Race Report: Rosberg tames Belgian GP…but not Lewis

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The weather at Spa Francorchamps is usually the moving target and talking point every year but not this year. In fact, the sunny, warm weather created another talking point surrounding tires, pressures and temperatures. How would the Super-Soft compound tires manage the abuse and would we see a repeat of the blow-outs from last year’s Belgian Grand Prix?

Nico Rosberg had no trouble managing his medium compound tires to victory in Belgium and with his teammate forced to start at the back of the grid, he did everything he needed to do to maximize his points haul and capitalize on Lewis Hamilton’s misfortune of a 55 grid-place penalty. Nico may have tamed the mighty Spa Francorchamps but he couldn’t tame Lewis Hamilton’s brilliant drive for damage limitation and he couldn’t walk away from Belgium with the lead in the Driver’s championship.

Unfortunately for Nico, Lewis did everything he needed to do in order drive from last to finish on the podium in third place and minimize the points damage that Rosberg’s victory did. Heading into the weekend, Lewis could have left the circuit in second place in the Driver’s Championship but his stellar drive through the field—aided by several DNF’s, safety car and red flagged session—to completely neutralize Roserbg’s top-shelf performance on Sunday. A tremendous damage limitation drive from a champion who went a long way in preventing his teammate from easily becoming a champion.

The biomass in the stands around the Spa Francorchamps circuit were dominated by the color orange and there’s only one man on the grid who could claim the focus of their presence—Max Verstappen the Plucky Teen and youngest driver to secure a front-row starting position. Max’s Super-Soft tires and a performance marred by some dodgy moves, ragged driving and over exuberance left the door wide open for a much more measured race craft and piercing performance by his teammate Daniel Ricciardo who looked every bit the more complete package at Red Bull Racing by claiming second.

WinWin

You’d be silly in not giving both Mercedes drivers a win as they both did exactly what they had to do given the penalties to Lewis Hamilton. Mercedes has won 44 of the last 50 races such is their domination and coming from last to third only goes to show just how oppressive this team’s performance currently is on a track like Spa where lap length and time deltas would normally make the feat impossible.

A huge win for Spa Francorchamps and the crowd it pulled in the form of a sell-out attendance. The circuit has teetered on financial challenges over the years and this has to go a long way to filling the coffers of the race promoters and financial backers of this iconic track.

A big win for Daniel Ricciardo who drove a terrific, if not measured, race and should be a lesson for his teammate about how to manage a 44-lap race and not try to win it on the first lap. This, among other things, is why the team or even fans would be slightly premature in discounting Ricciardo for the new, shiny object in the team. Daniel knows exactly what he’s doing and how to do it. He’s a champion dressed in Red Bull clothing which means he doesn’t quite have the tools to get there yet…yet.

It was gutting to see Nico Hulkenberg miss out on his first podium but still, a 4th and 5th for Force India moves them ahead of Williams in the Constructor’s Championship and this is worth big money folks. A terrific result for a team who has been so impressive this year even though their owner is on the lamb and in some bizarre Indian political and business taxation problems.

A win for McLaren fans who were keen to see what the new Honda engine upgrade would bring to the dance in Spa. The answer? 7th place and fighting for 5th and one point in the hands of Fernando Alonso. While Jenson button was punted off the track early on, Alonso kept his foot in it and managed to secure points for McLaren and this is also starting from the back of the grid.

While the actual crash could be a fail for Renault’s Kevin Magnussen, the win is the chassis and fact that the driver walked away from a very violent crash exiting Raidillon and thankfully he went into the wall backwards otherwise that may have been a very different result. A win also for the FIA for red flagging the race and getting the wall properly fixed and for not over-doing the track limits issue.

FailFail

One doesn’t have to go far down the grid order to find the first fail and that’s Ferrari. I am unclear as to why Sebastian Vettel chose to turn into La Source so aggressively at the start. Perhaps he wasn’t aware that a diving Max Verstappen left Vettel’s teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, no place to go so muscling the Fin wasn’t going to work. Regardless of why, the collision between Ferraris is not how the team wanted to start the weekend that they felt they could do well at. It also makes you wonder who’s head Sergio Marchionne will cut next?

