The Belgian Grand Prix had all the makings of one of the best Grand Prix’s this season. With chaos, controversy, and overtakes up and down the field. But how exactly do the drivers stack up against each other in their whole weekend performances? We have the official Overtake ratings out of 5 for each driver.
Nico Rosberg has come back after summer break and did what he needed to do, win the race. After some less than stellar performances in the last few races Rosberg needed to bounce back this weekend and once again shift the momentum in his favour. Rosberg had the measure of him team mate in the Free Practice sessions of Friday. While it could be argued he had an easier time in qualifying due to the fact Hamilton only did the one lap knowing he was starting at the back, the Mercedes did look to be under pressure from the Red Bull of Verstappen. And when he needed to Rosberg delivered the lap to take pole by a tenth of a second. He led into the first corner and drove a controlled race through the safety car and red flag to take a 20th career victory. He now needs to focus on the Italian Grand Prix and keep the momentum going.
It’s fair to say Daniel Ricciardo had a much quieter weekend in Spa compared to him team mate Max Verstappen. Verstappen looked to have the edge in the free practice sessions as well as qualifying. Though Ricciardo was happy with his qualifying session, saying he felt he had the better strategy starting on the soft tyres compared to his team mate on the supersoft tyres. It’s hard to tell if this was Ricciardo trying to look for the positives in a slightly disappointing qualifying, or if he genuinely believed was he was saying. Thanks to the carnage of the opening laps we’ll never know if Ricciardo had the better strategy to beat his team mate. But what Ricciardo showed yesterday was a very disciplined drive. He easily could have chased after Rosberg, destroyed his tyres, and cost himself 2nd or even 3rd with his actions. But he didn’t. Ricciardo quickly realised he couldn’t beat Rosberg, and set about protecting 2nd from Hamilton. A very smart move in my opinion.
Lewis Hamilton went into this weekend knowing it was all about damage limitation. He knew for a fact he was going to have to take his engine penalties here and start at the back, eventually amassing a 55 place grid penalty from his various engine and gearbox changes. So it is perhaps understandable Hamilton has looked a little shaky compared to Rosberg on Friday in the practice sessions. He did claw in back in FP3 on Saturday to finish ahead of him before putting in a banker lap for qualifying and sitting out after the first session. During the race Hamilton managed a controlled drive through the field. It could have been so easy for him to get caught up in some of the first lap dramas. But he stayed out of them and his reward was a steady climb up the field to a podium position. It was a solid performance from him for the weekend. What will be key is for Hamilton to come out fighting in Italy and stop Rosberg gaining momentum.
Oh Nico Hulkenberg. It was once again a case of always the bridesmaid never the bride, as he finished just of the podium positions in 4th place, equalling his best finishing position to date. As well as getting him a high points finish he’s been rather lacking in this season so far. Over the weekend he was close in terms of performance to his team mate Sergio Perez, though Perez did beat him to 6th in qualifying by a tenth of a second. However, it was during the first laps of the race Hulkenberg was able to capitalise on the madness around him. He kept his driving clean and ran as high as second at one point before falling down to third before the red flag for Magnussen. “The red flag proved costly because it neutralised things and bunched everybody back up again,” Hulkenberg said during his interview post-race. A rather interesting battle in the pits to stay ahead of Fernando Alonso was one of his race highlights. Overall it was a solid drive from Hulkenberg that when combined with his team mate is the reason they’re now 4th in the constructors.
Sergio Perez once again carried on showing us why he is deserving of a second chance at a top team with another good weekend. He and team mate Nico Hulkenberg battled through the Free Practice sessions to be the faster driver, with Hulkenberg winning that battle 2:1. However in qualifying Perez was able to beat him by a tenth of a second to steal 6th place on the grid. You may then think a race from 6th to 5th is not that impressive. However, what should be noted is Perez was running as low as 9th after the first lap incidents. On the whole it was a sensible drive from Perez. And as previously mentioned the good haul of points from both Force India boys moves them ahead of the Williams team in the battle for constructors.
I think Sebastian Vettel will be one of the first to admit this was not his best weekend. Vettel seems to be having, by his standards at least, a very scrappy season. And Spa is another race he didn’t maximise the chances he had. From the first practice session he looked to be on the back foot to his team mate Kimi Raikkonen, a four-time race winner of Spa. Mistakes on his qualifying lap arguably cost him the team’s first chance of a front row start this season, that he immediately blamed on the tyres giving up before the end. The race really was no better. A lot of people blame the first corner incident that took out Verstappen, Raikkonen and Vettel for a podium position, on Vettel. Regardless of it was his fault or not his drive from the back to 6th was filled with mistakes and wasn’t quite the usual polished performance we’d expect from the four-time world champion.
