With the Belgian GP at the famous Spa circuit done and dusted, it would be fair to describe the race as a rather uneventful affair, with a few little moments here and there to add excitement.
Lewis Hamilton had qualified on pole by nearly half a second from Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg, and it was Hamilton who made the most of the start (after the first start had to be aborted following trouble for Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India), getting away reasonably well and getting around the first corner in the lead. Rosberg had a poor getaway, getting squeezed for space and slipping down to fifth – Sergio Perez (in the other Force India) shot to second from fourth, and actually had a cheeky look at Hamilton down the Kemmel straight – but lacked the absolute pace to get by. Bottas and Ricciardo would only temporarily hold up Rosberg – the latter would chase Perez but the Renault power of the Red Bull couldn’t match the Mercedes engine in the Force India, whilst Rosberg would eventually get by all the cars in front of him via the first pit stops.
From that point, the race became a Mercedes procession. Hamilton and Rosberg were a class of their own, with Hamilton easing to a comfortable victory (his sixth of the season and 39th of his career). Behind them, a few events and duels did offer up a little spice, but the ease of overtaking here (especially on the Kemmel straight with DRS) robbed us of any especially prolonged battles. Lotus’ Romain Grosjean pushed hard, making a number of overtakes on his way to third place (his and Lotus’ first podium since the US GP in 2013), whilst Williams messed up Bottas’ race by fitting a medium compound tyre to his car when they meant to fit soft tyres.
The most dramatic moment came thanks to Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari. He had suffered a poor qualifying session, ending up in ninth (which became eighth following grid penalties), but during the race he was able to climb up to third. He and the team made the tactical decision to chance a one-stop strategy, on a circuit where everyone else was making two or even three stops. As the race started its final lap Vettel (who had won so brilliantly last time out in Hungary) was still third, albeit had Grosjean pressing him – when his rear-right tyre disintegrated as he started the Kemmel straight. In the space of the final lap he would end up going from 15 points to no points, and afterward he gave an understandably angry interview, where he criticised tyre manufacturer Pirelli for the dangerous failure.
Still, questions have to be raised as to why he and Ferrari would chance a one-stop strategy on a race that normally requires at least two stops. Vettel could also face action over missing the post-race weigh in.
McLaren’s misery continued – for only the third time this year both cars finished the race, but neither car was remotely close to the points, with upgrades failing to have any impact on their poor form. Kvyat took a decent fourth for Red Bull, and after an indifferent Hungary, Massa was sixth. Perez took a very credible fifth for Force India, and Kimi Raikkonen was seventh (having suffered mechanical trouble in qualifying that dropped him near the back of the field). Max Verstappen nearly took seventh from the Finn, but braked too late at the end of the Kemmel straight and went wide, and thus had to settle for eighth. Bottas ended up ninth and Ericsson took a point for Sauber.
The end result of the race is that Hamilton is now 28 points clear of Rosberg – he can afford to finish second to Rosberg in the next four races and this will only serve to tie them in the standings. His advantage is such that he will still lead the championship even if he fails to finish the next race and Rosberg wins. Next stop, Monza!
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