Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Mattpt55
With spits of rain, a track temp of 13◦C Spa tempted the drivers with intimations of weather but in the end it wasn’t the rain but the red mist that descended, permanently altering the course of the race. Pre-race again featured Verstappen, Verstappen, Verstappen as well as JV doing his best impersonation of a homeless man and demanding that one be a man to race in F1. Reportedly, Simona di Silvestra was not amused. By the start of the race the weather seemed different between each grid spot, but that was the end of the uncertainty as it was slicks all the way once the race kicked off.
The shape of the race was set in lap 2 but crucially it wasn’t Hamilton having a Senna moment, but Rosberg with the red mist after losing two places at the start to Hamilton and Vettel. After trying a hopeless move up the outside, Nico left his nose right where it didn’t belong, a startling lapse in concentration from a driver who had displayed clear championship thinking throughout the season. The resulting contact that broke his wing and flatted Lewis’ rear tyre, putting Hamilton immediately out of the points and consigning Rosberg to 2nd at best. The stewards failed to investigate, but it was clear post-race that Mercedes would be hauling Nico into the dock and neither Lauda nor Wolff seemed pleased with the result and rightly so.
The calamity for Mercedes opened up opportunities for other teams of course and as the repercussions echoed throughout the race there was no hesitation to take advantage, leading to some spectacular last lap racing and a real nail biter for Ricciardo as he tried to preserve his tyres with Rosberg tearing after him, eating more than 2 seconds a lap off his advantage on fresh options. A best result for Raikkonen was a breath of fresh air, as he finished ahead of his teammate for the first time this season and Williams too got in for some glory as Bottas once again ascended the podium to take 3rd after some hard racing indeed.
A disconsolate day turned glorious just in time for the lights to drop at Spa, the weather failing to foreshadow the storm clouds soon to be brewing off track. Alonso provided the early drama as his mechanics rushed onto the track and overstayed the 15 second warning, resulting in a stop and go penalty that would see the Spaniard’s race effectively crushed. As the cars circulated round, Fernando remained jacked up in his grid spot as his team struggled to get him rolling. They finally did so, leaving Alonso to pick his way delicately through the field and rejoin in his proper spot. All was status quo by time the field lined up and when the lights went red it was all to play for.
At the off, Rosberg immediately proved Hamilton’s contention that P2 was better at Spa by losing not one, but two spots to Hamilton and Vettel respectively. Vettel went on to do his best impersonation of last year’s race, almost passing Hamilton on the outside before having an off and gifting P2 back to Rosberg. Bianchi suffered a puncture from Grosjean setting the stage for a long day in his Marussia that would see him retire in the last laps of the race.
AS they continued round for lap 2 Rosberg began to eke out Hamilton’s advantage and as early as the Bus Stop was having looks on his teammate, but failed to get by him into La Source but continuing to close up. He had a brief go at Les Combes but gave it up and coming off the Kemmel he again came up the outside, but again he was too far back to get by. This time, though, he left his front wing parked by Hamilton’s rear and as Lewis took the racing line the inevitable contact punctured his tyre and ripped the endplate cleanly off Rosberg’s front wing. In replay hindsight, it was clear Nico began to give room and then turned back into it, which is when the contact occurred.
Hamilton limped furiously back to the pits, leaving massive chunks of rubber all over the track and gouging huge chunks of carbon fibre out of the floor. In subsequent laps Massa would pick up some of this debris on his floor, ruining his aero and putting him firmly out of the points as well by the time Williams decided to do something about it. Whilst this drama transpired Andre Lotterer was forced to park his Caterham trailing Lewis into the pits and ending his brief and illuminating F1 career for the moment.
Hamilton emerged on the Mediums 58 seconds down, but it was obvious from the moment he hit the radio that all was not well. Though running in clean air with good pace, he was clear that there wasn’t enough downforce left to pass or even make the tyres last. Hulkenberg was being a busy beaver, having worked his way up to 12th from 17th while Vettel had managed to catch back up to Rosberg who was struggling with balance due to his damaged front end. It was all for naught though because Ricciardo, taking advantage of a mistake, flashed by him and immediately picked up the pursuit of Rosberg. By lap 7, Bottas had made gains as well and was all over Alonso’s gearbox and Ricciardo had finished what Vettel started and was within DRS on Rosberg. Bottas got the job done on Alonso as Nico took to the pits, covered by Raikkonen. Kimi emerged in front as Rosberg paused for a new wing and for a moment it seemed like the race entered a time warp with Red Bull leading the race and Mercedes in 15th and 19th.
