#F1 Race Review: 2015 Formula 1 Shell Belgian Grand Prix : Painful Pirellis Punish Tyred Vettel

RaceReview
Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Mattpt55

Ambient 23° Track 38° Humidity 39% Wind 7.1 m/s

Results
The weeks off apparently did F1 some good as the Belgian GP managed to cook up more than a few surprises, including a remarkable lack of rain.
From Valterri Bottas’ daring fashion choice to run a Medium right rear with the rest of the car sporting a rather fetching Soft tyre ensemble to Ferrari’s epic gamble on the life of Vettel’s tyres which failed in spectacular fashion in the last laps, there was no small amount of excitement. Chief among them, a resurgent Grosjean was pushing Vettel late for P3 when Sebastians tyre finally let go. Despite the Enstone outfit’s brilliant finish, they will still have to pay the fine to get their cars out of impound tomorrow, but it’s likely they’ll come up with some spare change from the cushions for a few bottles of champers to celebrate their podium finish tonight.

Not surprising at all, though was Lewis Hamilton’s 39th win which was made somewhat easier by Rosberg’s poor start. The fact that Nico had taped start instructions to his wheel was perhaps a giveaway that he would struggle, though in his defense (having installed one myself) it’s much more time consuming than one might think to install an infant seat in a car.

Even the pre start was full of surprises as both Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz failed to make the grid necessitating an aborted start and 2nd formation lap.

Ricciardo and Maldonado also were sacrificed to the racing gods, both with mechanical issues. Maldonado was out early days and Ricciardo rolling to a halt halfway through the race and being the cause of the Virtual Safety Car.

Once the chaos settled it was good battles round all the top 10 places throughout the race and some clever pit work by Force India and Lotus during the VSC ensured a slow burn to the finish for all the places save the top two. Verstappen drove exactly like one would expect a teenager to, with a series of bold overtakes livening up the day for the Dutch fans.

Williams and Ferrari no doubt will be looking in the coulda woulda shoulda mirror rather hard this week and for Ferrari in particular it was not how they wanted their 900th GP to turn out. Hard questions, too, for Pirelli as two tyre failures in a weekend will test the adage that there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

Have at it in the comments and stay tuned for the update!

2015-08-23_10-09-14
Review

Prelude

Staggering heaps of Sun poured onto the asphalt in thoroughly uncharacteristic fashion for the Ardennes as last minute odds and ends were tended to by manically anxious team personnel. With new start procedures in effect, engineers were unusually attentive to drivers as they prepared to set off into a new world. Well, most of them as Hulkenberg had suffered engine problems that almost kept him from making the grid and then ensured that a second formation lap would be required when his car gave up the ghost just short of its grid position. Not to be outdone Sainz was then forced to pit on the 2nd formation lap.

Pre-race interviews featured Uncle Bernie trying to distract from the rolling horror show that is McHonda by confirming that the Lotii were impounded, but were still going to race. Apparently, his milk dodge from earlier in the week had failed to keep the press from noting that even with an engine upgraded with 3 tokens Honda were still lagging close to a second a lap behind whatever misery bomb was up the road from them and nowhere close to anything that might be considered acceptable. Hard days for Macca fans indeed.

Act I

Lights out saw Rosberg struggle and drop down to P5 while Perez and Ricciardo were, well, clutch at the start with Sergio nabbing P2 and giving Hamilton a serious look into La Source and Ricciardo vaulting neatly into P3 with a remarkably racy looking Red Bull. Vettel, Grosjean and Kvyat also did well in the start sweepstakes but the big winner was Verstappen who nabbed 6 spots in the opening lap.

Rosberg had already started to limit the damage lap 2 when Maldonado announced his retirement from the race with a loss of engine. Nico made short work of Bottas before the Venezuelan retired from P7, aided by a strong headwind in the DRS zone, as well as his remarkably superior car. Verstappen and Kvyat continued their charge early days as Ricciardo closed up to but was unable get round Perez.

Grosjean had been quiet at the start but with unusual Gallic efficiency was rounding up Bottas for P6 when Ricciardo decided to change the conversation at the front and go for the undercut on Lap 7, emerging on the Medium tyre.

Act II

Perez answered next lap choosing Softs for his next stint but it was not enough and Ricciardo claimed the place from Sergio as his move began cascading through the field. Bottas came in with the Force India and rocked out with a pair of mismatched tyres, an occurrence Rob Smedley was still unable to fully explain even after the race. That would prove brutal for the Finn’s race as he eventually collected a drive through for the stylistic mismatch, once the stewards realized his fashion faux pas.

Meanwhile, Vettel advanced to P3 and chose to stay out with big boys, which would prove fateful indeed down the road.

