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30/04/2017 Valtteri VICTOR Bottas

16/04/2017 Vettel fires shots in Desert Duel

09/04/2017 Shanghai Rains

26/03/2017 Disaster for the Aussie in Oz.

27/11/2016 Desert Decider - Abu Dhabi 2016

13/11/2016 Into-Lagos!

31/10/2016 Mexico City and the Revolving Third Step

23/10/2016 Star-spangled Hamilton

09/10/2016 The Decisive Race?

02/10/2016 Fiery Twist in Malaysia

18/09/2016 Showdown After Sunset

04/09/2016 Rosberg's Cathedral Domination

28/08/2016 A Champion's Drive

31/07/2016 Mercedes' Glorious Homecoming

24/07/2016 Changing of the Guard: Hungary 2016

10/07/2016 [Un]lucky 7?

03/07/2016 2016 Austrian Grand Prix - Sparks Fly in Spielberg

19/06/2016 Whitewash in Baku

12/06/2016 #LH45 in Montreal

29/05/2016 Hammertime in Monaco!

15/05/2016 Spain 2016 - Dazzling Debut

01/05/2016 2016 Russian GP Review - Rosberg Domination

17/04/2016 2016 Chinese Grand Prix - Rosberg Demonstration

03/04/2016 Bahrain 2016: Stunning Debut.

20/03/2016 2016 Australian Grand Prix Review

Older stories here

A Champion's Drive

Hamilton and Alonso came into the Belgian Grand Prix on the back foot somewhat, despite both leading their teammates in the standings as they both had to take huge grid penalties for taking extra engines. Alonso's new engine was unscheduled, with a water leak forcing McLaren's hand. Hamilton, meanwhile, was taking 3 new units to see out the rest of the year after his woeful reliability in the opening rounds. Ericsson also had to change parts and was given a 10 place penalty, while Gutierrez was given a 5 place penalty and 3 penalty points for impeding Wehrlein in practice.

Q1 was a quiet affair until there were just over 5 minutes left, Alonso's McLaren dying on track before he could set a time. Hamilton was sitting 19th at this point, last on the timesheets while Magnussen and Nasr were yet to set a lap time – Magnussen's first run having been deleted after he went off the track. Alonso and Hamilton were only planning to run in Q1 at this point.

Red Bull, whose drivers had been close throughout practice, set identical times in the first qualifying session to underline their parity.

The last flurry of laps saw the drop zone filled by Nasr, Ocon, Kvyat, Ericsson, Hamilton and Alonso – pending the stewards allowing him into the race. Wehrlein managed to get into the top 10 with his last lap, briefly as high as 8th before Massa went fastest in his new chassis – Williams' effort to counteract his recent run of poor form.

Another fairly quiet session for Q2 saw Grosjean, Magnussen, Gutierrez, Palmer, Sainz and Wehrlein all falling.

Q3 saw a huge gap between the Red Bulls appear from nowhere, Verstappen almost a second up on Ricciardo after their first laps, Rosberg only a tenth of a second faster than the Dutch teenager.

Rosberg took pole ahead of Verstappen, Raikkonen, Vettel, Ricciardo – still 3 tenths off his teammate – with the Force Indias 6th and 7th. Bottas, Button and Massa completed the top 10.

Gutierrez dropped to 18th, with Ericsson 20th. Alonso and Hamilton rounded out the field, the latter also taking a new gearbox while it makes no difference to his starting position. Ericsson later decided to start from the pit lane.

Contact between the Ferraris and Verstappen damaged the Red Bull's wing, gave Raikkonen a puncture and spun Vettel right down the order. Verstappen held 2nd but would surely need to pit. Hulkenberg and Ricciardo jumped Verstappen through Pouhon as the lack of front downforce bit back at the teenager. Grosjean took 5th from him through Blanchimont, both Williams cars also clearing him before he pitted. Further back, Alonso had climbed to 12th, Hamilton to 15th.