Massa emerged from the pits as, incredibly, a lengthy piece of debris from Lewis’ tyre snagged Rosberg’s aerial after being thrown up by a backmarker. Immediately it began fiercely attacking him about the head and shoulders while he tried to carve his way through traffic, no doubt causing even more consternation in the Mercedes garage.
Back up the road Red Bull gave Vettel the undercut on Ricciardo lap 11, but not because they wanted him to win. Rather, it was a consequence of Seb having to take on Ricciardo’s settings after missing P2 on Friday, which simply weren’t working as well for him as for Danny. Kvyat and Hulkenberg both pitted as Raikkonen began looking racy with the realization Alonso’s penalty would give him a clear shot at his best result of the year.
Ricciardo strapped on new boots lap 12 and the order was Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Vettel and Rosberg immediately behind the long runners of McLaren. Not that long though as Button was soon in and Rosberg was on the move, urged to overtake Vettel, preferably without sacrificing any bodywork this time around, one assumes.
Lap 15 was when the wags at Sky discovered Maldonado was no longer circulating, such was their salivary dysfunction at the thought of the impending drama at Mercedes. Despite their impaired attention span it was eventually turned up he had suffered some sort of engine issue. The order at the sharp end remained unchanged as the race settled into a lull, though Hamilton had gradually managed to work his way to P16, mainly through the runners ahead pitting.
Breaking the rhythm, Rosberg deployed the handbags on Vettel, accusing him of cheating at turn 15, as he desperately sought to pass and preserve his chances. The stewards turned a deaf ear to his complaints of Vettel’s brutal violation of track limits and Rosberg was left to do it the old fashioned way.
A massive lock up into the Bus Stop lap 17 turned out not to be the way past Vettel and a stealthy Bottas managed to pick off Rosberg as the latter attempted to regain his momentum. Bottas was seriously on a tear, up to 330 kph as he caught up to Vettel to show Nico how it was done. Hamilton dodged into the pits again for softs as he managed to get within 1 lap of the team’s ask with lots of carping over the radio about the sorry state of his car. Ricciardo began to extend his advantage over Raikkonen to 6.5 seconds as Kimi began to suffer for the high pace he ran early in his stint. Alonso lined up Magnussen for a momentary 5th, but it would not come easy. Over the next two laps Fernando would explore many different angles to get past but the implacable Magnussen would calmly ward them all off. Vettel was brought in for fresh Mediums freeing up Rosberg to attack Button who was nearing the end of his stint.
It didn’t take Nico long, but the following lap saw him give the place back, having gained an advantage going off through Eau Rouge. Magnussen took to the pits and Rosberg wasted no time taking the place away from Button properly. Rosberg continued to make gains on Alonso now Magnussen was out of the way and Raikkonen eased his way past Button. Fernando didn’t put up much of a fight with the much more powerful Mercedes and Button continued to drive backwards as Vettel, on fresher tyres, reeled him in.
Seb made the pass lap 26 going into the Bus Stop as Fernando pitted. Meanwhile, Mercedes clearly radioed Rosberg they going for an extra stop to put the pressure on Ricciardo, who was swanning about up the road with nary a care in the world. The die was cast as Magnussen overtook Hulkenberg for 7th. Back on the radio, Hamilton began to pressure Mercedes to pull the plug on his race as overtaking was impossible and with his torched engine from Hungary looming large in his mind and no points in sight, saving miles began to predominate in his thinking.
Lap 28 saw Bottas cover Ricciardo into the pits with both taking on Mediums, squeaking out between Vettel and Button. Bottas had a go at improving the show by making a rather cheeky move on Vettel for 4th, up the outside. Raikkonen was next for the Finn leading to many hopeless attempts at humor by the lads in the commentary box. Hamilton was back in for Mediums lap 32 with the softs not lasting due to his compromised floor. Though he dutifully went back out his tone was insistent as with every lap he had less and less to gain relative to his teammate. Vettel was asked about how long his tyres would last, replied uncertain but they don’t feel good now. Grosjean retired, having made it past half distance for the first time in a few races, illustrating just how far Lotus have fallen this season. Lap 34 saw Rosberg in for Softs and he was caught and passed on pit exit by Bottas, temporarily bolstering Ricciardo’s cause. Not for long though as Nico made up the spot within half a lap, the Williams being no real match for the Mercedes with fresh tyres. With the end of the race firmly in sight Rosberg sawed 3 seconds off the lead of Ricciardo in his first lap as once again Alonso found himself entangled with Magnussen. Refusing to yield to Fernando’s attempts and increasingly frustrated, Alonso deployed the dreaded hand wave after one particularly effective defensive maneuver. Hamilton continued to bang the drum for retirement as Rosberg dropped Ricciardo’s advantage to 17 seconds with 6 laps to go. Bottas trundled into DRS range behind Raikkonen for the final podium spot and the maths indicated that Rosberg would just not quite get there. Hamilton finally got his wish as Mercedes discovered an official issue that required him to bring his car in and guaranteeing him a new gearbox and a bunch of other bits as well.