A fail for Williams who couldn’t get on top of the surging Force India and fell behind the smaller team in the Constructor’s Championship. There may be many reasons due to mechanical issues from Valtteri Bottas’s car and Felipe Massa’s troubles on track but regardless, the team is clearly sliding backwards and it does bring the question up—will they use resources to gain the position back in 2016 or are they focused primarily on 2017?

A small win for Haas F1 and Esteban Gutierrez who finished 12th just ahead of his teammate Romain Grosjean. A small win for Esteban Ocon who completed his first grand prix in 16th.

WTHFail

A fail for Kevin Magnussen who is, if you believe rumors, driving for his job in 2017. Totaling a car is not the way to Renault’s heart.

A fail for Sebastian Vettel for clouting his teammate and to Pascal Wehrlein for punting Button out on the first lap.

A fail for Max Verstappen who, admittedly, was on the wrong tires to start the race on but nevertheless, so was both Force India’s and they didn’t make a mess of their races by running off track on several corners, blocking way too aggressively and eventually falling back to 11th.

Belgian GP Results:

POS DRIVER CAR GAP
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1h44m51.058s
2 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault 14.113s
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 27.634s
4 Nico Hulkenberg Force India/Mercedes 35.907s
5 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 40.660s
6 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 45.394s
7 Fernando Alonso McLaren/Honda 59.445s
8 Valtteri Bottas Williams/Mercedes 1m00.151s
9 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m01.109s
10 Felipe Massa Williams/Mercedes 1m05.873s
11 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Renault 1m11.138s
12 Esteban Gutierrez Haas/Ferrari 1m13.877s
13 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 1m16.474s
14 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso/Ferrari 1m27.097s
15 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1m33.165s
16 Esteban Ocon Manor/Mercedes 1 Lap
17 Felipe Nasr Sauber/Ferrari 1 Lap
Kevin Magnussen Renault Spun off
Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari Gearbox
Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso/Ferrari Tyre
Jenson Button McLaren/Honda Collision
Pascal Wehrlein Manor/Mercedes Collision

Drivers’ Championship

POS DRIVER POINTS
1 Lewis Hamilton 232
2 Nico Rosberg 223
3 Daniel Ricciardo 151
4 Sebastian Vettel 128
5 Kimi Raikkonen 124
6 Max Verstappen 115
7 Valtteri Bottas 62
8 Sergio Perez 58
9 Nico Hulkenberg 45
10 Felipe Massa 39
11 Fernando Alonso 30
12 Carlos Sainz 30
13 Romain Grosjean 28
14 Daniil Kvyat 23
15 Jenson Button 17
16 Kevin Magnussen 6
17 Pascal Wehrlein 1
18 Stoffel Vandoorne 1
19 Esteban Gutierrez 0
20 Jolyon Palmer 0
21 Marcus Ericsson 0
22 Felipe Nasr 0
23 Rio Haryanto 0
24 Esteban Ocon 0

Constructors’ Championship

POS CONSTRUCTOR POINTS
1 Mercedes 455
2 Red Bull/Renault 274
3 Ferrari 252
4 Force India/Mercedes 103
5 Williams/Mercedes 101
6 McLaren/Honda 48
7 Toro Rosso/Ferrari 45
8 Haas/Ferrari 28
9 Renault 6
10 Manor/Mercedes 1
11 Sauber/Ferrari 0
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Overall Race
An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry focusing on technology integration, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.

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Van Dieu
Guest
Van Dieu

An eventful race, but for the wrong reasons and therefore far from a classic. Vestappen’s immaturity cost him a podium today. While it wasn’t his fault to get clipped at the start, he was on a hiding to nothing once he dive-bombed down the inside of the first corner – he’s got to learn to pick his fights. And then to compound it he goes and gives us another glimpse of his playstation style defensive driving, which unfortunately we’ve come to fully expect from him now. The kid is good, but today he looked like a boy amongst men. Rosberg… Read more »

The Captain
Guest
The Captain

Finally an enjoyable race from ridiculous start to ridiculous Australians on the podium. Glad Magnussens all right and while I hope Lee Diffy gets better soon, it was damn wonderful to hear Bob Varsha call a race again. Finally a NBC race where someone wasn’t yelling every word at me the whole time! If Ferrari finishes like this in Monza that team is gonna explode. And as far as the 7-time 14 year old world champion (according to NBC) goes, that kid needs smacked back down to earth (or just smacked). He apparently told RTL that he didn’t care about… Read more »

Derek
Guest
Derek

I really wanted to tune into the NBC broadcast more so than I ever have when I knew that Boc Varsha was going to be commentating. I miss hearing him, Hobbs, and Matchett together.

