Nico Rosberg won the Belgian Grand Prix but it was a race which saw some excellent performances from those who?d started further back. Here?s F1 Fanatic?s verdict on the field.
Rosberg grabbed his chanceLewis Hamilton ? On Saturday evening Toto Wolff said that in light of the unusual conditions at Spa it might have been better for the team to wait until Monza to perform Hamilton?s engine change. He had cause to revise that opinion after Sunday?s incident-packed race where Hamilton took advantage of errors, crashes and ? crucially ? a mid-race stoppage to deliver third place. The latter gave him a free pit stop which helped cement his position in the top five, from where he easily passed Alonso and Hulkenberg. His stints weren?t quite as good as Rosberg?s, though.
Nico Rosberg ? With Hamilton compromised Rosberg duly delivered pole position, though it looked like there was more pace in the W07. After his rivals tripped over themselves at turn one he built up a four-second lead in the first lap alone. This wasn?t a day when Rosberg was significantly taxed, though he managed two medium-tyre stints very well to make a two-stopper work. This was little to get excited about, but nothing to fault either.
The Ferraris tangled at the start ? againSebastian Vettel ? Not on a par with Raikkonen in qualifying but made a superb getaway. Unfortunately he then indulged in his occasional habit of turning into the first corner as if no one else was there (see also Mexico 2015). This provoked a three-car tangle which, according to team principal Maurizio Arrivabene, cost Ferrari a potential double podium finish. From then on he got his head down and produced solid pace and good passes, but the damage had already been done.
Kimi Raikkonen ? A mistake on his first lap on Q3 cranked up the pressure for his final run but he produced an excellent lap with the exception of a small error at the final corner ? one which he suspected cost him pole position. Pinched by his team mate and Verstappen at turn one, he collected front wing damage which would have ruined his race, but he was rescued by the red flag. From last he was soon on the tail of Verstappen who frustrated him once again, though Raikkonen was able to jump ahead by making his final pit stop with 20 laps to go. That was a big ask of his tyres and while he passed the fading Massa he couldn?t do anything about Alonso or Bottas.
Bottas ran fourth before strategy slip-upFelipe Massa ? Software problems compromised the qualifying efforts of both Williams drivers but Massa was six-tenths slower than Bottas. He benefited from the first-lap chaos to move up to fourth but then pitted immediately to get rid of his super-soft tyres. He tried to get to the end with a single further stop but his tyres had gone in the closing laps. He was told to let Bottas through and after initially resisting he complied, then was demoted to tenth by Raikkonen.
Valtteri Bottas ? Felt he could have beaten the Force Indias in qualifying had it not been for the software glitch. He was one of several drivers to miss out on a free pit stop by coming in under the Safety Car before the red flag was shown, so having been fourth he was twelfth when the race resumed. His pace and tyre preservation over the final stint was much better than Massa?s and he took eighth.
Verstappen?s best starting position yet came to noughtDaniel Ricciardo ? With Red Bull diverging on strategies Ricciardo lined up fifth behind the Ferraris and Verstappen but on the soft tyres. Once that trio took itself out of contention he occupied third but struggled for pace due to front wing damage. Red Bull were able to rectify this under the Safety Car and give him a free pit stop. From then on his pace was good, often a match for Rosberg?s in the final stint, and he delivered second place.
Max Verstappen ? The only driver in the top five to start on the super-soft tyres, Verstappen got a surprisingly poor getaway then tried to re-pass the Ferraris at turn one. But the space vanished and the result was a three-way collision which spoiled his race. Although his front wing was replaced he also had significant floor damage and spent much of the race having to defend position as he tried in vain to climb into the points. As usual he explored the limits of legal defensive driving.
A podium finish continues to elude HulkenbergNico Hulkenberg ? A power unit problem in Q3 meant he was unable to improve on his Q2 time and so started behind his team mate. However he capitalised on the turn one melee to move into second. Unfortunately for Force India they chose to pit both drivers just before the red flag came out. Even without that Hulkenberg would have had a difficult time keeping Ricciardo and Hamilton behind, but fourth was the best available for him in any case.
