Nico Rosberg wins a chaotic Belgian Grand Prix.
Verstappen vs Raikkonen, Hamilton and Alonso charging through the field, and Rosberg winning the 2016 Belgian Grand Prix. Plenty of action for the packed out Spa crowd to enjoy as Rosberg eased to victory amidst plenty of chaos.
With early season engine changes hampering Hamilton, grid penalties were inevitable. So, in line with the overtaking possibilities presented at Spa, Hamilton and his Mercedes crew opted to bank three power units for later in the season at the cost of a mega grid-pen here.
Like Hamilton, Alonso too had to take a mega grid-pen forcing him to start the race from the back of the grid alongside his 2007 McLaren team-mate. Although as Mercedes broke a seal on Hamilton’s gearbox overnight, a pit-lane start seemed on the cards.
In the end, however, Hamilton was given a grid starting spot after the FIA deemed they had handed Lewis the wrong penalty. This decision came as the seal was broken while under FIA supervision rather than it being a breach of parc ferme.
Once on the grid, Hamilton and Alonso also opted for a set of medium tyres each. Unlike every other driver on the grid, who either opted for a new set of soft tyres or the tyres the top 10 qualified on.
When the red lights faded away and the 2016 Belgian Grand Prix was underway, the youngest front row starter in Formula One history bogged down and found himself instantly behind the fast starting Ferrari’s. With Rosberg scuppering away from pole.
But with Vettel wide to the left, Max looked to regain the lost positions by taking to the inside of the corner. Unfortunately, Vettel chopped down for the corner and collided with his team-mate – pinching Verstappen on the apex.
The contact between the three drivers saw Vettel spin out as Raikkonen limped away with a puncture and Verstappen fought for control after losing his front wing.
More positions fell by the sides of Verstappen across the opening lap as he continued to struggle on his tour back to the pits. And while the crowds cried in pain, more drivers were retiring from the race as Wehrlein rear-ended Button at Les Combes.
Before the dust could even settle on Buton and Wehrlein’s incident, another was unfolding with Carlos Sainz now out of the race as his right-rear Pirelli exploded down the Kemmel Straight.
Debris from his tyre laid strewn across the track as Sainz attempted to limp back to the pits. But with the tyre shredding, his rear-wing broke and he limped off to the side of the track as a Virtual Safety Car was activated.
Once underway again, Rosberg had already built a sizeable lead over his nearest competitor. With Raikkonen now a lap down to the leaders following a pit stop that saw flames splatter from under his car.
Raikkonen, though, would only be a lap down for a short spell of time as the full Safety Car was coming out following a colossal crash for Kevin Magnussen.
Magnussen flew over the crest at the top of the Eau Rouge hill, taking no more than the accepted amount of kerb. But as he applied the throttle out of Raidillon, the rear snapped.
K-Mag tried to catch the snatch, but the car flicked into a spin. Seeing the Renault smash into the tyre wall backwards, completely delaminating the rear corner of the car. As the car came to a stop and the dust fell, the head rest came flying off as well. Luckily, Magnussen was able to walk away, though, with nothing worse than an ankle injury.
With the Safety Car out while the Renault was recovered, a lot of drivers hit the pit lane for their first stops. But while they fell down the order, Hamilton and Alonso continued to pick up places and found themselves nestled in the top five – yet to stop.
Then, with the red flags out to rebuild the barrier, they would go on to take a free pit-stop along with the leading Rosberg and Ricciardo. Unfortunately for Hulkenberg, he had already made a pit-stop before the red flag fell and found himself running in third.
Come the restart, Rosberg bolted away at the front. But a little further back, overtakes were already on the cards as Massa looked to overtake Hamilton at the Bus Stop Chicane.
Massa, though, opted to back out of the move. Yet that choice left him under pressure from Perez into La Source as the Force India’s flew around Spa. However, for now, Massa managed to hold onto sixth place, ahead of Perez. But the afternoon would be long for Massa as he found himself constantly challenged into the Les Combes chicane.
With Massa not making the move on Hamilton stick, Lewis was able to keep Alonso’s McLaren in sight. And after Fernando was unable to get ahead of Hulkenberg on the first lap following re-start, Hamilton edged ahead of the McLaren down Kemmel Straight next time round.
