#F1 Race Review: Gloves Come Off At Mercedes As Ricciardo Reaps Rewards

Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Mattpt55

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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.

Prelude

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.

Act I

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.

Act II

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.

Act III

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.

2014 BelgianGP Podium

Race Results:

# Driver Ctry Team Time Gap Pits
1 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:52.974 1:24:36.556 2
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:51.987 3.300 3
3 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:54.606 27.9 2
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:56.803 36.500 2
5 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:54.624 51.800 3
6 Jenson Button McLaren 1:55.911 54.500 2
7 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 2:02.987 61.100 2
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
12 Kevin Magnussen McLaren 1:56.658 74.200 2
Kevin Magnussen – 20 seconds added to race time-Forced another car off the track
13 Felipe Massa Williams 1:54.543 75.0 3
14 Adrian Sutil Sauber 1:54.182 81.4 3
15 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1:54.852 89.7 3
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

2014 Drivers' Championship Graph Belgium

World Constructors Championship

2014 Constructors' Championship Graph Belgium

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36 responses to “#F1 Race Review: Gloves Come Off At Mercedes As Ricciardo Reaps Rewards

  1. a startling lapse in concentration from a driver who had displayed clear championship thinking throughout the season

    Sadly, I think it was championship thinking.
    When you have a points lead, and no other realistic competitors than your teammate, who looks as though he is about to drive off ahead of you to victory, a somewhat kamikaze move which has the potential to take both of you out might well be a calculated risk.

    It’s not as though there is not precedent for such thinking.

    • Even if he did it on purpose, I disagree. Too much risk, as if Hamilton’s tyre didn’t puncture his race was over. Plus, the ill will he would create at Mercedes will not help him at all. With double points on the last race, unless he really believes he will be more than 50 points up it was an incredibly short sighted choice IMO.

      • Too much risk, as if Hamilton’s tyre didn’t puncture his race was over

        Except clearly it wasn’t, as he made it to the end – and had the team strategy been better or had he not flat spotted massively, he would have won.
        Losing your front end plate usually doesn’t finish you race – and Hamilton was going to be off into the distance otherwise.

        Note that this sort of calculation was not available to Hamilton – and is even less so after today’s points.

      • Just to be clear, it’s not a calculation I approve of – but I think it quite likely that it is one Rosberg was aware of.

        • Thanks for the compliment, that was a very challenging race to keep track of. 😉

          Not sure I wrote that clearly, what I intended was that Rosberg with a damaged front wing would have had no hope of catching HAmilton with an undamaged tyre, not that Rosberg would have had his race ended.

          Maybe they are good enough drivers to guarantee taking down a tyre, but looking at the area of the sidewall you’d need to hit post-race (on Sky) I’m not sure how certain you would be of achieving that. Still, with double points in the last race I would think that giving up the political advantage inside the team will cost him more than he gained today.

          • And my point was that after that lap he would likely have had no chance anyway.

            It was a calculated risk, I think, and moreover that the team reaction – particularly Toto’s public comments – might well have surprised him.

          • @mattpt55
            “Still, with double points in the last race I would think that giving up the political advantage inside the team will cost him more than he gained today.”

            Not sure about that. Rosberg still benefits of plausible deniability, however shaky it is getting now. And if hell breaks loose for Rosberg (unlikely, IMO), a good comparison would be Alonso at McLaren in 2007.
            http://www.autosport.com/journal/article.php/id/1247/
            “When the FIA said that it had ‘new evidence’ to consider, speculation mounted that Alonso had sold McLaren down the river and would be about as popular with the team as Tommaso Buscetta was with the mafia.”

            Now that was a case of plausible deniability down the drain. That was a clear case of losing all political support within the team, eons worse than what Rosberg could be entertaining. So what exactly did happen to Alonso at McLaren in the 2nd part of the season? Not much, really. McLaren had the professional courtesy of fielding two identical cars, and supporting their highly-payed employee (however disliked) in his daily job routines. For all the tension, the guy was in the running up until the last race, and had a genuine chance of wrapping up that championship (to McLaren’s eventual chagrin).

            So unless Merc are up for something spectacular, like banning Rosberg for a race (never gonna happen!!), what’s the worse that could happen to Nico: probably getting a car identical to Lewis’, and fair chance of winning the thing on track (or by putting himself and his teammate off track).

    • Personally I’m starting to get the feeling that Rosberg is cheating himself into the WDC. And even if that’s not really the case, Rosberg may end up being perceived as the cheat WDC. And booed all the way to his crown in Abu Dhabi..

      The Monaco off eerily seemed like a calculated risk (even if cleared by the stewards), and the Spa move at Les Combes eerily seems like a calculated risk. The latter might pass as a racing incident, as others have pointed out, but it was surely a clumsy move, taken from the book of a Magnussen-like rookie. A WDC-contender should know better..

      • You’ve really put your finger on what I was trying to get across. Rosberg may have won the battle here, but it sure looks like the weight of public opinion may be swinging against him. Equally important, it seemed very clear (though I’ve not caught up on twitter) that Merc leadership are blaming Nico, which will not be to his advantage going forward.

