Sunday, August 28, 2016


Nico Rosberg closed the points gap to title rival Lewis Hamilton with a comfortable Belgian Grand Prix win but the championship-leading Briton limited the damage with a sparkling drive from P21 to third and a podium finish behind Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo.

The race began in dramatic fashion. Rosberg made a good getaway from pole to take the lead but Max Verstappen making his first career front-row start began slowly from P2. He was passed by the fast-starting Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel, but Red Bull driver Verstappen attempted to recover by taking the inside line into La Source. Vettel though was taking a tight line on the outside of Raikkonen and there was contact, with Raikkonen spinning.

Verstappen too picked up damage and all three went backwards. Elsewhere Carlos Sainz picked up a puncture and retired from the race and incident that brought out the Virtual Safety Car, with Rosberg leading from Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo. When racing resumed again there was more drama as Renault’s Kevin Magnussen crashed out. The Dane lost the rear end of his car on the run up to Raidillon and spun off track, hitting the barriers hard with the right rear three-quarter of his car. It was a heavy impact but Magnussen was quickly out of the car and was helped away from the crash site.

The smash brought out the Safety Car and when it became clear the barriers would take some time to repair, the race was red-flagged. As drivers were disadvantaged byt the instances or took the chance to pit under the safety car, some drivers profited greatly. The two most in receipt of good fortune were McLarens Fernando Alonso and Hamilton. Both had started at the back of the field due to penalties for power unit changes but as the cars halted in pit lane following the red flag, Alonso was in fourth place and Hamilon fith.

Ahead, Rosberg was still in first place, but Ricciardo had moved past Hulkenberg who had pitted under the Safety Car. The stoppage was a boon for Ricciardo. The Red Bull driver had started fifth but had hit debris from the first corner incident and damaged his front wing. Under the red flag his team were able to change his front wing and Ricciardo took on new softs.

When the rolling start under the SC took place Rosberg and Ricciardo comfortably held position but Hamilton was on the march, quickly passing Alonso and Hulkenberg to take P3. As the front three then worked through their strategies, Hamilton eventually closed to within a second of Ricciardo. The Briton needed another stop, however, and took on a final set of medium tyres on lap 32. He attempted to reel Ricciardo in but the 18-second gap to the Australian was too large and Hamilton settled for third place behind the Red Bull man.

The Briton’s climb from P21 to P3 still set a new record for places gained at a Belgian Grand Prix. Ahead Rosberg was comfortable. For the bulk of the race he maintained a healthy gap to Ricciardo and with no mistakes made he crossed the line for his sixth win of the season and his 20th career grand prix victory with 14 seconds in hand.

Behind the top three it was an excellent afternoon for Force India, with Nico Hulkenberg fourth and tea-mate Sergio Perez fifth. The Silverstone-based team scored 22 points to move into fourth place in the Constructors’ standings, ahead of Williams whose drivers, Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa finished eighth and tenths respectively. Force India now have 103 points to Williams’ 101. Sixth place in the race went to Vettel who recovered well from the lap one incident, passing Verstappen, Bottas and Massa in the closing stages.

Alonso, meanwhile, enjoyed an excellent outing, soldiering through to seventh place. Versatappen who had drawn a sell-out crowd packed with Ducth fans to Spa, had a rollercoaster afternoon. After the start incidents he dropped to P16 before beginning a fight back. That saw him chased by Raikkonen though and the pair clashed several times during the course of the race’s first third, leading Raikkonen to brand the youngster’s defence of his position “ridiculous”. Raikkonen got the better of the Dutchman eventually, however, with strategy playing the Finn’s way. He eventually claimed ninth place behind Bottas and ahead of Massa who took the final point.

2016 Belgian Grand Prix, Spa-Francorschamp
44 laps, 308.052km., Weather: Sunny.
 P.    DRIVER            TEAM       TIME/GAP  
 1. Nico Rosberg      Mercedes AMG 1h44:51.058
 2. Daniel Ricciardo  Red Bull      +   14.115
 3. Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes AMG  +   27.634
 4. Nico Hulkenberg   Force India   +   35.907
 5. Sergio Perez      Force India   +   40.660
 6. Sebastian Vettel  Ferrari       +   45.394
 7. Fernando Alonso   McLaren       +   59.445
 8. Valtteri Bottas   Williams      + 1:00.076
 9. Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari       + 1:01.109
10. Felipe Massa      Williams      + 1:05.873
11. Max Verstappen    Red Bull      + 1:11.138
12. Esteban Gutierrez Haas          + 1:13.877
13. Romain Grosjean   Haas          + 1:16.474
14. Daniil Kvyat      Toro Rosso    + 1:27.097
15. Jolyon Palmer     Renault       + 1:33.165
16. Esteban Ocon      Manor         +    1 lap
17. Felipe Nasr       Sauber        +    1 lap

2014 D.Riccirdo - Red Bull - 1h24:36.556
2015 L.Hamilton - Mercedes AMG - 1h23:40.387

Fastest Lap: Lewis Hamilton - 1:51.583        

NOT CLASSIFIED:                               
Kevin Magnussen    Renault
Marcus Ericsson    Sauber
Carlos Sainz JR.   Toro Rosso
Jenson Button      McLaren
Pascal Wehrlein    Manor

After Races 13:
 Drivers:                  Constructors:      
 1. Lewis Hamilton   232   1. Mercedes AMG 455
 2. Nico Rosberg     223   2. Red Bull     274
 3. Daniel Ricciardo 151   3. Ferrari      252
 4. Sebastian Vettel 128   4. Force India  103
 5. Kimi Raikkonen   124   5. Williams     101
 6. Max Verstappen   115   6. McLaren       48
 7. Valtteri Bottas   62   7. Toro Rosso    45
 8. Sergio Perez      58   8. Haas          28
 9. Nico Hulkenberg   45   9. Renault        6
10. Felipe Massa      39  10. Manor          1
11. Fernando Alonso   30
12. Carlos Sainz JR.  30
13. Romain Grosjean   28
14. Daniil Kvyat      23
15. Jenson Button     17
16. Kevin Magnussen    6
17. Pascal Wehrlein    1
18. Stoffel Vandoorne  1