Rosberg’s Spa Victory Bittersweet as Hamilton Scores Emphatic Podium in Race of Chaos

Nico Rosberg commanded a solid drive to victory today at a Belgian Grand Prix full of incidents and battles up and down the grid. Daniel Ricciardo kept his nose clean to bring his Red Bull home in 2nd with a charging Lewis Hamilton scoring an unlikely podium after starting P21.

The drama quota for this race was already fulfilled by La Source as the pack got away. Rosberg maintained his lead and got away smoothly, but local favorite Max Verstappen was on the wrong end of a Ferrari mishap into the first corner.

SPA, BELGIUM - AUGUST 28: Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP celebrates his win with his team during the Formula One Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on August 28, 2016 in Spa, Belgium (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)
SPA, BELGIUM – AUGUST 28: Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP celebrates his win with his team during the Formula One Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on August 28, 2016 in Spa, Belgium (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)

Going into La Source, Vettel had the edge, his nose fractionally ahead of Raikkonen and Verstappen before the corner. He took a mid-track line into the corner and didn’t give his team-mate enough room, forcing Kimi to verge into Verstappen, the young Dutchman was positioned on the inside kerb.

The resulting domino effect caused Verstappen to lose his front-wing, Raikkonen to suffer a puncture and wing damage and Vettel to spin. As usual, the fan jury will attribute blame based on personal allegiance. It looked like a racing incident although Vettel admitted after the race that he would have taken a wider line if he was given the opportunity to take the start again. Some argue that Verstappen was to blame given that his Bull was largely mounted onto the inside kerb. Given that there’s no clear advantage on riding the kerb of turn-one, (massive traction jeopardy for the ride up to Eau Rouge)  he was hardly to blame and probably expected much more room than he was given. Had Vettel taken a wider line, he probably would have maintained 2nd given Verstappen’s bumpy line anyway.

Another incident on the opening lap saw Wehrlein’s Manor mount Button’s McLaren in scenes that wouldn’t be out of place in a wildlife mating bit from an Attenborough documentary. After the long straight in sector-one, Wehrlein misjudged his closing speed on Jenson, who was off-line anyway after an attempt to out-brake the car ahead. Both cars retired.

It was a private Nico party up-front. Hulkenberg was the big winner out of this, his Force India 4.1 seconds behind the leading Nico, but the gap would reduce after lap 2 when the virtual safety was deployed for the next victim of the race.

Carlos Sainz’ Toro Rosso had a rear tyre obliterated and as he tried to limp back, the stringy composite latched onto the corner of his rear-wing, transferring the rotational force of the wheel into tension and causing the rear-wing to be snagged off.

Once the debris was cleared, the race resumed until lap 6. Kevin Magnussen lost control at the top of Eau Rouge and shattered into the barriers. It was a colossal impact caused by what looked like a brief take-off for the rear-tyres whilst the yellow chassis’ weight shifted off-camber. A dramatic impact in which the Dane’s head-rest went flying. It was a relief to see K-Mag emerge largely unscathed, although he is currently being checked out at a hospital with a cut ankle.

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The race was red-flagged as the barriers, like the RS-19, were completely obliterated. This played handsomely into the hands of Lewis Hamilton given that drivers were allowed to change tyres during the interval. The Brit had already climbed up the order of chaos and found himself in P5, on fresh softs for the restart.

After the restart, heavy-degradation made the medium compound the tyre of choice. Nico Rosberg and Sergio Perez were the first to bite the bullet and their races would be improved by this early decision. Rosberg maintained the gap at the front as Ricciardo struggled with tyre-wear and it would stay that way until the end.

Hamilton set two fast laps at the end and came within 10-seconds of Ricciardo but the Brit settled down to secure 3rd once it was clear that he wasn’t catching the Aussie.

Hulkenberg confirmed an excellent weekend for Force India with 4th with Perez closely following in 5th. The 22-points haul see’s the Silverstone-based squad overtake Williams in the Constructor standings by 2-points.

Vettel recovered from his first-lap incident to finish 6th, ahead of Fernando Alonso’s McLaren-Honda in 7th. This result spells a unanimous sigh of relief for Honda, their power-unit has genuinely come a long way and the team can now focus on scoring points at each race. Every track after Monza will be easier for the team. Alonso’s haul sees the Mclaren leapfrog Toro Rosso in the standings.

Birthday boy Bottas finished 8th with Raikkonen 9th and Massa rounding out the top ten. Ferrari had one to forget and at this point, nobody could call Force India insane for targeting Scuderia in the constructors.

The result sees the gap at the top reduce to a mere 9-points, blowing the championship wide open. After the race, Rosberg said,

“It’s been a great weekend, [I’m] very happy with that result, of course. Thank you to my team, [it’s] a great car they’ve given me. A very special day. And congrats to Lewis, last place to third must have been pretty impressive.

It’s been great to get the win at a special track. It’s a legendary track, but Lewis starting from the back made it a lot easier this weekend and I’m sure he’s going to be back in Monza and it’s going to be a big battle as always.”

– Nico Rosberg