Daniel Ricciardo won his third grand prix of the season (and of his career) at this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix. The Aussie avoided trouble and kept a cool head in a race which saw Championship leaders Hamilton and Rosberg collide, with the Brit eventually retiring. Rosberg recovered to take second, and the podium was completed by Valtteri Bottas.
Last year I made a lap guide to help people get to know the corner names at Spa, so here’s Lewis Hamilton’s Pole lap from 2013.
There was a new boy in at Caterham for the Belgian GP; German endurance racer Andre Lotterer got his F1 debut in place of Kamui Kobayashi. Max Chilton was due to be swapped out for American Alex Rossi, but the Marussia line-up was only altered for the first practice session. You can read more about the swaps here, and also about Toro Rosso’s new driver for 2015.
Saturday’s qualifying event was a wet-dry affair; Spa’s famous micro-climate playing its usual part. One of the biggest surprises of Q1 was Jules Bianchi making it in to the next session ahead of Nico Hulkenberg. Both are favourites to replace Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari next year after a disappointing return to the team, and clearly this round went to Bianchi, in a much less-competitive car.
At the business end of the grid, Rosberg took Pole ahead of Hamilton, with a resurgent Sebastian Vettel due to start third. The top five teams dominated Q3 and ensured there was no room for anyone else, with both McLarens making the cut for only the fifth time this year.
The teams started the day as usual, but Ferrari were already in trouble. The mechanics for Fernando Alonso’s car were on the grid after the two-minute warning (at which point team personnel must leave the grid) and so the Spaniard collected a 5-second Stop/Go penalty before he had even turned a corner.
At the start, Hamilton made a fantastic start and powered past his team mate. Further back, Q1 sensation Bianchi made contact with new boy Lotterer, leaving the Frenchman with a puncture, and the German out. Fellow German Vettel fared much better, though. He passed Rosberg after a fantastic start, and then hounded Hamilton. He pulled alongside, and the TV graphic momentarily showed him ahead, but Hamilton maintained the advantage.
At Les Combe, the first corner after the long straight, Vettel went wide, allowing Rosberg to get back past. However, the next time round, things did not go so smoothly. Rosberg chased Hamilton once more. On the outside of the corner, he attempted to cut back behind, but the cut he actually made was to his team mate’s tyre. Hamilton had to drag his wounded Mercedes back to the pits, falling to 19th position, and damaging the floor in the process.
On Lap 4, Daniel Ricciardo made short work of Fernando Alonso, squeezing past for 3rd in the DRS zone. Not long after, The Aussie was right behind his own team mate. When Vettel went wide at Pouhon corner (a rare mistake for the Weltmeister) Ricciardo did not waste any time, and claimed what was then second place. His ascendency was all but complete when Rosberg pitted for tyres on Lap 9, earlier than was expected. Ricciardo had the lead.
On lap 10, Adrian Sutil’s car flicked up a piece of shredded tyre, likely from Bianchi’s car. The rubber tangled itself around Rosberg’s radio antenna, distracting him. He attempted to rip the rubber away while passing Sutil and travelling at 200mph, but was unable to, and had to get it taken off during his next pit stop.
Alonso’s race was a little quiet – he made a decent getaway at the start, but since then he had faded in to the background somewhat. That was until he pulled a cracking move around the outside of Sergio Perez at the Rivage corner, a very tight, second-gear hairpin.
Pit stops came and went, and positions remained relatively similar, Ricciardo maintaining a decent advantage over Rosberg. Puncture pals Bianchi and Hamilton (Who both suffered popped tyres on laps 1 & 2 respectively retired with six laps to go, their ruined afternoons compounded by gearbox issues.
The racing appeared to be over, until a dramatic scrap for fifth place, with Magnussen led a group of Button, Alonso, and Vettel. Along the Kemmel Straight, Alonso went for the right, but Magnussen blocked, and the Ferrari had to take desperate avoiding action on the grass. Button and Vettel looked on in hope of a chance, so a few corners later when Magnussen defended and pushed Alonso wide, the other two took full advantage. Button then tried his luck against Magnussen but also found no room, which let Vettel and Alonso past him.
Vettel eventually got the better of all three other drivers, but Magnussen’s impressive defense skills were deemed too feisty by the stewards, and they handed him a 25-second penalty. That promoted everyone up a place from 6th down, and meant that Nico Hulkenberg got the final point. Magnussen finished 12th.
1) D Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing
2) N Rosberg, Mercedes AMG
3) V Bottas, Williams
4) K Raikkonen, Ferrari
5) S Vettel, Red Bull Racing
6) J Button, McLaren
7) F Alonso, Ferrari
8) S Perez, Force India
9) D Kvyat, Toro Rosso10) N Hulkenberg, Force India
11) JE Vergne, Toro Rosso
12) K Mahnussen, McLaren
13) F Massa, Williams
14) A Sutil, Force India
15) E Gutierrez, Sauber
16) M Chilton, Marussia
17) M Ericsson, Caterham
J Bianchi, Marussia (Gearbox)
L Hamilton, Mercedes AMG (Gearbox)
R Grosjean, Lotus ( Battery)
A Lotterer, Caterham (Electrics)
P Maldonado, Lotus (Exhaust)
The next race will take place at the historic Monza Park in Italy, the home of the Tifosi, and will occur on September 7.