Drivers and fans alike love the challenge of the classic Spa Francochamps circuit, that features some of the most revered corners on the calendar. but does it always produce the exciting races that achieve high ratings in our polls?
2013 – TJ13 reader score – 4.92
A wet qualifying session was the most exciting part of the 2013 edition of the race, with a last gasp flurry of activity as a dry line was forming that gave Lewis Hamilton his fourth successive pole position. Hamilton led away from the line but was unable to keep Vettel behind, who found a superb line through Radillon to get a run on the leader. From there Vettel looked unstoppable and lead every single lap of the race.
One of the only exciting moments from the race was the battle between Gutierrez’s Sauber, Maldonado’s Williams and the Force India cars of Di Resta and Sutil. Gutierrez made a move on the inside of Maldonado stick into the final chicane, pushing the Williams driver wide. Sutil tried to take advantage and drive around the outside, but Maldonado clipped his rear wheel with his front wing. Seeing the damage, Maldonado immediately cut across the track to the pitlane, but in doing so smacked into the side of Di Resta, ripping off his rear left corner.
2014 – TJ13 reader score – 7.89
The race in 2014 was one of highlights of the season, with the controversial collision between title contenders Rosberg and Hamilton providing an opportunity for Daniel Ricciardo to take his second successive victory in the Red Bull. Rosberg was able to mount an impressive recovery to second position, while floor damage to Hamilton’s car prevented him mounting an effective recovery.
2015 – TJ13 reader score – 6.32
Sunday’s event was certainly not the lowest rated race this year by any means, but the lack of a challenge to Lewis Hamilton at the front probably ultimately stifled your interest. Despite poor starts from both the Mercedes cars, he managed to hold his inside line into La Source and power away from the pack, hounded closely by Sergio Perez. Under pressure, Hamilton made a mistake through Eau Rouge and Radillon that allowed Perez to draw alongside and actually cut the timing line in the lead at the end of the Kemmel straight. Unfortunately for Perez, Hamilton held the high ground and there was no way around the outside through the chicane. There was plenty of action behind him as Rosberg slipped back into the pack with excessive wheelspin off the line and was hung out to dry on the outside of the first corner.
Rosberg made suprisingly slow progress back to second, having to rely on the first round of pitstops to leap-frog Ricciardo and Perez. Maldonado contributed to his own demise (once again) on lap two by going very wide through the tricky Eau Rouge corner, damaging his clutch that cut the drive from the engine forcing a very early bath for the Venezuelan.
Williams had to sacrifice their usually high top speed to make up for a lack of mechanical and aerodynamic efficiency around the twisty parts of the track, but the extra drag severely hampered them in the race by leaving them vulnerable down the Kemmel straight. The DRS and slipstream effect was enhanced due to a strong headwind and they even found themselves being overtaken by the Renault powered cars, an uncommon occurrence this season. To compound their woes, the team made a catastrophically basic error in the pitstops by sending Bottas back onto the track with three tyres from one compound and one from the other, which was (eventually) picked up by the stewards and earned him a drive-through penalty.
Ricciardo’s desperate retirement at the hands of his Renault power unit will only serve to throw more fuel onto the burning desire for the Red Bull team to jump ship to Mercedes engines next year, no matter how they are badged. His car ground to a halt on the start finish straight and brought out the virtual safety car. This ruined the progress of Sergio Perez and handed a massive dilemna to the Ferrari team. If Vettel pitted for new tyres he would drop from third all the way out of the top ten and would have to settle for the lowly points positions, or gamble on making his tyres last all the way to the end and fight for the podium. We all know how that one ended…
Romain Grosjean was keen to put talk of his first corner antics in 2012 behind him with a superlative performance in the Lotus. His mid race pace was stunning, combined with a timely stop under the VSC and very aggressive overtaking moves on Bottas, Ricciardo, Perez. He was chasing down Vettel towards the end of the race and would have given him a hard fight, but his podium was cemented by the much discussed tyre blow-out at the top of Eau Rouge for the German.
Hamilton led Rosberg home, having the a definite edge in pace over his team-mate particularly through the middle sector of the lap. It was a shame that Nico made such a poor getaway, for the second year in a row we were robbed of a grandstand finish between the two title contenders at this iconic circuit.
TJ13 Driver of the weekend – Max Verstappen (40%)
The driver that made the biggest impression on our readers was the highly impressive Max Verstappen, with a massive 40% of the vote, ahead of Grosjean with 32% and Hamilton in third with 14%.
Verstappen was demoted down the grid with a penalty, but made up for this very quickly with a super-aggressive start to climb six places by the end of lap one, dicing with Raikkonen and the Marussias into the first corner then taking Jenson Button’s fast starting Mclaren down the Kemmel straight. His bold moves into Blanchimont defy belief (and possibly sanity). His move past Alonso on the inside was opportunistic as the Honda engine ran out of grunt, but his pass around the outside of Nasr at nearly 200mph was absolutely phenomenally brave. His late attempt to overtake Kimi was only thwarted by his own ambition, after seeing a gap on the inside of Massa ahead he overshot his braking point and slid wide.
He thoroughly deserves the accolade this week and his exciting talent is one of the saving graces of this season dominated by the Silver Arrows.