2016 Belgian Grand Prix Race Review

F1 Grand Prix of Belgium - Race

On Saturday, we saw Nico Rosberg taking Pole Position for the Belgian Grand Prix ahead of Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen.

The start of the Belgian GP.

The start of the Belgian GP.

The Belgian Grand Prix is underway! Nico Rosberg gets a great start. But the chaos of the first lap began at La Source, when Max Verstappen got bogged down off the line and was jumped by both Ferraris behind him. Verstappen switched to the inside of Kimi Raikkonen for Turn 1, who was then squeezed by Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel — who would not have seen Verstappen on the inside. Vettel hit Raikkonen, spinning around in the process, before Raikkonen and Verstappen made contact.

On the run down the hill, Verstappen’s front wing came loose, while Raikkonen’s car sprayed sparks from the rear for the rest of the lap — all three men pitted at the end of the lap. The floor of Raikkonen’s car appeared to catch fire at the rear during his stop, delaying him significantly in the pit lane.

Further back in the field on the crazy first lap, Pascal Wehrlein speared into the back of Jenson Button at Les Combes, waving his hand angrily in the direction of the McLaren driver. Wehrlein appeared to have more drive around the outside and was trying to undercut the McLaren driver on exit of the corner. Both men retired from the race.

Nico Rosberg leads on Lap 2 of the Belgian GP. All rights reserved to Sutton Images.

Nico Rosberg leads on Lap 2 of the Belgian GP. All rights reserved to Sutton Images.

On lap Two, Rosberg leads Hulkenberg by 4.1 seconds. But Carlos Sainz Jr’s right rear exploded on the Kemmel Straight. The Toro Rosso driver kept his car going but ended up spinning on the exit of Les Combes, before retiring further down the road with his rear wing hanging vertically off his car.

The Renault of Kevin Magnussen after the incident on Lap 6.

The Renault of Kevin Magnussen after the incident on Lap 6.

After a brief Virtual Safety Car period, the drama continued, with Magnussen spinning violently at the top of the hill at Eau Rouge and colliding heavily into the barriers on Lap 6. The Renault driver limped away from the incident, went to the hospital for checks and only had a sore ankle as a result of it. After four laps behind a Safety Car, the race was red flagged so marshals could repair the damaged wall.

The red flag had come at a perfect time for Fernando Alonso and Hamilton, who had both started on the medium tyre and were sat fourth and fifth, with many other drivers pitting immediately after Magnussen’s crash after the deployment of the Safety Car.

Kimi Raikkonen catching Max Verstappen in the early stages of the race. All rights reserved to Sutton Images.

Kimi Raikkonen catching Max Verstappen in the early stages of the race. All rights reserved to Sutton Images.

The race resumed under the Safety Car on Lap 11 with Rosberg still leading the field. Raikkonen and Verstappen once again battle with each other with both drivers pushing the limits and each other, even though Verstappen’s method of defending could be seen as dangerous.

Lewis Hamilton running in third place of the race. All rights reserved to Sutton Images.

Lewis Hamilton running in third place of the race. All rights reserved to Sutton Images.

By  Lap 15, Hamilton is catching Hulkenberg for third place on the track. Meanwhile a battle for eighth place between Kvyat, Grosjean, Vettel, Bottas and Gutierrez is ongoing on the track. Three laps later, Hamilton managed to pass Hulkenberg for third place Hulkenberg but was soon complaining about his tyres sliding a lot, prompting a pit stop on Lap 22 and taking on the soft tyres.

There was also nearly a collision in the pit lane between Hulkenberg and Alonso on Lap 24. With Alonso nearly released into the path of the Force India, the two men exited side-by-side with Hulkenberg marginally ahead on the outside. Alonso grazed Hulkenberg’s car with his tyre and did well to keep the car out of the wall, keeping position and staying inside the white line on exit.

Lap 25 sees Rosberg still leading Ricciardo by 10.8 seconds. Kvyat and Gutierrez are battling each other for twelfth place as Verstappen is defending against Vettel for ninth place but within two laps, Vettel is able to pass Verstappen for eighth place and Verstappen is able to repass on the Kemmel straight.

Felipe Massa struggling to keep Sergio Perez behind him. All rights reserved to Sutton Images.

Felipe Massa struggling to keep Sergio Perez behind him. All rights reserved to Sutton Images.

The battle between Alonso, Massa and Perez is ongoing for fifth place; with Massa struggling to defend against the Mexican driver especially. At Les Combes, Perez is able to pass Massa for sixth place.

But Hamilton’s stint on the soft tyres lasted just 11 laps, with Hamilton pitting again on Lap 33 for the used mediums. He emerged in fourth ahead of Perez and quickly dispatched Hulkenberg, though Ricciardo was too far down the road for the championship leader to harbour ambitions of finishing second.

Away from the battle for the podium, Verstappen and Raikkonen’s battle continued in the second stint, with the Dutch teenager forcing the 2007 world champion wide at Les Combes. The incident then prompted a series of explitive-laden radio tirades from Raikkonen, who complained Verstappen’s only interest “is hitting me off the circuit”.

