Belgian GP 2014: Grading Race on Strategy, Overtaking, Shocks and Drama
Sunday afternoon saw Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo win an action-packed Belgian Grand Prix ahead of second-placed Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes, with the Williams of Valtteri Bottas coming home in third place.
And here we grade the thrilling contest at Spa-Francorchamps from A to D in terms of strategy, overtaking, shocks and drama…
There was an utterly absorbing race strategy from start to finish in this 44-lap encounter, with both of the front two on the grid at the start of the race being forced into unscheduled early pit stops as a result of Rosberg’s collision with Hamilton on Lap 2.
The Briton came into the pits to fix a puncture and damage to the rear floor of his Mercedes, while his team-mate soon followed suit on Lap 8 after his tyres had begun to wear out, meaning both drivers were forced to alter their pre-race plans and employ a three-stop strategy.
In the end, however, the championship leader was just unable to make up the 20-second gap on leader Ricciardo, following his final stop after the Red Bull driver had gambled by staying out on old tyres, meaning the Australian only had to stop twice as he held off a late charge from Rosberg to win by three seconds.
And elsewhere, Kimi Raikkonen’s clever decision to pit early allowed the Finn to then occupy third position for most of the grand prix, although the Ferrari man was caught and passed by his compatriot Bottas in the Williams with just eight laps remaining for the last remaining podium place.
As has been the case throughout much of this intriguing Formula One season, the Belgian GP was littered with any number of eye-catching passing moves, and this despite none of the predicted rain falling in the Ardennes mountains.
In fact, right from the very start we saw both Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel overtake pole-sitter Rosberg, only for the German to immediately reclaim second place from his countryman before also setting about trying to catch his team-mate for the lead of the race.
Meanwhile, Ricciardo then breezed past team-mate Vettel on Lap 5 to move up to second place behind Rosberg after a rare driving error from the world champion, and it was as the grand prix reached its tense climax that the crowd were treated to yet more passing manoeuvres.
Firstly, Rosberg overtook both Raikkonen and Bottas late on following his third and final pit stop for second, before the Williams of Bottas then did the same to his fellow countryman in the Ferrari to take third position with just eight laps remaining.
And to cap off a sensational afternoon's racing in Belgium, the grand prix ended with a four-way tussle for fifth place between Vettel, Alonso and the McLaren duo of Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button.
If one bears in mind that the pole-sitter had only won four of the previous 13 Belgian GPs, in many ways it was not such a surprise that Rosberg did not emerge victorious at Spa on Sunday.
However, what was not foreseen beforehand was the identity of the race winner, with many expecting Hamilton to claim the spoils from second on the grid and few predicting the Red Bulls would to be able to challenge on a circuit such as this.
And that was due to the constructors’ champions clear lack of engine power all weekend in the Ardennes compared to the Mercedes, meaning Ricciardo’s second straight grand prix win of the season—and Red Bull’s 50th overall—has to go down as a big surprise.
As has been the case throughout much of this year so far, there was enough drama at Spa to last a whole season, with yet again most of it involving the Mercedes duo of Rosberg and Hamilton after their second-lap collision.
And as a result of that unnecessary set-to, the British driver suffered a puncture that forced him into an unscheduled early pit stop and, with five laps to go, retirement from the race.
However, his rival was more fortunate in that despite suffering damage to his front wing in that incident with Hamilton, which ultimately brought about a change of pre-race strategy, Rosberg’s mechanics were able to fix the problem to enable the German to finish second.
Elsewhere, Alonso was hit with a five-second penalty in his first pit stop that left the Ferrari driver having to play catch up for the remainder of the race before a late incident, when his front wing hit the back of Vettel’s car. The Spaniard finished in eighth place.
As always when the F1 season arrives in Belgium, fans were treated to a feast of racing at the picturesque Spa-Francorchamps circuit, and this despite the prediction beforehand for rain at some point in the afternoon proving wide of the mark.
However, after a plethora of highly controversial incidents to discuss—particularly at Mercedes—we now head to the Italian GP in Monza in a fortnight’s time for the final eight races with Rosberg having further stretched his lead over Hamilton to 29 points in the drivers’ championship thanks to Ricciardo’s third win of his debut campaign.