Fernando Alonso must be feeling pretty proud of himself following the race in Belgium. Having missed the Free Practice One thanks to a pesky water leak before being beaten by him team mate in Free Practice two it was hardly the ideal start to the weekend. He too like Hamilton went into qualifying knowing he would be starting at the back of the grid regardless of what happened. What did happen though was his car broke down and he failed to even set a timed lap. Meaning he would start 22nd for the race. Like Hamilton he too had to mount a battle through the pack, though in a much worse car than the Mercedes. By the end of the first lap Alonso was running in 11th place, briefly managing to get to 4th before the red flag. What followed for him at the restart was an afternoon of sheer defensive driving to maintain a solid points finish in 7th. To keep both the Williams, and one Ferrari behind him was seriously impressive. And it showed us that despite what people may say, there’s still a lot of fight in the Spaniard.
It really was another case of “What if” for Valtteri Bottas. He’s undeniably been the stronger of the two Williams drivers this weekend, comfortably beating his team mate Felipe Massa in all three Free Practice sessions and Qualifying too. Come race day, and on his birthday too, things just didn’t seem to fall into place. The team were caught out by the safety car for Magnussen, which meant they couldn’t maximise the potential to get up the order. Towards the end of the race, when it was evident Massa wasn’t going to be able to hunt down Alonso, the team gave Bottas the birthday gift of a team order. Making Massa move out of his way so he could hunt down Alonso for a few more points to keep Williams 4th in constructors. Ultimately it was too little too late and Bottas finished the race in 8th where he qualified. Overall it was a solid race, but not one of his best performances.
Many drivers had challenging races yesterday, but you get the feeling if they would complain to Kimi Raikkonen about them, they would be told to f***k off in true Raikkonen style. Over the years, with his four victories here, Raikkonen has been come to known as a Spa specialist. Even landing him the nickname the King of Spa. Undoubtedly he looked on top form here once again, beating his team mate Vettel in all three practice sessions and out-qualifying him too. It all seemed to unravel on the first corner though. Raikkonen was more of an innocent victim than someone you could blame for what happened. But the subsequent puncture, as well as his car catching fire in the pits, pretty much ruined his race. Raikkonen then had to manage a fight back through the field, which involved battling Max Verstappen. Rather critical of the teenager’s questionable defence, Raikkonen was well within his rights to chastise Verstappen in his post-race interviews. 9th place really was the best he could have hoped for from this weekend.
With speculation rife about whether Felipe Massa will be at Williams next season, the Brazilian really needed a weekend to show off what he was capable of. That weekend would not be here at Spa. Massa was constantly out performed by team mate Bottas in the Practise sessions. While in Qualifying he only managed 10th, with the McLaren of Jenson Button in front of him. Many suspect that Button will be the driver to take over from Massa at Williams, so seeing him in front could hardly be a comforting thought for him. During the race Massa suffered with tyre degradation. The final straw came when he was asked to move over for his team mate in the last few laps, reportedly against his will. He carried out the order eventually, and even fell behind Raikkonen on the last lap or so. A single world championship point will hardly be a consolation prize, especially as Hulkenberg has now leapfrogged him in the driver’s championship.
From Red Bull Wunderkind to F1’s most dangerous driver on the grid in just one race, it was certainly an interesting weekend for Max Verstappen. Throughout the Free Practice’s and Qualifying Verstappen easily looked to have the advantage over team mate Riccardo. Even managing to become F1’s youngest front row starter in the process. Many had him tipped to be the driver to challenge for the win in Belgium, but it all came apart on the first lap. Verstappen was arguably blameless in his tangle with Vettel and Raikkonen that cost him a front wing, and the chance of a podium in front of the adoring Belgian and Dutch crowd there this weekend. But his driving after that was all his own doing, with many blasting his defensive moves on Raikkonen as dangerous. I’m inclined to agree with him. It wasn’t just Raikkonen Verstappen was aggressive with. It was many drivers up and down the grid. He easily could have caused a huge accident with his driving yesterday, but it’s clear he doesn’t feel so. Quick to brand the criticism of his driving from Vettel and Raikkonen as a “big lie.” I believe the criticism of his driving was just, and this was hardly a race that showed off his talent.