Nico Rosberg wins the Belgian GP ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in second place and Lewis Hamilton in third place. All rights reserved to Sutton Images.

Nico Rosberg wins the Belgian GP ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in second place and Lewis Hamilton in third place. All rights reserved to Sutton Images.

But Rosberg leads Ricciardo on the final lap of the race by 14.2 seconds and wins the Belgian GP which is his first win at the circuit and has reduced Hamilton’s lead in the championship to nine points

Ricciardo is a credible second 14.3 seconds behind Rosberg, Hamilton finished in a brilliant third place 27.6 seconds behind Rosberg, Hulkenberg was a credible fourth 35.9 seconds behind Hamilton and Perez finished fifth 40.6 seconds behind Rosberg

Vettel was sixth 45.9 seconds behind Rosberg, Alonso was a brilliant seventh 59.4  seconds behind Hamilton, Bottas was eighth 1.00.1 seconds behind Rosberg, Raikkonen was ninth 1.01.1 seconds lap behind Rosberg and Massa was tenth 1.05.8 seconds behind Rosberg.

Lewis Hamilton still leads the Driver’s Championship with 232 points, Nico Rosberg is in second place with 223 points, Daniel Ricciardo is in third place with 151 points, Sebastian Vettel is in fourth place with 128 points, Kimi Raikkonen is in fifth place with 124 points, Max Verstappen is in sixth place with 115 points, Valtteri Bottas is in seventh place with 62 points, Sergio Perez is in eighth place with 58 points, Nico Hulkenberg is in ninth place with 45 points and Felipe Massa is in tenth place with 39 points.

Mercedes still lead the Constructors Championship with 455 points, Red Bull is in second place with 274 points, Ferrari is in third place with 252 points, Force India is in fourth place with 103 points, Williams is in fifth place with 101 points, McLaren is in sixth place with 48 points, Toro Rosso is in seventh place with 45 points, Haas is in eighth place with 28 points, Renault is in ninth place with 6 points and Manor are tenth with 1 point.

Conclusion

With Alonso having a solid drive to seventh place and gaining good solid points for the team, it was a shame to see Button retiring from the race after a great performance in qualifying. But it was the best that Fernando could do with the strategy he was on even though he would have wanted more from the weekend after the last two races haven’t been too kind for him but never the less, he managed to pick up much needed points for the Constructors.

I feel that McLaren have had an average weekend and have shown that despite their best efforts that the McLaren team have a lot of work to do in order to try and extract performance from their car but they are making small gains that are paying off for them in the last few races and they need to use this as inspiration for Monza next week.

Massa had a battle to finish in tenth place. He battled with Bottas and Vettel for most of the race and he deserved to get a point for his efforts today and it will help his confidence for the next few races as a result.

Raikkonen did an okay job to get ninth place and had a great battle to get there after battling with Verstappen for most of the race. This point for himself and Ferrari are vital and only shows just much of a driver Raikkonen is despite not having the car underneath him to challenge for a better result this weekend.

Vettel had a bit of an action packed yet defensive race to finish sixth, but he scored more points for the Ferrari team who seem to be extracting a little bit more pace and performance out of their package. But there is still a lot of work to be done but the fact that Vettel scored points again shows that he can deliver on the track.

Perez did a good job to get fifth place and deserves a mention. He drove a solid race  despite winning the battle with Massa and he did a great job to secure some much needed points for his team after a good performance this weekend and it is clear that the car was working well for them as a result. This will only help him prepare for the rest of the 2016 season.

Hulkenberg had a credible race to finish in fourth and has to be my driver of the day. It is a result that Hulkenberg needed after a tough few races and he should be happy; especially gaining the position during the race. He drove superbly and he could have challenged Hamilton for his first podium in F1 had things had been different.

But in a race where many expected him to finish and to maintain the momentum he has so far, he has managed to gain some points for the team and put himself in good stead for the rest of the 2016 season.

Hamilton deserves a mention. He drove a solid race to third place and battled his way through to get these points. Just a fantastic weekend for him and the Mercedes team and showing that he cannot be discounted on putting in the best performance on the track, even when the odds are against him.

Ricciardo drove a solid race to finish second today and has to be my driver of the race. He may not have had the race he wanted; and didn’t have a chance to try and get past but he did a great job to secure a podium yesterday. And once again, luck helped him achieve this but he was in the position to make hey. But what a fantastic job from him all weekend and this will only give him a slight satisfaction heading into the next race in Monza.

All that is left to say about this race is that Rosberg deserved to win at Belgium and he needed to in order to show that he cannot be discounted as a driver.  His driving was brilliant and controlled throughout the race. Mercedes has built on the results that they have gained so far since pre-season testing and have shown that they are still the best team on the grid at the moment. All credit to Nico for doing a superb job this weekend and winning his fifth race of the season and decreasing the championship lead as well.

With the Italian GP in a few days time, if this season will be Rosberg’s at last or can Hamilton, Ricciardo or Vettel challenge him for wins along the way. But what is for certain is that Formula One is building up rather nicely.

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