Sergio Perez ? Reckoned there was no more than a tenth of a second left in the car after claiming a place on the third row. At the start he slipped to eighth avoiding the turn one carnage but he made up places from Grosjean and, after the restart, Kvyat. He pressed on the second stint, passing Massa and Alonso, and wasn?t too far behind his team mate at the end.
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Palmer was well up the order before the red flagKevin Magnussen ? Despite taking a strong 12th on the grid he conceded his qualifying lap had been less than perfect. Both Renault made up places at the start but Magnussen slipped behind Palmer and lost control of his car in his team mate?s slipstream on lap six, ploughing into the barriers at high speed. Remarkably he was largely unhurt.
Jolyon Palmer ? Joined Magnussen in Q2 but was four-tenths of a second slower after his final effort. Having got up to seventh at the start he lost ground by pitting under the Safety Car before the red flag. Stuck behind Kvyat at the restart he was passed by the Ferraris, the Haas pair and Bottas and had to make two further pit stops as he grappled with high tyre degradation.
A puncture ended Sainz?s raceDaniil Kvyat ? Said there was little more in the car despite going out in Q1 ? Sainz was less than two-tenths of a second faster. The race went well: he ran eighth after the restart having changed tyres during the suspension, and he even raced Perez before being caught by the quicker recovering cars. The car?s shortage of top speed meant he wasn?t able to keep Grosjean behind, though. ?We can say we did our absolute best today, ? he reflected afterwards, ?unfortunately not many people will see this, as we only ended up P14?.
Carlos Sainz Jnr ? It was tough going for Toro Rosso at a track which punished their performance on the straights and he only managed 15th on the grid. He was unfortunate to collect a puncture on the second lap while running in the points, but carelessly blundered back onto the track and lost control of his car as the tyre disintegrated.
Nasr also picked up a punctureMarcus Ericsson ? There was just a tenth of a second ? but three places ? between the Sauber drivers after Q1. Ericsson was on the wrong side of the divide after a power unit problem. A gearbox fault then ended his race.
Felipe Nasr ? Was close to making it into Q2 but his rear tyres faded at the end of the lap and he missed the cut. He picked up a puncture from debris on the first lap and although he was able to continue a damaged floor prevented him from taking any serious part in the action.
Alonso hauled his McLaren into the points from lastFernando Alonso ? Wasn?t able to run in qualifying after problems with Honda?s new power unit meant Alonso?s had to be replaced more than once. However having started last he was as feisty as ever at the start and took advantage of the chaos to move into the points by lap three. A free tyre change during the red flag period also aided his cause. Remarkably, he?d also got ahead of Hamilton in the opening laps but the Mercedes inevitably came past when the race resumed. He was powerless to resist Perez and Vettel too, but seventh was a huge reward.
Jenson Button ? Was very pleased to reach Q3 and split the Williams drivers in qualifying. He got away from the line well but was held up at La Source and slipped to 12th, and was then rammed out of the race at Les Combes by Wehrlein.
Manor?s newcomer was the team?s only finishertPascal Wehrlein ? Took his Manor into Q2 again but without any fresh super-soft tyres he could only manage 16th. He made a decent start but showed a lack of awareness by running into the back of Button and was fortunate not to get a penalty.
Esteban Ocon ? Admitted his first F1 qualifying session had been ?tough? after Wehrlein beat him by half a second. However he kept it clean in the race ? something many of his more experienced rivals failed to do ? and beat Nasr?s ailing Sauber. With his team mate out there was little to judge him on besides the fact he was the one who brought his car home.
Grosjean ran in the points but dropped backRomain Grosjean ? As is becoming increasingly typical Grosjean grumbled through practice but delivered the goods in qualifying, taking ?new tyre poll? after missing the cut for Q3 by three-tenths of a second. He took advantage of the La Source mess to rise up the order, only to run wide at Les Combes. By pitting him before the stoppage Haas made the mistake they avoided in Australia, and as he struggled for top speed in his second stint he couldn?t keep the quicker cars behind. His final stint was better, and he closed back up to his team mate.
Esteban Gutierrez ? Drew the ire of his rivals for not looking in his mirrors again after Wehrlein had to dive off the track to avoid him in practice; Gutierrez was duly given a grid penalty. He was quicker on the softs than Grosjean but was being caught at the end when they switched to mediums.
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2016 Belgian Grand Prix
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