Lap 10 saw most everyone but the top 3 in as Hamilton lounged 8 seconds in front of his teammate, mostly the result of his early lap efforts. Not for long though as Ricciardo’s efforts had put Rosberg into danger so Mercedes called Nico in ahead of Hamilton on the next lap. Predictably that closed up the distance between the two, but there was no sign that Hamilton was under any sort of pressure from his teammate as he boxed on lap 12. Vettel waited a lap before following Hamilton in thus giving Ferrari at least some time at the front of the race to celebrate their raceversary. Once the pit stops were cycled through, it was Grosjean who reaped the most benefit, leveraging his early stop and soft tyres into P5, ahead of Vettel when he emerged on Mediums.

While that drama was playing out Perez neatly retook the position he lost to Ricciardo by leveraging his faster car and softer tyres to maximum advantage. AS the laps ticked by it was Grosjean closing in on the Red Bull for the kill, as he was the only other of the top 5 to choose Soft tyres for his 2nd stint.

The deed was done by lap 18, Romain boldly going round the outside at Les Combes with Vettel queuing up on his old bestie less than 4 seconds ahead. Further back, Ricciardo’s teammate continued to storm ahead by leaps and bounds, 5 places up on his start and 5.5 seconds back of Vettel.

Not satisfied with 4th, Grosjean continued his advance on Perez with brutal pace and newer tyres. Perez yielded down the Kemmel straight on lap 20 as the halfway point of the race approached. Clearly a sign that his tyres were toast, Perez boxed at the end of the lap to try and undercut Grosjean, whose tyres were 4 laps newer. As Sergio flicked into the pits Ricciardo rolled to a stop just at the exit to the chicane, his day done with faulty engine electrics.

The stranded Red Bull immediately brought out the Virtual Safety Car, just as Perez rejoined in P10, right behind Bottas. Taking advantage, Grosjean rolled into the pits at the end of the first VSC lap, to ditch his older options completely killing Force India’s strategy. Kvyat, Massa and Raikkonen also chose to lose their slightly older tyres under the VSC, a reasonable option for them as they had pitted early than anticipated.

Just as they completed their stops the VSC was lifted and the revised order was Hamilton, Rosberg, Vettel, Grosjean and Kvyat in the top 5 and Perez, Massa, Raikkonen, Verstappen and Ericsson filling out the rest of the top 10. The most important detail, though, was that due to the VSC none of the top 10 trailing Sebastian were out of his pit window, unlike the Mercedes pair who were already more than a pit stop ahead of Vettel.

Act III

Perez was not the only loser under the VSC, somehow Hamilton also managed to lose a second of his already dwindling lead to Rosberg, leaving him barely 2s to the good and prompting a few probing radio calls to his team. Nevertheless he got on with it and laid down a series of fast laps that pushed his lead back out to 5.5s over Rosberg by time Mercedes got to their planned pit stops.

But it was actually Kvyat who was first to box on lap 28, a few laps before the Mercedes after a brutally long stint. Assured he would be competitive at the end by his team, he hit the track on new Softs and began the tough task of carving his way through the field.

As the rest of the top 10 sorted themselves out Vettel radioed the team to prompt them about his next stop. However, having missed the chance to pit under the VSC, Ferrari were now hemmed in. Given the dropping track temps, the decision was made to stay out in an effort to maintain Seb’s podium as at best he would emerge behind Raikkonen and Massa and with Verstappen and Kvyat directly behind him were he to pit. With that die cast, Lewis was next in line and the call came on lap 31 to box.

Hamilton, apparently feeling cheeky, said his tyres felt fine however when told the stop would go to Rosberg instead should he not take it, it turned out he wasn’t feeling that much better and aimed his car at the pit entry. Nico followed him on lap 32 and the pair were out on fresh Options and good to go to the end of the race.

AS the laps ticked away it was Massa first up to have a crack at Perez, with Raikkonen just behind him. But try as he might, the Williams was just no match for the Force India. By lap 37, Raikkonen was caught in a vice between the approaching Kvyat and the stalled Massa. The Ferrari on Primes was no match for the Red Bull on Options half their age and Kvyat blew the doors off the Ferrari down the Kemmel straight. Well, would’ve at any rate if F1 cars actually had doors.

Meanwhile, the inexorable Grosjean had crept within DRS of Vettel in P3 and was beginning to show the lines of his Lotus large in Vettel’s mirrors. As he continued to pressure the Ferrari, Kvyat finally managed to make it round Massa going through Les Combes on lap 40 and chased downhill after the Force India of Perez. Less than a lap later Kvyat stuck the knife in down the Kemmel straight taking P5 off the Mexican and remarkably 7 places higher than where he started.