Jack Flash (Australia)
Guest
Jack Flash (Australia)

Ridiculous Australians? To be affectively ridiculed, you first have to assume we all give a f**k what the rest of the World thinks. We don’t. LoL. :-p

Member
Dr T

+1

I’m off to drink my mulled wine out of my ugg boot

The Captain
Guest
The Captain

And that’s why I find hanging out with ya’ll so damn fun!

MIE
Editor

Hamilton was certainly fortunate with the number of cars impacted by Vettel once again hitting his team-mate. This also helped Alonso, but I was surprised that it was the McLaren that ended the first lap three places in front of the Mercedes. They both then benefited from first the virtual safety car (which cleared six cars out of their way) and then the red flag, which allowed them to make up the time deficit (23 & 25 seconds for Alonso and Hamilton). Without these two incidents the title fight could have been even closer. Verstappen’s drive to the pit lane… Read more »

Zachary Noepe
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Zachary Noepe

Hamilton was indeed lucky, but then they showed the graphic of how he has finished when starting 20th or worse and it was so impressive, I had to grudgingly admit that when it comes to getting lucky, Lewis has a lot of skill at it.

Member
Fast Freddy

Grosjean qualified well shame he went backwards. Would of been great to see them in the top 10.

Van Dieu
Guest
Van Dieu

Am I the only one who has a problem with drivers side by side in the pitlane like we saw today? How is that not deemed an unsafe release? On TV commentary they said that it was fair enough and it showed supreme judgement and the pit lane was still a part of the race track. The pit exit is only wide enough for a single car but let’s be honest the are a whisker away from absolute disaster when they do this and had that nudge been any harder they could have completely blocked the pit exit. As for… Read more »

Derek
Guest
Derek

I wanted to hear more about why it was deemed OK. Hulkenburg seemed fine by what happened, but what about what the stewards thought?

I was wondering if the fact that the impact between Hulkenburg and Alonso happed after the pit lane exit was the reason it wasn’t investigated. Although, I’m OK with how the incident was called in the end.

Zachary Noepe
Guest
Zachary Noepe

You are right it was ridiculous and the abscence of penalty was inexplicable.

Zachary Noepe
Guest
Zachary Noepe

I’m surprised by the win for McLaren and as part of that the blame on Wehrlein. We cant take it seriously evertime JB moans. He got caught out braking too late and to avoid rear ending he dove, under braking, into the Manor’s braking space. If not 100% Buttons fault, certainly more than 75. He turned his rearender into Wehrleins, but its still all about his initial failure to brake early enough. Its well established they enter corners on the limit and you cant take someone elses line once the binders are on and the wheel turned, look at the… Read more »

Member
Dr T

Not sure how you figure that. JB managed to slow down and not hit the car in front. It’s not his job to watch the guys behind. Wehrlein went straight up the back of him. Plus these cars don’t have brake lights so they have to judge their speed relative to the car in front…

Zachary Noepe
Guest
Zachary Noepe

Well because JB changed lines into front of him, in short. Button was in a line but had failed to brake early enough and was set to hit the car in front of him, so he dove to the side. But he dove into Wehrlein’s path, who had already set his brake strategy based on the room available in front of him. Of course he did that, you’re not going to be much of a racing car driver saying ‘I’ll leave a big cushion in case the guy in the other lane forgets to brake and needs to borrow my… Read more »

Zachary Noepe
Guest
Zachary Noepe

I see that view, but a mechanic had to move out of the way and the cars hit. It’s hard for me to see that as un-un-safe.

Derek
Guest
Derek

I was biting my nails and wondering why Alonso didn’t give, then they hit. I was very surprised that the stewards penalized McLaren and Alonso about it.

