The issue for me is that if Pirelli say the wear card or rate is 40 laps for these tires, I really don’t think Ferrari were wrong for running 28-30. Did they say the terminal point of failure is at 40 laps or that that’s how long the grip would last? Pirelli’s argument is that other teams didn’t do a one-stopper. Well that’s not much of an argument is it?

peter riva

Right. Where’s that recording of yours? “Bullsh***…”

Junipero Mariano

I was hoping for a podium for Vettel too, but when he was going through Blanchimont or the bus stop right before the blowout, it was commented he was getting pretty loose. Shouldn’t the tires have exhibited a major falloff in pace before a catastrophic failure?

Daniel Johnson

I think it’s more of a 3 star race, the only things that made it interesting (save for the Perez start) was failures. Either Seb’s tire, or the Williams pit crew, or the aborted start, most of the memorable moments were negative, and not the result of good driving or hard fighting.

Junipero Mariano

It’s only a 3 star for me because Ferrari didn’t win :p.

Really though, kudos to Grosjean, Kvyat, and Perez for taking the fight to the established drivers!

peter riva

“he did 28 laps, it was more we thought the strategy ….” and then ““Wear-life was indicated at around 40 laps…” Make up your mind Hembry.

dude

Pass of the race is Max Verstappen, he’s even more insane than Kobayashi. I almost crapped myself when he passed Nasr at Blanchimont.

Samouri

That was an absolutely crazy move…..his youthful exuberance is going to hurt him, or another driver one day.

Negative Camber

And because I never saw it on NBC and they never replayed it, does anyone have a link to the Verstappen pass at Blanchimont that impressed everyone around the world except Americans watching NBC?

Michael in Seattle

Here is link to 8 min BBC highlights. Verstappen pass is at 2:28.

Junipero Mariano

http://youtu.be/Mq3o2DWrJqo

I think they replayed it during NBC F1 Extra.

Shaolin

Oh the joy of watching Sky coverage of this race. I saw the entire race, from before the formation lap, to after the podium presentation, commercial free. I had high quality commentary, and no mention of teenagers. I loved this; after the race when the top 3 are in the room just before the podium ceremony, the commentator just says, “lets just listen in to what they have to say” and stays totally quiet for several minutes so you can listen to the drivers just chatting. Thats attention to detail, they know that F1 fans are interested in that. NBC,… Read more »

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Spa is always a terrific race and while it didn't rain, the race still had its moments. A sunny Spa is often times better than any other circuit on the F1 calendar and Hamilton's win was a sublime drive while drama and chaos happened behind him. Ultimately there was movement in the driver's championship and Hamilton extends his lead to 28 points over Rosberg. Race Report: Belgian GP...Hamilton wins, Vettel slams
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