Happily enough Grosjean wasn’t yet finished with Vettel and with 2 laps to go and a podium position in play the battle was shaping up to be epic in nature. At least, until Vettel’s right rear tyre exploded at the top of Raidillon putting him out of both the points and contention and handing the place to RoGro. That’s how they came home, with Lewis leading the Mercs followed by Grosjean in the Lotus to round out the podium. A delighted Kvyat followed in 4th and it was left to Perez to cap the top 5.

The end of the race was not without controversy, however, as Pirelli and Ferrari immediately started a blamefest extraordinaire, which promises to yield a vast amount of entertainment between now and the next GP. Ferrari and Williams both endured woeful races and without consulting the history books it’s starting very much to feel like Williams have wandered down a cul de sac on the development front. Ferrari too, will be happy to blame Pirelli for a torrid weekend, but the fact of the matter is they missed their opportunity when they didn’t pit him under the Virtual Safety Car. That is, if you don’t count qualifying.

Pirelli look to be very under the gun for their tyre failures this weekend (including GP3) but as ever reality is more nuanced than we’d like it to be. A lack of testing and the need for magical tyres to keep the show rolling all played their part in the debacle as well. Enjoy fighting that one out in the comments, but do keep it above the belt.

Best wishes to Nico Rosberg on the impending birth of his child and we’ll see you in a couple of weeks, once I’ve cleaned the rest of the sand out of my keyboard…

44 responses to “#F1 Race Review: 2015 Formula 1 Shell Belgian Grand Prix : Painful Pirellis Punish Tyred Vettel

  1. If Nico had gone to Halfords, they would’ve fitted on for him in about 5 minutes for £10…

    • It’s still such a shame that the rulemakers didn’t include ‘track history’ in the introduction of DRS.

      There’s are places I do like DRS: Hungary and Spain for example. The system makes overtaking possible but keeps it very, very difficult.

      But in Spa it’s travesty.

  2. It’s very amusing that the difference for Vettel is not an amount of time or number of laps, but ‘tyre’.

  3. A race of missed opportunities all round. Ferrari pushed the limits of the tyre and were punished. Ricciardo’s car switched itself off. Williams should’ve gone to Specsavers and Grosjean took advantage of one Force India failing to take the start, a Torro Rosso going native and of course Sebastian’s tyre exploding.

    Dominant win from Lewis, crushed Nico and now it truly is a two horse race.

    • How is that Pirelli’s fault? Granted they said the tires could do 40 laps, but that was no guarantee, also change in condition, driving style etc

      In the commentary on Sky when Seb said they (Ferrari) should explore a different strategy, he said they’d be lucky to get 25 laps out of those tires.

      Ferrari gambled and lost.

        • Fear enough Hippo, but after seeing what happened to Nico on Friday and the reasons given for the failure, I thought everyone would air on the side of caution first.

          Since the Silverstone blow fest, we’ve not seen anything like this. So maybe it was a bad batch of tires.

          • But then Pirelli should not have blamed Ferrari. What Hembery basically said after the race was that teir tyres blow up without warning if you wear them out.

  4. curious to see a lot of new development parts on many cars after teams supposedly being on “mandatory vacation”

  5. Im just relieved Lewis took pole and the win so I wouldn’t have to listen to the constant narrative of how his life style is distracting nonsense. Offcourse they all preamble his vacation just in case he fails then they would go in full overdrive.
    As for Vetell his just mad that he is almost definitely out of the championship.After his win last race he was sniggering about sneaking up and taking the championship.Vetell dream of redeeming himself by pilfering the tittle from the all conquering Mer,beating lewis with the faster car and taking the tittle for Ferrari in his 1st year,something Alonso couldnt do in 5yrs……that would really be a coup……and validate his 4 championships……so yea you can see why he is furious as hell

    • I think Damion Hill was hoping that Nico would’ve ran away with it this weekend. You know he’s very critical of Lewis’s lifestyle

    • But Hamilton didn’t get the fastest lap, so maybe his holiday was a distraction as he didn’t extract the ultimate race lap; something that Rosberg did.

      I guess Lewis is just not as committed as Rosberg, who by the way is in a fully committed relationship and is having another child to build a wonderful nuclear family.

      Failing to set the fastest race lap – despite securing pole position by half a second, executing a near perfect start and winning comfortably with pace to spare – really shows an unfocused talent and total lack of commitment.

      Lewis, please, give up the rapping and the bodacious babes, and focus on F1.

      • He’s such a useless driver, Mercedes should sack him and put Alonso in his seat.

        He seems more interested in flying round the world in his private jet rather than winning races. Such a waste of space…

        I’m now a Borg….

        • How DARE you! Why would you say that, because of his skin colour? Hmmmm?

          Lewis is as committed as anyone else in the paddock, maybe more so. And what he gets up to between races is none of your business.