Bottas completed the inevitable overtake on Raikkonen for P3 and as the wait for Rosberg to catch Ricciardo continued on lap 40, it became apparent that the fight for 5th-8th would be spectacular, as Magnussen, Alonso Vettel and Button were all within one second. Alonso kicked it off having a go at Magnussen that took him onto the grass lap 42.
Button jumped all over him and after a bit of side by side pulled out the advantage and lighting out after his teammate. Getting past Magnussen was not such an easy task and having to back off after his first effort allowed Alonso back past, just as Vettel came on. Two turns later Seb sailed effortlessly past as Magnussen’s shields came down yet again, denying Alonso any opportunity past. Sliding through Eau Rouge they held station with Vettel’s onboard giving a fantastic view of Alonso’s efforts. Finally taking his chance into Les Combes lap 43 Fernando came round the outside and Magnussen implacably took him wide on exit which allowed Vettel past and consigned Alonso to 7th and directly into the clutches of Button who waited patiently.
Into the last lap the Red Bull gapped the Ferrari and Vettel managed to come straight alongside Magnussen and, in NASCAR style, trade a bit of paint with the rookie before lining the McLaren man up for an over under into La Source that neatly relieved him of P5. Trailing behind, Alonso tried to keep his foot in it through Eau Rouge, but the end result was all four seriously off and Button pulled easily past for 7th, the Spaniards frustration appearing to get the best of him in the closing laps. The trip over the sleeping policeman seemed to take the starch out of him and he rapidly dropped off the pack as Button with a last effort managed to get just up to Magnussen’s gearbox into the last turn, but it wasn’t enough as Ricciardo managed his second straight win and the national productivity of Australia was no doubt affected with fans staying up half the night to see their new star win and calling in sick tomorrow. Rosberg cemented P2 and Bottas completed the podiums. Raikkonen gave his fans hope that all was not lost in his 2nd trip to the Scuderia with his remarkable 4th, while Vettel, Magnussen, Button and Alonso all entertained with their fantastic late lap clash. Rounding out the top 10 were Perez and Kvyat.
The real story, of course will be the recriminations from the lap 2 incident inside Mercedes. Up till now, Rosberg seemingly held the political edge, but with the reaction of Mercedes post-race it could be that the landscape is shifting under his feet. The human gift for rationalization is quite strong, and it was clear that he did not realize the extent to which his bosses reacted to the incident. It could be that Hamilton has lost the battle but may now be winning the war, at least for the time being as the commentariat are fairly unanimous in putting the incident on Nico. The continued string of torrid results for Ricciardo should also dominate, as despite being hamstrung by the less than stellar power delivered by Renault, Red Bull continue to find a way to remain competitive. Williams, too, showed they have no intention of making life easy for Mercedes and with luck their development will continue as well. A fantastic race with a maelstrom of controversy at its heart, there could have been no better start to the second half of the season.
|1||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||1:52.974||1:24:36.556||2|
|5||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||1:54.624||51.800||3|
|8||Sergio Perez||Force India||1:55.704||64.2||2|
|9||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||1:55.751||65.300||2|
|10||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||1:55.597||65.600||2|
|11||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso||1:55.567||71.900||2|
|Kevin Magnussen – 20 seconds added to race time-Forced another car off the track|
|16||Max Chilton||Marussia||2:00.409||1 lap||2|
|17||Marcus Ericsson||Caterham||1:58.965||1 lap||2|
|18||Jules Bianchi||Marussia||RETIRED||05 laps||2|
|R||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus||RETIRED||42 laps||0|
|R||Andre Lotterer||Caterham||RETIRED||42 laps||0|
|R||Romain Grosjean||Lotus||RETIRED||10 laps||4|
|R||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||RETIRED||05 laps||3|
World Drivers’ Championship
World Constructors Championship