Esteban Gutierrez had another solid weekend in the Haas despite still not securing a point since his return to the grid. In the first two Free Practice sessions he appeared comfortable. But in Free Practice 3 Saturday he was accused of some dangerous driving, when he appeared to slow on the racing line on the Kemmel straight, endangering Pascal Wehrlein who was on a hot lap at the time. The stewards took a dim view on the move and subsequently gave him a grid penalty as well as points on his licence for the move. He qualified solidly in 13th before the penalty. Though the race was where Gutierrez shined. He appeared to be much better at tyre conservation that his team mate Romain Grosjean, and as a result for the third successive race in a row he was able to finish ahead of his team mate. You just get the feeling he might have been in with a shot of a point without the grid penalty holding him back.
Once again it was a bit of an underwhelming race weekend for Romain Grosjean. While he did finish comfortably ahead of his team mate Gutierrez in the practice sessions, his grumpy side reared its ugly head again as he struggled for grip and performance. He came very close to making it into Q3 but missed out on getting in by a small margin. Ultimately Grosjean’s race was compromised by a bad strategy call by Haas to bring him and Gutierrez when the safety car came out for Magnussen. A few laps later the race was red flagged, effectively giving their competitors a free pit stop over them. As previously mentioned Grosjean was more heavy handed on his tyres and couldn’t preserve them as well as his team mate Gutierrez, which resulted in him finishing behind him for the third successive race.
After a disappointing few races since his return to Toro Rosso, Daniil Kvyat must have been praying for a decent race weekend. The main issue for the Toro Rosso here is the fact they are running a 2015 Ferrari engine, which means they’re down on power compared to the rest of the grid. Despite this it was a better weekend for Kvyat. He managed to out-pace his team mate Carlos Sainz in two of the practice sessions and looked quite comfortable in the car. However, he faltered in qualifying, being eliminated in the first part of qualifying while his team mate went on to the second part. He kept out of trouble at the start though and at one point the car even looked on for a points finish. The main issue was the lack of power behind the car this weekend costing Kvyat his points. And with Monza another power reliant track, the chances of a solid race for Kvyat will have to wait till Singapore.
It was yet another questionable performance from Jolyon Palmer over the weekend as a whole. The British driver has yet to score a world championship point. This is a man who should be driving to prove he is worth a drive in F1, but there doesn’t seem to be the spark in his driving to prove that. He was consistently outperformed all weekend by him team mate Kevin Magnussen, who was faster in all three Free Practice sessions and Qualifying. The only solace from Qualifying was Palmer managed to get into the second part of qualifying, the first time both Renaults have done so since Australia this year. During the race Palmer really struggled with tyre degradation, and was openly critical with his team about it. But overall it was another weekend of close, but not quite enough, from Palmer.
It was a great debut weekend for Esteban Ocon following his promotion to a race seat at Manor for the second half of the season. He was able to outpace his highly regarded team mate in Free Practice one, drawing first blood in the fight of the talented rookies. And while Pascal Wehrlein did manage to beat him in the other two Free Practice sessions and Qualifying, Ocon showed he was worth the hype too, never once finishing in last place in any session. It could have been so easy for him to get caught up in some of the first lap carnage but he drove a clean race to finish 16th, but more importantly ahead of Felipe Nasr. For a debut weekend it was a solid performance, and one that should keep Manor happy for now.
It was another tough weekend for the Sauber team and for Felipe Nasr. The team came with some new updates on the car in their battle to not be last in constructors, though it would appear they didn’t work as well as the team hoped. Nasr managed a close battle with his team mate Marcus Ericsson through the Free Practices, with Ericsson winning that battle 2:1. Nasr managed to out-qualify Ericsson, however much like Hamilton he went into the session knowing no matter what he had to take a penalty. And like Hamilton he may have just put in a banker lap, meaning Nasr was never really at risk. He did well to escape the first laps of madness, though he did finish behind the Manor of Ocon, and was the last of the classified runners in 17th.
Drivers who manage to get a DNF during the race will not be given ratings unless they are officially classified by the FIA (IE they completed 90% of the race distance.)
Drivers who got a DNF in Spa: Kevin Magnussen, Pascal Wehrlein, Jenson Button, Carlos Sainz, and Marcus Ericsson.
Feature Image Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circuit_de_Spa-Francorchamps#/media/File:Spa-Francorchamps_overview.jpg