          I just can’t see how you can make such comments on the greatest driver of all time.

          #44

          • Look mate, I’m a Borg and we assimilate everyone.

            Resistance is futile #33

          • Lol, yes Rob, I’m aware. 😀

            All my comments in this thread (to Samaritan / Hippo / Fortis) were tongue n cheek.

            I wanted to feel that beautiful brand of Hamfosi induced righteous indignation. I must say, it feels pretty good. I’m always right.

            LOL! Oh no, I’ve done it now.

        • With all respect to Lewis (he made it look far to easy today), Mercedes should just cut them both and pocket the salaries…never understood why such a dominant team would need to pay so much (they obviously didn’t poach red bulls accountants).lewis didn’t have to break sweat at any point and just coasted home (no need to lift, just coast 🙂 ) and Nico couldn’t give second place away even with a webbler of a start (like a wobbler, just grittier) ..they’re a good country mile ahead (and it’s a damn big country too) of the rest. Ah well, the F1 Minus Mercedes Championship continues to excite, just a looooong way back the road.

      • Lewis never drove at full pace. He ‘managed his pace’ for most of the race, only pushing when Rosberg closed in on him.

  6. They need to do something at turn 4 (kink at the top of Eu Rouge) to stop the drivers cutting across.

    • Well they had an artificial curve there on Friday, but Kimi kept doing the same thing as today and they removed it.

      • Because drivers complained if something went wrong they would be go up in the air. What they should do is go back to the way it used to be. When there was gravel nobody dared to take the raidillon that way. Or punish everyone of them for track limits…

        • Call me old fashioned, but I thought the track was the black stuff. When was all four wheels over a pathetic excuse for kerb acceptable???

          • Agreed. Everyone seemed to be making a mockery of the exit of Eau Rouge now that it’s all tarmac. And they can’t change it back to gravel, judder bars or even grass now because everyone would then complain about it being too dangerous.

  7. Why did they gave a drive through to bottas instead of ordering him to change the tire (s)

    • Because the infraction was penalized. Reversing it would be a double penalty. In fact the penalty was rather lenient. According to the rules he should have been black-flagged.

      • That’s what I mean. Instead of giving him the drive trough they should have ordered him to change them…

  8. I was shocked to discover that the amazing driver/engineer brainbox who drives the No 2 car at Mercedes found it necessary to tape a “How to Start” guide to his steering wheel today. Shirley, as he’s been at home painting the new sprogs bedroom and choosing the very best in baby buggies, and not gallivanting around the world, partying with beautiful wimmin, topping up his tan, etc, etc, I’d have thought remembering such a simple procedure would have been childs play. I know it’s childs play, ‘cos ‘not very bright’ Lewis didn’t need a cheat sheet and he got it right first time.

  9. Not one mention of Williams? The tyre cockup wasn’t their biggest error of the weekend. They got their setup completely wrong, for a team that should be 2nd/3rd fastest, they were well off the pace. A couple of more races like this and the Red Bullies will be chasing them for 3rd place in the constructor championship.

  10. Fernando Alonso: “I finished the race 40 seconds ahead of my teammate, almost a second faster per lap with the same equipment, when he won here a few years ago. The car performed well.” No comment 😀

  11. Justin Wilson has been involved in bad race accident in the US.

    “Justin Wilson is being airlifted to Lehigh Valley Health Network Cedar Crest Hospital. No additional information is available at this time.”

  12. Are the stewards scared of actually giving Rosberg a penalty?

    That move on Bottas at the bus stop chicane was similar to that of Lewis’s move on Kimi in 08. ROS made the pass but ran off the track and came back on in front of Bottas and just continued on as if nothing happened.

    He seems to have more lives than a cat

    • They seemed scared/unwilling to give anyone a penalty yesterday. Williams made it impossible not to with the tyre fiasco, but aside from that they seemed to be looking the other way with regards to track limits.

      track limits enforcement was non existent in regular play (everyone was at it, every lap), while Max took to the scenic route while passing both Bottas and Nasr, with Kvyat looking like he had at best half a millimetre of tyre over the paint when scraping by Massa I think it was. Same goes for Rosberg’s move, gaining an advantage is not just being off the track the second your car goes by the opponent, its in gaining an advantage by improving or simply maintaining momentum off track for the move regardless of if you go off the track before or after you overtake.

      Inconsistent stewarding from race to race is the thing that drives me mad.
      high time for full time stewards to travel with the circus.

      btw in a perfect world I’d rather allow all the passes mentioned above, just needs to be handled consistently.

  13. “Verstappen drove exactly like one would expect a teenager to”… Erm, wot? I think the calculated bravery of Max is just what no teenager is doing…

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