Verstappen took medium tyres at the end of the first lap, but Sainz lost his rear tyre on the following lap up the Kemmel straight, the tyre absolutely exploding and destroying the rear wing. He was forced to park with his wing somehow 90 degrees away from its original position. The VSC was deployed. Raikkonen had pitted, but the new wing Ferrari were trying to fit wouldn't go on, the chassis managed to catch fire and Raikkonen's race was effectively run. He did rejoin a lap down, but luck would have to play a huge part in any success.

Button and Wehrlein both retired in the early laps along with Sainz and Ericsson – it was almost a miracle that no more cars were parked as yet. Button had been hit on the first lap, presumably Wehrlein.

Magnussen limped out of the race after a lap 6 crash coming through Raidillon, piling the Renault backwards into the wall. The Safety Car was deployed. Our first confirmation that Kevin was uninjured came from Renault's radio to Palmer. The pit lane became rather busy.

The order at this point was Rosberg, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Alonso, Hamilton, Massa, Perez, Kvyat, Palmer, Grosjean, Vettel, Bottas, Gutierrez, Verstappen, Ocon, Nasr, Raikkonen. Ferrari running 11th and 17th was hardly what they wanted from the day. Despite Button's retirement, McLaren were looking surprisingly good as well with Alonso in 5th.

At this point Nasr, Ocon, Verstappen, Hamilton and Alonso were on medium tyres, with everyone else on soft tyres.

There was a red flag finally thrown on lap 9.

Rosberg and Perez restarted on new medium tyres, everyone else in the top 11 on a mix of old and new soft tyres. Unfortunately FOM decided not to show us the choices between 12th and 17th.

Alonso attacked Hulkenberg on the restart but the Force India held station. Raikkonen managed to climb to 15th.

Hamilton took 4th from Alonso on lap 12, giving chase now to the top 3. Behind them Grosjean took 9th from Palmer and Verstappen briefly lost 14th to Raikkonen. The Red Bull was also on medium tyres.

Vettel climbed to 10th, Palmer down to 13th as the team told him to cool his tyres a bit.

Verstappen pitted on lap 16 to take soft tyres, having not switched under the red flag.

Hulkenberg lost 3rd to Hamilton under DRS, although the Mercedes gained a flat spot from it.

Williams were a man down since the red flag, an incident dislocating the knee of one of their mechanics.

Raikkonen reported he felt he had a puncture on his left front tyre after he clipped Grosjean's right rear tyre. The Finn made the move a lap later on the Swiss driver, this time without contact.

Hamilton pitted on lap 21, getting new medium tyres and a front wing modification, but his rear jack was slow to release him.

Nasr received a 5 second penalty for exceeding track limits. At this point we also received word that Magnussen was taken to hospital, his ankle injury worse than it had previously seemed.

Alonso and Hulkenberg came out of the pits absolutely together, contact made between the cars in the pit exit.

Hamilton's stop saw him take on another set of nearly-new medium tyres, although Hamilton felt this was the wrong call. As the order resettled, he found himself 3rd behind Ricciardo, but needing to gain over 2 seconds per lap against the Australian to take the position.

Massa moved over for Bottas to take the fight to Alonso, a move that needed making for Williams to stay ahead of Force India in the championship. However, it did leave Massa incredibly vulnerable to Raikkonen's Ferrari which had better pace, better traction and inevitably an easy move was made by the Finn.

Rosberg took a dominant win despite the carnage behind him, Ricciardo doing enough to finish 2nd ahead of Hamilton. Hulkenberg led Perez home for a Force India 4-5, Vettel 6th, Alonso 7th, Bottas 8th, Raikkonen 9th and Massa struggling in 10th, presumably suffering damage from his various incidents through the race. Verstappen headed the non-scorers, followed by Gutierrez, Grosjean, Kvyat, Palmer, Ocon and Nasr. Magnussen – hospitalised with a cut to his ankle – Ericsson, Sainz, Button and Wehrlein all failed to make the finish, or even the red flag.

 

Tufty



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