        • People might take a different look at the Monaco incident aswell.
          I wonder if Mercedes has the balls to punish Rosberg.

        • @mattpt55

          Oh, by the way: a “cheat WDC” label, now that must be an enticing prospect to the Merc board, with all their anti-corruption statutes.. 🙂

          • Yes, I’m pretty sure that’s what they were looking for when they re-upped Nico at a substantially higher salary. That and throwing British fans under the bus.

        • Except what are they going to do ?
          Impose team orders, which can only benefit the points leader ?
          Report Rosberg to the FIA for causing a collision ?

          Toto basically did a King Lear impersonation when warning of ‘consequences’…
          “I will do such things,
          What they are, yet I know not: but they shall be
          The terrors of the earth…”

          • Now that Brawn has left, Nico is like a kid unleashed of his hard parent – he now thinks he can practically do anything and not be punished!

            I’ve never seen someone cut the course and set a purple sector/get fastest lap and then be told “he can have just that one, but if he does it again, then we’ll issue a penalty”…

  2. now that Mercedes confirmed Lewis and Nico quotes, Lewis fans will be all glowing and hoping for Nico to be suspended for the next race

    • and if he did on purpose, it was an act of bravado but also a total lack of sportsmanshipvand long term thinking

  3. Does anyone else think there is a massive chance ‘Big Ron’ has had a quiet phone call to Lewis this evening. Rather similar to how Nikki Lauda swooped in after Lewis’s Singapore retirement and spirted him away from Macca 2 years ago.

    I mean, this time last year no one knew what lap times these cars would be producing, they only had guess work and dyno simulation. Now Honda have seen the performance of the cars for real and know where the bar is set, instead of an educated guess, it must make life a little clearer on what your targets are and where they expect to be come the 1st race of 2015.

    Lewis’s hero is Senna, so you would think winning in a McLaren/Honda would be very special.

  4. Hey judge, just saw your twitter comment to Jennie Gow about what Lewis said, with relation to Nico saying he did it on purpose.

    So where’s your evidence that’s so forthcoming? She’s at the track and spoke to the Merc execs, you’re sitting in front or your computer or wherever you are and you’re saying she’s lying.

    But then again….

    “This is just Lewis’s emotional need to get first attack and get media onside”

    I don’t know if you noticed, but the media and the Merc execs were already on his side even before they had the meeting, even Toto, who you have on more than one occasion have said is on Nico’s side.

    • That’s dissapointing. Judges are supposed to be unbiased… Or atleast need to try to be. Might aswell dismiss every article about Hamilton.

  5. “Two turns later Seb sailed effortlessly past as Magnussen’s shields came down yet again, denying Alonso any opportunity past. ”

    Loved the “K Mag shields” bit. Excellent stuff.. 🙂

      • By the way, I don’t have a racer’s eye so I was wondering to what point were Magnussen’s defensive moves acceptable? He drove Alonso off track a couple of times, and Button once I think. To rephrase, was this a bit of inspired driving, or Maldonado-style kamikaze driving?

        • They where all accepted except the one on the end of the kemmel straight, where he pushed alonso on to the grass. All the others he only made alonso and button get off the throttle and take a little avoiding action.

        • The clever reply is that they are all until the stewards rule otherwise. My understanding is that the one move and crowding rule apply on straights up until braking zone and post corner exit. Clearly there are some differences of opinion, but that is the interpretation I have heard most often cited.

          W/R/T the move itself as long as the trailing competitor isn’t taken all 4 wheels off by the move it’s supposed to be legal.

          Complicating that is the new leniency to be displayed by the stewards in order to let the competitors race. “Minor” incidents that might well have attracted a penalty in the past will now be ignored. At least for the time being……

  6. JV doing his best impersonation of a homeless man and demanding that one be a man to race in F1.

    Oh yeah JV ‘now that I’m a father of 4 children’ shut up you muppet and you shouldn’t have had kids if you didn’t want to keep racing so don’t use them as an excuse…..oops one more thing, shave you twat!

    • Very anti Rosberg from the BBC there. I’m quite surprised, or am I?
      I think this whole incident has become a game of semantics and will just revolve endlessly unroll the end of time.
      It appears Lewis decided, he could count on Rosberg to back out, a la Bahrain. But didn’t count on Rosberg keeping his foot in and calling his bluff. It was clear for all to see that the “overtake” attempt was never going to go Rosberg’s way, but he knew that there was a calculated risk. Even if he took them both out, he would still lead the championship.

      To sum it up, Lewis underestimated Nico and Nico walked the think grey line that marks the limit of the regulations.

      • I think you nailed it there. Rosberg pushed his passing move longer and harder “to prove a point”. He misjudged falling back into line – took two bites at it even – and the rest is history.
        I don’t think the incident was in anyway deliberate, but I have no doubt there would have been a gentle zeigeist of “I’m leading the WDC, if we both crash out it’s better for me” running through his mind pre-race, if not at the actual moment of contact.
        Separate point – funny how Lewish is disappointed for the team missing a 1-2 when it wasn’t so important to him in Hungary.

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