Member
Mike

Anyone see the pre-race press conference? It is soooo worth the investment of 22 minutes..Lewis is absorbed with social media and taking selfies with Alonso while drivers are talking, Lewis questions why Max would think Lewis is into video games, Alonso gets caught not paying attention with a video game question and whips out a response, its funny. Spooky part…Kvyat. Diana walked in when i was watching this and watched his response to questions about the summer break and she said, ‘He’s done’. I watched it again, and I think tone and demeanor, she is right, he is not long… Read more »

Zachary Noepe
Guest
Zachary Noepe

He didnt advance his cause in qualy that’s sure.

Zachary Noepe
Guest
Zachary Noepe

Nice article and great descriptions of the RBR teammate’s fortunes.

Max Johnson
Guest
Max Johnson

Verstappen have the potential to be more dangerous than Maldonado if he continues to chop people off at 200mph+.

pmr
Guest
pmr

Comparing Max to Maldonado is a bit of a stretch don’t you think… It’s like Johny Herbert says Max is waiting for the attacker to move and then makes little moves to intimidate. He’s not moving to the edge of the track and leaving no room. It’s not like Massa pushing Alonso onto the grass at the british GP, or Nico doing that to Lewis in Spain. Nothing wrong with that, and who does that remind you of? I can name a few. Drivers nowadays are so used to DRS passes that they drive defensive. Granted it is on the… Read more »

Wayne Rentoul
Guest
Wayne Rentoul

So why was Max making that dive down the inside on Turn 1 after the start? He was in 4th, because he got too much wheel spin off the line, and wheel spin is generally due to poor clutch control ( i.e. He made a mistake). He knew if he did not get the place back straight away, his chance at a podium was over. I get that he can’t admit to his part in this. None of the greats ever admitted fault in similar situations, and he seems to be cut from the same cloth. I think Martin Brundle… Read more »

pmr
Guest
pmr

I don’t know if his poor getaway was all down to him. In the helicopter shot from the start you see that Ricciardo has exactly the same getaway. The gap between them is exactly the same until Max brakes later. As a Max fan i was disapointed with his reaction after the race. But then again i know how i was at 18, and that was without the whole world watching and expecting you to move mountains. It’s now up to the team to calm him down a bit, but not to much. But you gotta admit that the Ferrari… Read more »

Mat
Guest
Mat

I nearly soiled myself watching the on-board shot of Kimi on the straight when Max blocked him. That was very frightening and it’s not surprising drivers are pissed off with Max. However, you can see Max’s point that the stewards thought it was fine. It’s hard to judge whether it was a breach of the one movement rule. Max tends to leave his move extremely late and that’s a bigger issue than the number of moves. The rule makers need to do something here. A collision at that speed could easily be fatal. When you look at the raft of… Read more »

Zachary Noepe
Guest
Zachary Noepe

Totally agreed but I am skeptical about precise rules, tempting as they are, in addition to the difficulty for the drivers to measure in the moment, they lead to the sort of idiocy which turns viewers off like Lewis Hamilton cycling engines through his car during practice and qualy, F1 is less a sport than an exercise in paper technicalities sometimes, I would personally prefer to see stewards who use sensible and consistent judgment and apply it to situations which will never be truly equal to each other, and have the authority to do so. So, Max, 5 grid spot… Read more »

Mat
Guest
Mat

Personally I think adoption of a rule to distinguish blocking from defending, a la Indy, is necessary. Max didn’t break the rules – the rules need to change. And then we need a professional team of stewards, the same at each race.

Van Dieu
Guest
Van Dieu

The really damning this is that, as soon as the TV shots were on-board with Kimi going through Eau Rouge you just knew what was going play out on the run up to Kemmel.. Max was going to do his usual “take the middle of the track and make the driver behind make a decision”… so Kimi pulls out of the slipstream to go down the inside, from which Max instantly chops him off as his interpretation of “one move” to defend. After watching his driving in Britain and Hungary, it’s very clear that he thinks this is perfectly acceptable… Read more »

deadbroke
Guest
deadbroke

I hate to be so flippant about it but what Max has been doing is exactly what all of our “heros” have always done. We can talk about rules, and wording and on and on but at the end of the day it only matters if you stick the move. Was there a 95% chance Kimi was going to ride up on his rear wheels at 200mph coming out of Eau Rouge? Maybe. It just doesn’t matter because it didn’t happen. Racing isn’t inherently dangerous because cars are speeding around at high speeds, racing is dangerous because in order for… Read more »