Despite some flashes of brilliance in the midfield, it was a return to same-old, same old at Spa-Francorchamps this weekend.
The dramas began before the race was even underway. Nico Hulkenberg wasn’t able to take the start after power issues plagued both his lap to the grid and the formation lap, resulting in an aborted start as his Force India sat stranded on the grid. Sainz looked as though he was about to join in the power-less party as the cars went round again, however after diving into the pits he did rejoin the race two laps down.
Much had been made about the new starting procedure in place at the Belgian Grand Prix. Given the poor starts made by Mercedes in the previous two races, they must have been particularly nervous. In the end, it was a mixed bag: Hamilton stormed away despite early pressure from Perez, whilst Rosberg fell away back to fifth. However the start of the day arguably goes to Fernando Alonso, who somehow powered his McLaren Honda into 12th position.
Reliability seemed to be a major issue for many of the teams. Having seemingly lost two drivers before the race was underway, Pastor Maldonado joined them on lap two as his Lotus gave up the ghost. Daniel Riccardo, last year’s winner, suddenly stopped on the pit straight on lap 21. Given the performance of the sister cars in the race, all four retirees must be feeling slightly dejected.
Williams made a catastrophic human error, fitting two different compounds of tyre to Valtteri Bottas’ car. Not only were they slapped with a drive through penalty, but in order to salvage some points Bottas was forced to stick to the tyres for the entire stint, compromising his race.
Sebastian Vettel appeared to have successfully defended his podium spot from Romain Grosjean, only for his right rear tyre to explode on the penultimate lap. He has pointed the finger firmly at Pirelli, as can be seen in this expletive-laded interview with the BBC, however the question must be asked – why was Ferrari determined to do a one-stop race, when everyone else opted for a two-stop?
Having recovered from his poor start, Rosberg finished in second, but still had no answer for his teammate, although the gap between them at the end of the race was surprisingly marginal. It was nice to see Grosjean back on the podium for the first time since the 2013 US Grand Prix, having been consistent all weekend and recovered well from a five place penalty which saw him start ninth.
Both McLarens finished the race for only the third time this year, however there was little celebration in the team, who had hoped the updates to their Honda engines would provide a far better boost in performance. Maybe they will ask to borrow Stoffel Vandoorme’s GP2 car for the remaining races to avoid another 105 place grid penalty.
it is quite embarrassing to be floating around the back
Jenson Button talking to BBC F1
Without the antics of Kyvat and Verstappen and their spectacular overtakes, this race would have been a pure procession. A disappointing start after the summer break, and it doesn’t even come close to the thrilling Hungarian Grand Prix.
- Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes
- Nico ROSBERG Mercedes
- Romain GROSJEAN Lotus
- Danill KYVAT Red Bull
- Sergio PEREZ Force India
- Felipe MASSA Williams
- Kimi RAIKKONEN Ferrari
- Max VERSTAPPEN Toro Rosso
- Valtteri BOTTAS Williams
- Marcus ERICSSON Sauber
- Felipe NASR Sauber
- Sebastian VETTEL Ferrari*
- Fernando ALONSO McLaren
- Jenson BUTTON McLaren
- Roberto MEHRI Marussia
- Will STEVENS Marussia
Retired: Daniel RICCIARDO (Red Bull); Carlos SAINZ JR (Toro Rosso); Pastor MALDONADO (Lotus); Nico HULKENBERG (Force India)
*Did not finish, but did complete 95% of race distance