Further down the order, Verstappen and Raikkonen were coming to blows again. With Raikkonen looking around the outside of the Verstappen. But with his aggressive attitude, Verstappen tried to fight back by taking the inside of the corner. But the move forced Kimi off track, and ahead, forcing him to hand the position back to the Red Bull.
Raikkonen: “His [Verstappen’s] only interest is pushing me off the track. This is just f****** ridiculous.”
Then on the next time round, Kimi found himself tucked in nicely behind the Red Bull. Slipstreaming with DRS, Raikkonen had the move on Verstappen down the Kemmel Straight lined up. But Max edged over as Kimi started to make his move – forcing the Ferrari to back out. At the speed they were doing, Max’s defensive move was clearly too late and very dangerous – unlike the incident between the pair back in
At the speed they were doing, Max’s defensive move was clearly too late and very dangerous – unlike the incident between the pair back in Hungary that left Raikkonen questioning Verstappen’s defensive moves.
Raikkonen: “Come on this is f****** ridiculous now! He’s [Verstappen’s] f****** moving all over the road!”
While Verstappen and Raikkonen fought at the rear of the field, Hamilton was fighting Hulkenberg for third. And despite a slight move by Hulkenberg to defend the inside line, Hamilton blasted by with DRS as he found himself just nine seconds off the lead.
After coming to blows with Verstappen throughout the early stages, Kimi now found himself coming to blows with Grosjean. Raikkonen had tried to take the inside line on the Haas into Les Combes. But Grosjean came back at him, clipping Kimi’s front tyre with the rear right of the Haas.
Back on the radio, Raikkonen feared more damage. Barking: “Check if I have a f****** puncture again.”
Despite spending all of practice focusing on race pace over qualifying, Hamilton began to slide on the soft tyres. So much so, Rosberg while in clean air gained over a second to Hamilton in the middle sector alone.
Eating away at his grip, Lewis was forced to pit. But a slow stop as the rear jack took an age to detach left Hamilton exiting the pits behind Hulkenberg. Hamilton was soon latching onto the rear of Hulkenberg, though. Moving back into third.
Once behind the Mercedes, Hulkenberg too was peeling into the pits while in the company of Fernando Alonso. And as the Force India edged down the pit lane, Fernando was peeling out of his box almost into the path of the German.
Although McLaren was not investigated for an unsafe release, with Fernando keeping to the right of the fast lane, Alonso did not yield as the pit exit narrowed. Causing a slight clip of contact between his front wing and Hulkenberg’s rear. Luckily for both, no damage was caused.
Like Raikkonen and his incident with Grosjean, Verstappen kept himself in the spotlight as he found himself involved in another incident at Les Combes.
This time Verstappen was fighting off Sergio Perez, as the Mexican looked to go around the outside. But like with Raikkonen, Verstappen fought back under braking and forced the Force India off the track following a small amount of contact.
Perez, though, was able to move ahead of the Dutchman. And as Max struggled for traction out of La Source, Vettel seized his chance to take another place from Verstappen. DRS, however, allowed Verstappen to re-take the place from the Ferrari. Although more life in his tyres allowed Vettel to keep the fight going and take the place.
Forced to stop again, with tyres falling off, Hamilton saw what he had reduced to a three-second deficit to Ricciardo open to over 10-seconds. And once more, he saw the rear of Hulkenberg’s Force India sat in front of his Mercedes. But with fresher mediums fitted, he was easily able to dispatch Hulkenberg and set about catching Ricciardo again.
Unfortunately, the gap between Hamilton and Ricciardo was now too large for Lewis to eclipse. Despite setting a new fastest lap of the race as he set about his work.
Hunting hard was not only for Hamilton in the late stages of the race, with Bottas fighting his way past his team-mate as he gunned for seventh from Alonso. Meanwhile, Raikkonen lurked in the final point scoring position – dispatching the ex-Ferrari driver not long after.
All the while, out in front Rosberg continued to lap Spa-Francorchamps without a challenge as he took his sixth victory of the season.
Now, the championship lead Hamilton holds over his team-mate has been reduced to nine points going into Monza for next weekend’s Italian Grand Prix.
|16||Esteban Ocon||1 Lap|
|17||Felipe Nasr||1 Lap|
|DNF||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Tyre|