Lewis Hamilton took his sixth victory of 2015 in the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, scoring a comprehensive win over Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg who had to recover from a poor start.
Hamilton came into the race 21 points ahead, and made a decent start from pole while title rival Rosberg made a poor getaway and was swamped by Sergio Perez (Force India), Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull), Valtteri Bottas (Williams) and Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) and exited the first corner in sixth.
Hamilton ran wide at top of Raidillon, so Perez attacked at Les Combes – crossing the S1 timing beam ahead of the Mercedes, but Hamilton clung to the inside line and retained his lead.
Hamilton led by 1.4s at the end of the opening lap, and extended his lead to 5s by lap seven.
Rosberg, who had got ahead of Vettel, then passed Bottas with a big lock-up at the chicane at the end of the opening lap, Bottas then made a mistake at La Source, so Vettel passed him for fifth.
Grosjean demoted Bottas at Les Combes to run fifth. His Lotus teammate Pastor Maldonado slowed exiting Eau Rouge on lap 2, saying: “I lost the engine” and he managed to crawl the car back to the pits.
Bottas got ahead of Grosjean in the first pitstops, but Grosjean quickly repassed him by Les Combes – and Bottas’s race was ruined by Williams fitting a medium right-rear tyre along with three softs, which meant a drivethrough penalty.
Ricciardo was the first of the frontrunners to pit, switching to the medium at the end of lap seven in an attempt to get past Perez, who responded on the next lap with a switch to softs but couldn’t stop Ricciardo undercutting him.
That restored the Mercedes 1-2 up front, with Hamilton 7.2s ahead of Rosberg by lap 11 as they ran much longer on their starting tyres.
Perez repassed Ricciardo using DRS on the Kemmel Straight on lap 12. Rosberg pitted at the end of that lap and rejoined ahead of Perez. Perez attacked Rosberg into Les Combes, but just as with Hamilton on the opening lap, he couldn’t make it around the outside.
Vettel led for a couple of laps, and pitted on lap 14, just before Hamilton was about to pass him. He rejoined in sixth, between Grosjean and Bottas.
Ricciardo had a huge moment at Raidillon on lap 16, losing time to the chasing Grosjean, who swept past him at Les Combes a couple of laps later for fourth. Grosjean then closed in on Perez and DRS-ed past him for third on lap 20.
Ricciardo was right on the back of Perez into the chicane, but as Perez pitted Ricciardo’s Red Bull suddenly lost power. Stranded on the track at the exit of the corner, the Virtual Safety Car was employed to retrieve his car.
The gap between Hamilton and Rosberg was 3.4s at this point, as Grosjean took advantage to pit for the second time. Vettel and Kvyat, who had passed Massa for eighth using DRS into Les Combes on lap six, stayed out
Hamilton complained that “Nico is definitely closer to me than when the VSC came out” and that was confirmed by the timing screen, which said they were 2.2s apart when racing resumed.
“How come Nico gained a second under VSC?” complained Hamilton again.
He extended his lead with a searing sequence of laps, pulling it out to over 5s by lap 28.
Hamilton pitted from the lead for the second and final time at the end of lap 30, with Rosberg following suit a lap later. He rattled off the remaining laps to score his sixth win of the season and extended his points lead over Rosberg to 28 points.
With Vettel gambling on a one-stop strategy, which was helped by track temperatures cooling to 33C, he fell back into the clutches of Grosjean. “Keep pushing, you can get him,” Grosjean was urged.
Vettel’s gamble ended with two laps to go when his right-rear tyre exploded on the Kemmel Straight, handing Grosjean a great podium after off-track legal wrangles for Lotus and his grid penalty.
Another big battle in the late stages was between Perez, Massa and Kvyat what became fourth. On his fresher tyres, Kvyat cruised up to the rear of their battle and Kvyat scrabbled past Massa, with a big lock-up, for sixth at Les Combes with three laps to go.
Kvyat picked off Perez with ease on the following lap with DRS assistance to grab fourth with Vettel’s late puncture.
Perez held off Massa for fifth, whose teammate Bottas finished down in ninth after his earlier tyre disaster.
Marcus Ericsson claimed the final point in 10th, as Vettel dropped to 12th.
Two burns from the stern
Starting from 16th after his qualifying disaster and a gearbox change, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was up to ninth and battling with Massa and Kvyat in the middle stages. He advanced to seventh, but was demoted by Kvyat with six laps to go who was on fresher tyres.
Behind him, Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen pulled an audacious pass on Sauber’s Felipe Nasr around the outside of Blanchimont and then lunged down his inside at the chicane.
Verstappen, who started 18th after an engine-change penalty, kept Raikkonen honest and benefited from Bottas’s drivethrough penalty. A late pitstop meant he had to repass Bottas, and it meant his strategy crossed over with Raikkonen’s.
He attacked Kimi at Les Combes on the last lap, but overshot the corner and dropped back behind him after almost spinning.
Both McLarens started from the back row after their combined 105-place grid penalty. Fernando Alonso spent the Grand Prix racing Saubers and finished behind them in 13th, while Button lost a huge amount with a hybrid problem early on, but both finished clear of the Manors of Roberto Merhi and Will Stevens.
Nico Hulkenberg almost retired his Force India after the warm-up lap due to a lack of power, but took the grid as instructed by the team, where he stalled and caused an aborted start.
Toro Rosso's Carlos Sainz pitted at the end of the second warm-up lap, also reporting “no power” and lost a lap. He would have finished last, so the team opted to retire the car with eight laps remaining.
|4||Daniil Kvyat||Red Bull||00:45.692|
|5||Sergio Perez||Force India||00:53.997|
|8||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso||00:56.076|
|12||Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari||1 lap|
|13||Fernando Alonso||McLaren||1 lap|
|14||Jenson Button||McLaren||1 lap|
|15||Roberto Merhi||Marussia||1 lap|
|16||Will Stevens||Marussia||1 lap|
|Carlos Sainz Jr.||Toro Rosso|
|Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull|
|Nico Hulkenberg||Force India|