Victory at Spa-Francorchamps for Lewis Hamilton after winning the 2015 Belgian Grand Prix
Ferrari were marking their 900th Formula One Grand Prix, McLaren set a new record for grid penalties with 105, but Hamilton was the man at the front claiming victory at Spa. Ferrari’s day was also spoiled by Vettel’s tyre exploding on the penultimate lap, gifting 3rd to Grosjean who claimed his first podium since the 2013 USGP.
The weekend ended Formula One’s summer break and Rosberg engaged the action at the front of the pack across first and second free practice. But when Saturday came around, Lewis put his foot ahead in FP3 and pushed on for pole. With pole, Lewis set a record of his own as he claimed his sixth pole in a row for the first time in his career and the first time someone has managed it since Michael Schumacher back in 2001-2002. But pole is not always a great thing to have at Spa with the long Kemmel straight so soon after the line.
New start procedures for this race could also have caused Hamilton some issues off the line and back into the pack, but after one formation lap the field rolled around once more after Hulkenberg caused an aborted start.
He initially reported a loss of power on the formation lap but as the boost appeared to come back, Force India instructed him to take the grid. Unfortunately he lost power again and prevented the race from starting. And while the field carried out another formation lap, Sainz then reported a loss of power and pitted at the end of the lap but was later able to rejoin the action after the team restarted the car. Maldonado not so soon also retired at the end of his second lap when he lost power.
Regardless of power issues elsewhere, the start went ahead second time round and rocketing off the line was Sergio Perez from fourth. A rapid start allowed the Mexican to move up to second and later challenge Hamilton for the lead at the end of the Kemmel straight thanks to the Force India’s incredible straight line speed. On the other hand, Rosberg had a dreadful start and slumped to fifth and drawn into a fight with Vettel as the Ferrari moved up a few positions.
As Hamilton pulled away from Perez at the front, Rosberg and Vettel began their march to the front by picking off Bottas. Over the early stages of the race it became apparent just how much the Williams was struggling for the top straight line speed as the Finn fell further down the order. Ericsson in the Sauber was also being picked off at a higher rate with the Sauber easy picking for the midfield runners.
As some settled down for the early run, Ricciardo engaged the pit-stop window as Red Bull attempted to undercut Perez for second. Once the Force India also pitted, it showed Red Bull had made a great call as they gained second at the end of lap 9.
In the other Red Bull, Kvyat was sending his car miles into the run off at the Bus Stop chicane after a huge lock up. Luckily those tyres were approaching the end of their stint as he pitted when he next arrived at that part of the track. One other car in the pits at the time was Bottas, but a colossal error by the Williams team saw Valtteri receive a drive-through penalty after they fitted one medium and three soft tyres to his car.
But while Williams investigated into who messed up the most, Max Verstappen and Felipe Nasr were showing the rookies are pretty good at wheel to wheel Formula One racing as the pair went flat out through Blanchimont, side-by-side before hard braking into the bus-stop chicane saw Verstappen gain the position.
For Mercedes, when they brought Rosberg into the pits and fitted a complete set of medium tyres he was able to gain track position over both Ricciardo and Perez for second. Rosberg instantly set about eating Hamilton’s lead away.
Ricciardo was also soon cruising behind Grosjean as the Lotus pulled off a great move on the Aussie around the outside at Les Combes to take fourth place. But loosing fourth was the least of Ricciardo’s issues as three laps later he was out of the race and bringing out a virtual safety car period.
This period enraged Hamilton out in front as he felt Rosberg gained a second on him under the VSC, where all drivers are meant to carry on at a set speed. Other drivers used this period to stop for another change of tyres, including Grosjean who upon the restart picked off the rapid Perez for fourth.
Regardless of if Nico had gained time or not under the VSC, which he clearly made some gains, Lewis recreated a greater lead over the next few laps. Elsewhere Kvyat was walking past Bottas on the Kemmel Straight after stopping for fresh tyres.
Mercedes soon were also preparing for new tyres for each of their drivers but the threat of rain was moving closer to the track, but with no immediate danger. And with that, both Hamilton & Rosberg pitted for their last scheduled stop to change back onto the option tyres.
Ferrari opted not to follow suit with pitting their lead driver again, forcing Vettel to stay on heavily used medium tyres despite suggesting another pit stop. This being while the man behind, Grosjean, was rolling around on tyres seven laps younger and much quicker as he pushed for the podium. Meanwhile, Sainz retired from the race after completing 33 laps of Spa despite almost retiring before the race even got going.
As the race neared its end, Kvyat was the man on the move as he rapidly gained on Raikkonen, then Massa and then Perez. Picking them off one-by-one down the Kemmel Straight with the DRS aiding his assaults.
But for the man he replaced at Red Bull, Vettel’s race was blowing up. Literally, as his rear-right Pirelli exploded down the Kemmel Straight just after Raidillon. Had the tyre gave way through Eau Rouge, Vettel would have been heading straight into a disastrous crash.
With Vettel blown out the way, Grosjean rolled home to claim his first podium finish since the 2013 US Grand Prix and his tenth podium of his career. But out in front it was the championship leader leading his championship rival over the line as Hamilton claimed yet another win.
Further back, the racing was still unfolding as Massa, Raikkonen and Verstappen queued up behind Perez allowing the young Russian a chance to gain P7 from the experience Finn but a slight overshoot into Les Combes allowed Kimi backed ahead of Max.
Despite not winning today, Rosberg equalled the record held by Graham Hill for 36 podium finishes. Hamilton also set a podium record of his own with today marking his 80th podium, drawing him level with his idol Ayrton Senna in fourth on the all-time lists.