Belgian GP: Rosberg dominates action-packed Spa race
Nico Rosberg won the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps to end Lewis Hamilton’s four-race winning F1 streak.
In his first victory since the European Grand Prix at Baku, Rosberg controlled the event from the front for his sixth win of the season.
But while his race was serene, there was pandemonium behind – starting when the Ferraris collided with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen at the first corner.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo had nothing for Rosberg, but he did have an answer for Hamilton’s burn from the stern to finish second. Hamilton surged through from the back of the grid, after taking 55-places of grid penalties, to finish third.
The result trims Hamilton's points lead over Rosberg to nine points.
The race was red-flagged after nine laps following Kevin Magnussen’s huge accident at Raidillon when he lost control on the exit kerb and spun into the tyre wall at about 150mph. He limped away from the crash scene with a damaged left ankle, with his Renault destroyed.
Story of the race
Starting from pole, Rosberg powered towards La Source in the lead as Verstappen made a poor getaway in second. Max lost places to both Ferraris, but as he tried to regain them down the inside, he came together with Raikkonen, who had already made contact with Vettel on his outside.
“They just turned into me,” claimed Verstappen. “I was not even locking up and going wide.” Vettel half spun, and Raikkonen got a puncture and required lengthy repairs in the pits as he came in with the car’s underside on fire.
Rosberg led Verstappen, Hulkenberg, Ricciardo, Felipe Massa, Romain Grosjean, Valtteri Bottas and Jolyon Palmer. With a damaged front wing, Verstappen straightlined Raidillon, and later ran wide at Pouhon, losing three places. He pitted for a new nose at the end of the opening lap.
Carlos Sainz’s Toro Rosso then blew a tyre on Kemmel Straight on lap two and he spun wildly at Les Combes as his rear wheel buckled underneath him.
Rosberg’s lead over Hulkenberg was 2.3s as the virtual safety car was deployed to clear up debris. The race resumed on lap four, with Ricciardo in third ahead of Bottas, Perez, Grosjean, Palmer, Magnussen, Esteban Gutierrez and Fernando Alonso – with Hamilton still behind him in 11th.
The race was neutralised again when Magnussen shunted heavily at Raidillon as he lost control on the kerbs on the exit, and he limped away from his shattered Renault. TV graphics registered a 12g impact, and his headrest flew out of the car in the huge collision with the tyrewall.
With more cars pitting it promoted medium-tyre starter Alonso to fourth from 22nd on the grid, but he had no data on his dashboard, so he didn’t know if he was going at the right speed under the safety car. “I will follow the cars in front,” said Alonso. Similarly-shod Hamilton was now in the top five.
Hulkenberg was the best-placed of the early pitstoppers, and ran third on new softs – but this potentially huge advantage was negated by a red flag to allow for barrier repairs, which allowed all cars to change tyres.
Rosberg pulls clear at restart
The race resumed in the order (on soft tyres unless stated): Rosberg (medium), Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Alonso, Hamilton, Massa, Perez (medium), Kvyat (up from 19th), Palmer, Grosjean, Vettel, Bottas, Gutierrez, Verstappen (medium), Esteban Ocon, Felipe Nasr and Raikkonen.
Despite being on harder tyres, Rosberg pulled away out front. Fourth-placed Alonso ran wide at Blanchimont, allowing Hamilton right back on his tail, and the Mercedes eased past him on the Kemmel Straight.
Raikkonen and Verstappen collided for the second time in the race at Les Combes. “His only interest is pushing me off the circuit,” said Raikkonen.
On the next lap, Raikkonen had to lift off on the Kemmel straight to avoid running into the back of Verstappen, who made a late defensive move. “Hey, he’s just fucking turning when I’m going full speed down the right,” said Raikkonen, who had a huge moment a lap later over the exit kerbs at Raidillon.
At the front, Rosberg continued to ease away from Ricciardo, as Hamilton closed in on Hulkenberg. Vettel passed Grosjean for ninth on lap 16, and repeated the move on Kvyat a lap later.
Hamilton DRS-ed past Hulkenberg for third on lap 18, while Verstappen bailed out of his medium-tyre run after complaining of a lack of low-speed grip.
Hamilton pitted on lap 22 for fresh softs, but it was a slow stop due to the rear jack and he rejoined ninth. Hulkenberg also pitted for mediums and banged wheels with Alonso, who was released alongside him, at the pitlane exit.
By half distance, Rosberg was 10s clear of Ricciardo, with Hamilton a distant third. Ricciardo pitted on lap 26, having faded badly at the end of his stint. He rejoined just ahead of Hamilton on the medium tyres.
Rosberg pitted with a 28s lead, rejoining on a new set of mediums.
Verstappen hit Perez at Les Combes in a battle for seventh, in a mirror image of the Raikkonen collision. Vettel passed Verstappen at La Source, but Verstappen DRS-ed back ahead on the Kemmel Straight. Vettel made the move stick a lap later, passing Verstappen into Les Combes, who locked up badly there.
Perez passed Massa for sixth at Les Combes, following some minor contact, and got ahead of Alonso for fifth. Massa lost a further place to Vettel a few laps later, and Vettel then surged past Alonso for sixth with nine laps remaining.
Hamilton pitted for the final time on lap 33, rejoining between the Force Indias of Hulkenberg and Perez. On fresh medium tyres, Hamilton made short work of Hulkenberg, but he couldn’t catch Ricciardo.
Rosberg won by a country mile from Ricciardo, with Hamilton unable to do anything about the leading Red Bull and settling for third.
Hulkenberg scored the third fourth place of his F1 career, ahead of teammate Perez – results that pushed Force India ahead of Williams in the constructors’ championship.
Vettel’s recovery from his first-corner spin ended with sixth, ahead of Alonso, Bottas, Raikkonen and Massa, who lost two spots in the closing stages.
Verstappen finished just outside the points in 11th, ahead of Haas duo Gutierrez and Grosjean, with Kvyat, Palmer, Ocon (16th on the Grand Prix debut) and Nasr rounding out the finishers. Nasr took a 5s time penalty for exceeding track limits.
Early retirements were Pascal Wehrlein and Jenson Button, who got together at Les Combes on the opening lap – the Manor punting the McLaren into the air.
“I wanted to pass them on the outside and they were coming back,” said the German. “I tried to avoid the crash but couldn’t make it.”
Marcus Ericsson, who started from the pitlane, also retired his Sauber on the opening lap.
|2||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||TAG||14.113|
|4||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||Mercedes||35.907|
|5||Sergio Perez||Force India||Mercedes||40.660|
|11||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||TAG||1'11.138|
|14||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||Ferrari||1'27.097|
|16||Esteban Ocon||Manor||Mercedes||1 Lap|
|17||Felipe Nasr||Sauber||Ferrari||1 Lap|
|Carlos Sainz Jr.||Toro Rosso||Ferrari|
Magnussen suffered cut ankle in Belgian GP crash
Belgian GP: Post-race press conference
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|Drivers||Lewis Hamilton Shop Now , Nico Rosberg Shop Now , Sebastian Vettel Shop Now , Nico Hulkenberg Shop Now , Daniel Ricciardo Shop Now , Valtteri Bottas Shop Now , Kevin Magnussen , Max Verstappen Shop Now|