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.
Max voted driver of the weekend, now there’s a surprise..😏😏
The Borg collective has invaded the neutral zone…
“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.”
And that’s it.
Grosjean was good, Hamilton won – at Spa, but Max was amazing.
No Borg here, just F1 fans being entertained.
Oh please, this has the Borg stamped all over it. Apart from that pass on the Sauber, he was pretty much nonexistent up until he caught up to Kimi and the others and by then their tires were already shot. Had he shown more composure and by getting pass Kimi first rather than looking to pass Massa going into the chicane in the same move, he probably would’ve finished 5th.
Grosjean was relentless the entire race, at one point he was the fastest man on track for a series of laps. After a brilliant qualifying session and then and also serving a grid penalty. He made just as good a start and chased down and pass Perez, Kvyatt, Ricciardo and took chunks of time out of Seb in ththe closing stages of the race. Rightfully deserved his place on the podium.
Grosjean was far more entertaining than Max.
A Hamfosi here, who was thoroughly entertained by Grosjean.
Check out this video:
This is the excitement I look for in F1.
Grosjean only had a podium because of Vettels tire issue.
Even if he didn’t get on the podium, I still think Grosjean was more impressive of the 2.
Had Ferrari ran a standard 2 stop strategy, he would’ve been miles behind Grosjean.
I am with you here fortis, overall Grosjean was more impressive near the sharp end and should have got the podium without Vettel’s problem.
Perez deserved the podium but so did RoGro, for the overtakes made it not boring from Max
Still feel Checco deserved more attention. Surprisingly strong.
I, more or less, agree with the race rating and, to a certain extent, the driver of the weekend.
In relation to DotW, if there was a race so far this season where Max Verstappen deserved top levels of praise, it’s this one. I voted for Romain Grosjean, and stand by that vote, but Max did impress me greatly, especially in the context of Spa where his attack mode could bear a very high cost (seen in the junior formulae) as there are no major Tilke run offs that he can rely on; so he had to be very accurate.
Even for a 17/18 year old with a potentially diminished sense of “danger” – and thus a higher risk appetite – he still had to have the skill, accuracy and driving grace to pull off those passes successfully. For a rookie F1 performance at Spa, it was quite impressive.
Track nature + Rookie element = A- contextual performance for me.
It’d have been an A, if he didn’t overcook the Raikkonen pass, but still, it was ok. There were drivers of many more starts who overcooked it far worse than that over the weekend.
Well he wasn’t very accurate at all. If you look at his pass on the Sauber, he was off the track and twice ran wide at Les Combes trying to overtake on the outside.
Indeed, he wasn’t perfect; it’s a matter of degrees, I suppose. I look at, as an example, Hamilton’s overtaking efforts on a slow track in Hungary as well as the outcomes for various drivers at Spa over the weekend that didn’t take extra care and I reach the conclusion that Max had to be relatively accurate and skillful when considering the quantum of manouvers he executed, where he did them and the fact he wasn’t in the wall, nor another driver damaged as a result of his poor efforts.
Again, I highlight a soon-to-be-triple-WDC’s performance at a slower track where he seemed to think he was in a NASCAR. Had that been Max, he’d have been smashed as a rookie. So for me, credit where it’s due. The context of his first F1 Spa attempt, and in the Toro Rosso, deserves plaudits. I did vote for Grosjean, but can accept and understand the Verstappen love for the DotW, all things considered.
I will be watching him closely at Suzuka, probably the great test of a driver and modern F1 car.
Though I missed the vote, I likely would have voted for Hamilton over Verstappen, A. Davidson’s whined on about how Lewis’ .5 time gap to Nico was actually more like .25 but was inflated because of Spa’s length. I have this to say: with Rosberg being up .1 in the first sector during qualifying and even in the third, Hamilton was FIVE-TENTHS better than Rosberg in the track’s most technical and all-important middle sector. No matter the track length Hamilton was an, amazing for today’s car equanimity, half-second better in qualie than his chief rival.
And as if to drive home the point (pun intended), after Rosberg’s VSC hack/cheat, Hamilton put in multiple laps in a row where he was SEVEN-TENTHS better than Rosberg in the 2nd sector.
For that, Lewis Hamilton is my driver of the weekend.
BUT. A close second was this week’s winner… and here’s why.
After watching Lee M.’s Sky Day with Max and Jos I have a new appreciation for the young man. Though he will likely never be as socio-culturally/politically as aware as The Holy One, (aka, Ayrton Senna), no one can blame him for not being born in Brazil, Young Max share’s Senna’s all-time great from moment one of sitting in a kart, focus on becoming a great driver.
I understand now that on-track moves I thought to be made though the hubris of youth are not that at all. I now understand that Max Verstappen sees the race course and feels his car under him like few other drivers ever have in F1.
It is as if Max is the next high point in the F1 driving evolutionary tree following, from the 1980s, Senna, Schumie, and Roscoe’s owner.
Perhaps one more calendar year of seasoning after this one and Max will completely ready to take a seat in a car of whichever team is most dominant – and make life utterly miserable for the rest of the field.
Consider me convert.
I agree with both points here, DWil.
Hamilton annihilated Rosberg in qualifying. There is no other way to cut it in order to make it more palatable for Rosberg fans, or Hamilton haters. I was gob smacked at it. You’re correct about the middle sector too. The added significance is that Hamilton hasn’t been as historically comfortable at Spa as, for example, Hungary, Canada or China. So I was anticipating Rosberg, like at Catalunya (another less than perfect track for Hamilton), to cause a bit of trouble to the #TeamLH #44 #Blessed brigade. It was not to be… Rosberg looked more mediocre over the whole weekend than I recall.
I also share your sentiments of Verstappen. I “converted” over Spa too. Cutting Verstappen’s performance any other way, to me, simply suggests one doesn’t appreciate racing and/or dislikes the youngster specifically – or doesn’t quite comprehend the subtle feel he displayed on numerous occasions. A bit more seasoning and yes, he’ll be a player. I will balance my comment off with saying that I think Sainz Jr is doing a very good job too, probably a more rounded overall effort, but Verstappen has shown something I think can be polished into something special.
Well, thank you WTF… I was also shocked to hear Hamilton’s pre-practice and qualie candor when asked by a SkyF1 commentator (I’ve forgotten which one) whether or not he likes Spa and he flat out said, ‘No.”
With Verstappen, I hope other people watch the “Day with Max and Jos” video. It was truly enlightening. And I agree about Sainz – and I’ll toss in Nasr. Watching Felipe develop last season – DURING the GP2 season – from a guy who had a reputation for being afraid to challenge other drivers to where he is now is a phenomenal accomplishment.