Belgian Grand Prix – Lewis Hamilton has won the Belgian Grand Prix for Mercedes. He led home teammate Nico Rosberg, while Romain Grosjean claimed the final podium spot for Lotus. Sebastian Vettel, running third in the closing laps, goes home without points after a puncture on the penultimate lap. The much vaunted new start regulations meant that all eyes were on the lights going out and who could get their cars off the line best. The drivers were made to wait to test their starting skills though, as the first start had to be aborted. Nico Hulkenberg radioed in during the formation lap to report a loss of power and was initially told to return to the pits. Moments later, Force India changed their mind and told Hulkenberg to line up in his grid slot of P11. Taking the start, the German driver started waving his hands around – he had encountered a technical problem that resulted in the rest of the grid setting off on another formation lap as his car was withdrawn and retired.
Carlos Sainz reported a similar issue on the second formation lap; Toro Rosso opted to pit him, meaning the second start was taken as planned. However, it didn’t go as planned for Nico Rosberg. Starting from P2, the German driver bogged down slightly off the line and fell down to P5 as Sergio Perez, Daniel Ricciardo & Valtteri Bottas all took the challenge to Lewis Hamilton. The championship leader held the lead through La Source but it was the fast starting Sergio Perez that made a move on the Mercedes into Les Combes. Hamilton weathered the challenge, leading Perez, Ricciardo, Bottas & Rosberg. Further down the order, Kimi Raikkonen negotiated the McLarens and Manors after having to start from P19 due to a gearbox change. Pastor Maldonado was eliminated early – the Lotus appearing to encounter an engine problem and trundling back to the pits to retire.
Nico Rosberg passed Valtteri Bottas in the early stages; the move on the Finn meant that Sebastian Vettel was able to pounce and move into the top five. Up front, Hamilton was stretching his legs and had pulled out a 3.5 seconds lead over Perez by Lap 5 – the Mercedes man setting a series of fastest laps to pull out a gap.
Romain Grosjean, having originally qualified P4 before a gearbox penalty, was the man on the move as the pit stops began to happen. Ricciardo, pitting on Lap 7 for a new set of Medium tyres, fell behind the Lotus as Grosjean passed Bottas on track to take P5. Sergio Perez pitted on Lap 8 to cover off Daniel Ricciardo, taking on softs. Grosjean, Massa, Kvyat & Verstappen all pitted on Lap 10, while Raikkonen stayed out – the Ferrari driver attempting to recover from his lowly grid position.
Valtteri Bottas, during his pit stop, ended up taking on different compound tyres as his pit crew made an error. The Williams emerged from his stop with a set of Soft tyres, apart from his right rear wheel which was fitted with a Medium compound tyre. Coming under official investigation, the Finn was given a drive through penalty for the transgression.
Rosberg used his pit strategy to move up into P2, staying out and using his Mercedes pace to be able to jump the squabbling Daniel Ricciardo & Sergio Perez. Lewis Hamilton pitted the lap after Rosberg on Lap 13 and Rosberg closed in to around 4 seconds as a result. This gap narrowed slightly over the laps following the stops. Just at the halfway point of the race, Daniel Ricciardo retired while fighting with Sergio Perez & Sebastian Vettel. Driving through the Bus Stop chicane, Ricciardo’s Red Bull died during the corner and the Australian driver was forced to pull to the side. The Virtual Safety Car was deployed due to the RB11 being parked trackside. During the short VSC period, Rosberg was able to ease slightly closer to Hamilton due to maximising the safety car delta times but Hamilton responded when racing resumed.
Behind the Mercs, Sergio Perez & Romain Grosjean squabbled for P3, with the Lotus driver passing Perez easily down the Kemmel Straight. Grosjean was one of the drivers that chose to stop under the Virtual Safety Car, along with Massa, Raikkonen & Verstappen. Sebastian Vettel didn’t, and the German driver radioed in to his team to “maybe think about another stop” as he realised the length of his final stint. Having pitted on Lap 13, Vettel ran almost 30 laps on the Medium tyres – running in P3 in the closing stages as Grosjean chased him armed with fresher tyres. Under serious pressure from the Lotus, Vettel looked to have it under control….that was until his right rear tyre exploded on the Kemmel Straight on the penultimate lap. This handed P3 to Romain Grosjean, allowing the Lotus to complete the podium behind the two Mercedes drivers.
Daniil Kvyat took a great P4 for Red Bull, the Russian driver utilising his fresher tyres in the closing stages to move up the order and passing Perez & Massa on track. The Mexican and Brazilian took P5 & P6 respectively, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen in P7. Raikkonen had been passed by Max Verstappen on the final lap, but the Dutch driver ran wide at Les Combes and handed the place back to the Finn. Verstappen took P8, with Bottas taking P9 following his penalty and tyre travails. Marcus Ericsson was the final points scorer, taking P10 for Sauber.