The good and bad of the Belgian Grand Prix
A thrilling, action-packed Belgian Grand Prix saw Daniel Riccardo storm to the third win of his F1 career and Red Bull Racing’s 50th.
The Aussie has retained third in the drivers’ championship, while Nico Rosberg extended his lead in the standings with second place. Lewis Hamilton is now 29 points behind his team-mate after retiring with car damage.
Let’s take a look at the good and bad from last weekend’s race at Spa-Francorchamps.
He put in a strong drive from fifth on the grid to secure win number three of his F1 career. Ricciardo made his two-stop strategy work well and did just enough to hold on to the top spot in the closing stages, finishing 3.3 seconds clear of Rosberg. Mercedes slipped up and once again he was there to benefit.
He showed strong pace in dry conditions but sixth was the best he could do in the wet qualifying session. The Finn lost a few places at the start but had a smooth and trouble-free race to his fourth podium, putting in some fantastic overtakes in the process.
The 2007 world champion looked far more competitive all weekend, although eighth in qualifying was worse than expected. An early stop helped him jump up the field, with Ferrari getting his strategy right. He couldn’t hold faster cars back but fourth was a good result for the Finn.
He was frustrated to miss out on Q3 but out-qualified his team-mate once again. The Russian rookie then put in a good performance on Sunday to take home a point. He did well to hold off Nico Hulkenberg in the closing stages and was then promoted to ninth after the race thanks to Kevin Magnussen’s penalty.
In general, McLaren’s pace at Spa-Francorchamps looked more encouraging. The result in qualifying didn’t fully show this, but things looked better in the race. Magnussen and Jenson Button both battled closely well within the top 10 and took the chequered flag in sixth and seventh, although the former then dropped to 12th. However, the team has still moved up to fifth place in the constructors’ standings.
It had all been going so well for Mercedes up until lap two of the race. The team locked out the front row and both drivers looked set to dominate. However, the Les Combes collision not only took Hamilton out of the race (on lap 49 due to the deteriorating condition of his car following the puncture damage), but it also cost Rosberg the win too.
After the race was a mess too, with numerous stories flying around about Hamilton claiming Rosberg admitted to hitting him on purpose, Toto Wolff saying he had misinterpreted the comments and the tension rising within the Mercedes camp.
The Danish rookie put in a good drive to take the chequered flag in sixth place at Spa-Francorchamps, but his racing at times was too aggressive and that got him in trouble with the stewards. He was eventually handed a 20-second time penalty, dropping him to 12th, for forcing Alonso off track on the Kemmel Straight.
It was another disastrous weekend for Lotus. The team struggled throughout the weekend, with Pastor Maldonado’s FP2 crash not helping matters, and both drivers eventually retired from the race with an exhaust issue for Maldonado and car damage for Romain Grosjean.
The Swiss outfit failed to score its first point of the season in Spa. A double-car finish was the only positive thing to emerge from the weekend, with the C33 again proving to be slow and difficult to drive. A 2013-esque rise up the order doesn’t look likely this time.
Max Chilton may have finished ahead of Marcus Ericsson in Sunday’s race, but it was a difficult Belgian Grand Prix for Marussia. Contractual issues meant Chilton was removed from the team’s line-up on Thursday and replaced by Alexander Rossi, but the Brit was then re-instated on Friday and returned to the cockpit of the MR03 in Friday’s FP2 session.
The whole thing wasn’t handled particularly well. Chilton finished 16th in the race but Jules Bianchi suffered a puncture on lap one following contact with Grosjean. He recovered some ground but then retired with a gearbox issue.
The 2011 FIA WEC champion and three-time Le Mans winner surprised many by being drafted in to replace Kamui Kobayashi at Caterham for the weekend. He soon settled into the Renault-powered CT05 and out-qualified Marcus Ericsson by a second on Saturday. However, his F1 debut lasted just one lap thanks to a power-unit problem.
Images courtesy of Octane Photographic
Jack Leslie is a freelance motorsport journalist. He has been part of the Richland F1 team since the very start and made his debut in the F1 paddock for the website at the 2014 Austrian Grand Prix. Jack also writes for Car Throttle and RumbleStripNews, as well as running a popular blog.