The Formula One Belgian Grand Prix promised to be a thriller, helped by a slightly mixed-up grid, but in the end, the expected rain never came and after a clean first lap, it proved to be a race of few surprises. Sebastian Vettel’s win wasn’t great for the title battle, but it was well-deserved after a faultless weekend for the German. Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton did at least add to their scores, but it was a bad day for Kimi Raikkonen. Here’s what happened among the 11 teams.
Red Bull Racing
Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber were comfortably fastest in FP2, the German losing track time when he had a puncture. However, in the tricky Q3, they had to settle for second and third, losing out to a great effort from Lewis Hamilton. Vettel did a great job to drag past Hamilton on the first lap, and thereafter he put in a dominant performance, stopping on laps 14 and 30 and finishing 16 seconds ahead of Fernando Alonso. Webber had clutch issues and tumbled to sixth at the start, and lacking straightline speed with which to pass – he was set up to run clear air – he gained just a single place before the flag, to finish fifth.
Fernando Alonso was only seventh after a scrappy Friday session, although he remained optimistic. He was fastest in Q1 and second in Q3, but he didn’t quite get it right in Q3, and tumbled down to ninth, a place ahead of teammate Felipe Massa. Alonso had a great first lap and jumped up to fifth. With good straightline speed and an effective DRS, he passed Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg to get up to third. After the pit stops, he passed Lewis Hamilton for second at the hairpin, and retained the place until the flag. Massa lost places avoiding Romain Grosjean on the first lap, and also had problems with his steering -wheel electronics. He recovered to finish seventh.
Jenson Button was a troubling 15th on Friday, but was encouraged to land sixth on the grid, having been as high as fifth in the dry Q2 session. Sergio Perez was eighth on Friday but qualified only 13th after getting his timing wrong in Q2. Button had a good first lap and got past Mark Webber and Paul Di Resta. Initially, he was aiming for a one-stop, but lap 17 proved to be too early. After running third in the middle of the race, he made a second stop and ultimately finished sixth. Perez had a busy race that saw him earn a drive through after an incident with Romain Grosjean. He finished just outside the points in 11th.
Third place for Romain Grosjean in FP2 was an encouraging start for Lotus, and Kimi Raikkonen impressively topped the dry Q2 session. However, it didn’t work out for him in qualifying, and the Finn could manage only eighth, a place behind his teammate. Raikkonen had front brake overheating issues from the start, which were traced to a visor tear-off lodging in the brake duct. He was forced to retire after 25 laps when running well down the top 10. After losing a couple of spots at the start, Grosjean ran an unusual one-stop strategy on the way to eighth at the flag.
Lewis Hamilton was frustrated by a lack of grip on Friday but luck was on his side come qualifying, and a great last-minute effort saw him steal pole. Nico Rosberg was briefly quickest when the rain was heavier, but dropped back to fourth. Hamilton got away safely in front at the start but behind him Sebastian Vettel got a good tow and was able to drag past. He ran second for the first stint but after the stops lost out to Fernando Alonso. Thereafter, he remained third to the flag. Rosberg passed Mark Webber at the start to take third, but lost out to Alonso on lap 6. He finished fourth, having stayed safely clear of the chasing Webber.
Nico Hulkenberg missed Q3 by only three hundredths of a second, and the German had to settle for 11th. Esteban Gutierrez put his inters on too early in Q1 and after they went off found himself stuck down in 21st. Hulkenberg gained three places with a good first lap, but he soon had problems with the balance and simply lacked the speed with which to defend his position. He eventually tumbled out of the points to finish 13th. Gutierrez did a good job moving up the order from his lowly grid position, and was on the edge of scoring points, but a drive through for going off track to pass Pastor Maldonado cost him time and dropped him to 14th.
Paul Di Resta was the first driver to go out on intermediates in Q3, and that paid off when he set a time that looked like it might earn pole, but when the rain eased off, he was bumped down to fifth. Adrian Sutil got his timing wrong with inters in Q2 and couldn’t better 12th. Both Force Indias had poor getaways, with Di Resta dropping to seventh and Sutil to 13th. The pair spent much of the race in close company and they were both involved in an incident on lap 27 when Pastor Maldonado struck Sutil and then Di Resta, putting the latter out of the race. Sutil continued unharmed and finished ninth.
Jean-Eric Vergne was fifth in FP2 and fourth in FP3 but things fell apart for Toro Rosso come the damp first qualifying session, and the Frenchman found himself down in 18th, a place ahead of teammate Daniel Ricciardo. The latter had the more productive race after a long opening stint on the harder tire, and in the closing laps he was able to move ahead of Sergio Perez to claim 10th and the final point. Vergne had been ahead of his teammate until the final stint, when he was hampered by what turned out to be a slow puncture. He finished 12th.
Like Toro Rosso, both Williams drivers suffered by using up their intermediate tires too early in Q3, and thus Pastor Maldonado found himself down in 17th, three spots ahead of Valtteri Bottas. Both drivers had a lot of ground to regain come the race, and Maldonado did a pretty good job to move up. He was 12th when he tangled with the Force Indias of Adrian Sutil and Paul Di Resta on lap 27. He pitted for a new nose and later received a 10 second stop and go penalty, before finishing 17th. Bottas had a somewhat cleaner race but simply lacked pace on his way to 15th place.
After a big crash on Friday, Giedo van der Garde was one of the stars of qualifying, the Dutchman going onto slicks at the end of Q1 and earning third spot. That translated into 14th in the dry Q2 session. Charles Pic stayed on inters in Q1 and was down in 22nd. Van der Garde was never going to keep faster cars behind but he did stay 14th for one lap before inevitably falling back. He finished 16th, beating the Williams of the penalized Pastor Maldonado. Pic passed both the Marussias early on and was behind his teammate when he was forced to pit and retire with an oil pressure problem after just eight laps.
The decision to go onto slicks at the end of Q1 paid off as both Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton made it to Q2 in 11th and 16th spots, respectively. In the dry Q2 they earned 15th and 16th, the team’s best-ever result. Both drivers started on the harder tire and, struggling for speed, they immediately tumbled down the order and were soon running last, behind Charles Pic’s Caterham. Chilton received a drive-through penalty for a blue-flag offense, and after a reliable run, they finished 18th and 19th, with Bianchi in front.Belgian Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso, Formula 1, Formula One, Lewis Hamilton, Mark Webber, Red Bull, Sebastian Vettel, Spa-Francorchamps