Formula 1

Rosberg Wins Carnage Filled Belgian GP

The Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg kept a cool head, and drove through what can only be described as carnage, to take his sixth victory of the season at the Belgian Grand Prix today.

Rosberg’s victory means he has now cut the gap in the driver’s championship down to just nine points from his team mate Lewis Hamilton. He lead from the first lap through the carnage of the race and never once looked totally under pressure of losing that 1st place. Meanwhile it was a good race for the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo, who also drove through the madness and secured his second 2nd place finish in a row. The Australian never seemed quite able to mount a challenge to Rosberg, but drove a solid race regardless. Hamilton finished 3rd today after starting the race in 21st place. It was a good driver through the field from the current world champion, though his task was made slightly easier by a dramatic opening lap.

First lap incidents are always on the card at Spa and this race was no exception, as both the Ferrari’s of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, as well as the Red Bull of Max Verstappen came together. Essentially costing the three of them the chance of a podium finish. The three drivers arrived at the hairpin together, and it was pretty clear three wasn’t going into one. Verstappen was on one side of Raikkonen with Vettel the other side. As Vettel move across Raikkonen had no were to go thanks to Verstappen. In the end the three came together. The result of the contact saw Vettel spin off track and fall to the back, Raikkonen suffer a puncture, and Verstappen to lose a good chunk of his front wing. If the Ferrari team hoped that would be an end to the drama they were sorely mistaken, as during his pit stop to get new tyres the underneath of Raikkonen’s car caught fire.

They were not the only ones to get caught out in the first lap melee, as both Jenson Button and Pascal Wehrlein tangled, resulting in both of them retiring by the end of the first lap. As for the Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz he tried in vain to get his car back to the pits to fix the damage caused to his car during the opening lap. However, the damage proved to be too much, and after his rear wing practically collapsed and was being dragged along behind him, Sainz parked the car up in a safe place.

By far the most heart stopping moment came a few laps in when the Renault of Kevin Magnussen suffered a huge smash into the barriers at the summit of Eau Rouge, one of the fastest corners on the calendar taken at speeds of at least 150mph. The force of the crash was so serious the headrest was thrown from the car rather dramatically. Despite this, Magnussen was seen limping away from the car a few moments later. Renault have reported Magnussen suffered an ankle injury and was taken to a nearby hospital for checks. As a result of the incident the safety car was brought out for four laps before there was a 20-minute red flag period while the barrier was fixed and debris was swept away.

If there was a hope things would go smoother once the race got underway again they were dashed very quickly. The drivers all seemed fired up after summer break, and there was a lot of overtaking up and down the field. One driver however who seemed to be getting all the attention was Verstappen. Verstappen managed what can only be described as some dangerous and overly-aggressive defending during the race, with Raikkonen bearing the brunt of the teenager’s aggressive moves. The Red Bull driver even appeared to swerve in the breaking zone, causing Raikkonen to have to take action to avid running into the back of him. The stewards did not seem to think the move warranted an investigation, but many feel Verstappen broke some of the gentlemanly codes to the rules of engagement when racing.

Elsewhere in the grid it was a great weekend for the Force India boys as Nico Hulkenberg equalled his best-ever result in F1 by taking 4th ahead of his team-mate Sergio Perez in 5th. The result now moves Force India 1 point ahead of Williams in the constructor’s championship, as the two teams look ready to fight it out for the rest of the season.

Vettel did well to recover from his first lap incident to finish 6th for the Ferrari team ahead of the McLaren of Fernando Alonso, who started alongside Hamilton on the back row. He too had to fight his way through the field in an improving McLaren. While his points today mean that the team also moves ahead of Toro Rosso to 6th place in the constructor’s championship.

“To be in the points at a circuit like this was unthinkable a few months ago,” said Fernando after the race.

Birthday boy and Williams driver Valtteri Bottas had to settle for 8th today ahead of Raikkonen in the Ferrari in 9th, and his team mate Felipe Massa in 10th, who rounded out the points. Verstappen finished outside the pints in his Red Bull in 11th, followed by the two Haas drivers of Esteban Gutierrez and Romain Grosjean in 12th and 13th. Daniil Kvyat was in the sole surviving Toro Rosso in 14th with Jolyon Palmer in the Renault in 16th. It was a good debut for Manor driver Esteban Ocon, who managed to finish 16th ahead of Felipe Nasr in the Sauber in 17th as the last of the classified runners.

Overall the race was very gripping at the start, with the first lap of Spa not disappointing, after the race got back underway we were treated to some masterful overtakes and battles for position. Though it is fair to say that some of the moves were controversial, especially from Verstappen, as our DTM reporter Mathew Hull picked up on.

“The main talking point from the race is whether or not Verstappen has overstepped the mark with his aggressive defending. I would definitely say that he has done exactly that and should have at the very least been in consideration for a penalty for one of his many controversial moves at Les Combes and the straight that precedes the corner. But rising above his repeat offence of pushing a driver wide at Les Combes is his incident with Raikkonen which should have definitely gotten him a penalty. That swerve in the braking area was dangerous and perhaps if you put a less seasoned driver than Raikkonen behind the wheel of the car behind the Dutchman you would have gotten a large accident.”

I’m inclined to agree with Mathew. My thoughts on Verstappen’s driving this afternoon was it was simply too aggressive. He had way too many incidents going on up and down the field from the second the lights were out. Even if he cannot be blamed for the first lap incident, his defending from Raikkonen was outright dangerous at points. The man issue I thing Verstappen had with this was he was simply trying too hard. I get it’s pretty much his home Grand Prix. With the Belgian fans as well as the legions of Dutch supporters who were there for him this weekend. But he’s trying too hard right now and making very dangerous mistakes and moves. As Mathew pointed out he was lucky it was Raikkonen behind him, because if not I think he could have had a huge accident. If I was his race engineer I would have been telling him to dial it back a bit, to calm down, and to get him to stop using his car as a battering ram. He is talented. But this race really wasn’t him showing off his talent.

I’ll leave you now with my highlight of the weekend. And as Mark Webber was doing the podium interview’s this weekend after celebrating his 40th birthday yesterday, fellow Australian Daniel Ricciardo helped him celebrate in style. Happy Birthday Aussie Grit.

Belgian GP race result
1. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:44:51
2. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull
3. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
4. Nico Hulkenberg, Force India
5. Sergio Perez, Force India
6. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari
7. Fernando Alonso, McLaren
8. Valtteri Bottas, Williams
9. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari
10. Felipe Massa, Williams
11. Max Verstappen, Red Bull
12. Esteban Gutierrez, Haas
13. Romain Grosjean, Haas
14. Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso
15. Jolyon Palmer, Renault
16. Esteban Ocon, Manor, + 1 lap
17. Felipe Nasr, Sauber, + 1 lap
18. Kevin Magnussen, Renault, DNF
19. Pascal Wehrlein, Manor, DNF
20. Jenson Button, McLaren, DNF
21. Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso, DNF
22. Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, DNF

Feature Image Credit: Mercedes AMG Petronas Press Release

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