Daniel Ricciardo took his third win of the season as a second-lap collision involving Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton badly compromised Mercedes’ race. Rosberg suffered front wing damage but eventually fought his way back to second place but Hamilton, who sustained a puncture in the incident, dropped to the back of the field and finally retired on lap 39.
Valtteri Bottas claimed his fourth podium finish of the season with third place ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, who took his best result of the season so far.
Before the start, Fernando Alonso’s afternoon was already going badly. The Ferrari driver’s car was still on jacks as the parade lap began and though he finally got going, members of his crew were still on the grid inside the 15-second cut-off point before the formation lap. It would later earn him a five-second stop-go penalty.
At the start Hamilton passed the slow-starting Rosberg and stole into the lead on the run up to La Source. Vettel too made a good start and passed his fellow German around the outside. Vettel then attempted to overtake Hamilton into Les Combes but outbraked himself, ran wide and rejoined behind Rosberg.
The drama wasn’t over, however. On the following lap Rosberg attempted a pass on his team-mate at Les Combes, but as Hamilton shut the door the pair collided, the right side of Rosberg’s front wing clipping the rear left-tyre of Hamilton’s car.
The Briton immediately swerved off track with a puncture while Rosberg shipped heavy front-end damage. Hamilton limped back to the pits for a new wheel, but while Rosberg reported much damage he was told to stay out and see how matters developed.
Behind the front two, Ricciardo was on the move, passing Alonso at Les Combes. He was soon on Vettel’s tail and overtook his team-mate when the champion ran wide at Pouhon. The Australian then set off after Rosberg who appeared to be suffering badly due to the front wing damage. Ricciardo closed to within a second and Mercedes took the decision to pit the leader for a new wing and medium tyres. The Red Bull driver assumed the lead.
Valtteri Bottas too was making a move. The Finn passed Alonso for third on lap eight, overtaking the Ferrari under DRS on the Kemmel Straight.
Rosberg was soon in trouble again. On lap 10 he picked up some debris on the track while racing down the Kemmel Straight. The debris became entangled in the aerial on the nose cone of his car and fluttered dangerously around his steering wheel.
That round of stops was completed by the end of lap 15. Ricciardo, on softs, still led, with Kimi Raikkonen now second ahead of Vettel. Rosberg, who took on medium tyres during his stop, was now fourth ahead of Bottas, Magnussen and Alonso. Hamilton was now 16th and some 16 seconds adrift of Sauber’s Adrian Sutil.
On lap 16 Rosberg attempted to pass Vettel for third place but ran wide under braking and the error allowed Bottas to close and eventually pass the Mercedes driver under DRS on the following lap as the pair raced down the long Kemmel Straight.
Rosberg then reported that he was getting significant vibration from the tyre he had lit up attempting the pass on Vettel and he was forced to pit again on lap 19, taking on more medium rubber. He rejoined in 11th place but was soon up to ninth behind Sergio Perez.
Raikkonen made his second stop from second place on lap 21, taking on medium tyres. Vettel took his set of mediums on lap 22 and rejoined in P8. Ricciardo pitted from the lead on lap 27, taking on medium tyres, which he would race to the flag. Bottas now assumed the lead, having stopped just once, ahead of Rosberg who had made two stops and carved his way through the pack.
Bottas pitted on the very next lap, which promoted Rosberg back to the lead he had lost on lap eight. The German, on 10-lap-old medium tyres, would need to stop again, though with Bottas rejoining in fifth and new third-place man Raikkonen also possibly requiring another stop, Rosberg was told he was a “safe second”.
On lap 31, Bottas passed Vettel for fourth place and seemed set to secure his podium place as both Vettel and third-placed Raikkonen looked set to take on fresh tyres, whereas Bottas was on a two-stop plan.
With 10 laps to go Rosberg and Vettel made their stops, with both taking on soft tyres, aimed at utilising the tyre’s better pace to see what they could achieve against the two-stoppers on ageing prime tyres.
Rosberg rejoined in fourth and quickly dismissed Bottas and Raikkonen, but now the German was 22 seconds down on Ricciardo. That was simply too big a gap to make up to the Australian and the Mercedes driver settled in the end for his safe second place.
Behind him Raikkonen defied expectation, the Finn attempting to cling on to third on the set on prime tyres he had taken on at the end of lap 21. It was a brave choice but ultimately one that failed as Bottas, breezed past the Ferrari on the Kemmel Straight four laps from home.
A titanic battle ensued, with at times, the drivers racing four abreast on the run to Les Combes. It was Vetttel who came out on top, thanks to fresher tyres. Magnussen was sixth ahead of Button and Alonso. It wasn’t without a price though and Magnussen was placed under investigation after the race for his driving during the period.
Ahead, though, Ricciardo took a calm and controlled third career win, to leave him on 156 points, just 35 behind championship contender Hamilton, who stays on 191 points. Rosberg, meanwhile, moves to 220 points and a healthy title lead as the championship heads towards Monza.
|Belgian Grand Prix Race Results|
|16||4||M. Chilton||43||-1 Lap||Running||0|
|17||9||Marcus Ericsson||43||-1 Lap||Running||0|
|18||17||Jules Bianchi||39||-5 Laps||Running||0|
|19||44||Lewis Hamiton||38||-6 Laps||Retired||0|
|20||8||Romain Grojean||33||-11 Laps||Retired||0|
|21||13||Pastor Maldonado||1||-43 Laps||Retired||0|
|22||45||Andre Lotterer||1||-43 Laps||Retired||0|
|Drivers Championship after Belgium|
|3||3||D. Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing-Renault||156||-64|
|6||1||S. Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||98||-122|
|7||27||N. Hulkenberg||Force india-Mercedes||69||-151|
|12||11||S. Perez||Force india-Mercedes||31||-189|
|Constructors Championship after Belgium|
|2||Red Bull Racing-Renault||254||-157|