In comparison to last month’s exciting race in Hungary, the 2015 Belgian Grand Prix seemed to be less thrilling, with Mercedes dominating the podium, with their 1-2 results, as seen many times before in this sport.
Lewis Hamilton won the 2015 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa. The reigning 2014 world champion dominated from pole to steal the victory and extend his lead in the drivers’ standings to 28 points over his team-mate Nico Rosberg, who struggled to reach a pleasing second place. Even after his sixth win out of eleven races of the season so far, however, modest Hamilton insists it’s too early to think about the Championship title.”I felt good when I woke up today. I am the strongest and happiest I’ve ever been in my life. I love my job – it’s the greatest job in the world,“, he stated.
It was the French Lotus driver, Romain Grosjean, who was the happiest that day. As the race drew to a close, Grosjean, in fourth place at the time, was chasing Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel, who lacked in his usual speed due to an old, and well used set of tyres. On the last lap of the race, Grosjean’s hard work payed off, as Vettel’s right rear tyre blew, causing him to retire, leaving the Frenchman to come in with a pleasing third place.Three years ago at the same Spa circuit, Grosjean caused a multi-car first-lap accident that eliminated world champions Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso on the spot and earned him a one-race ban. After starting ninth on the grid due to a five-place gearbox penalty, the result was very pleasing, not just for Grosjean, but for Lotus itself.
Jenson Button, however, felt his Belgian Grand Prix was an “embarrassment” as the McLaren Formula 1 team was again restrained by their engine supplier Honda. He started 19th on the grid at Spa-Francorchamps, due to several severe penalties, and finished 14th, behind team-mate Fernando Alonso, and was lapped by race winner Lewis Hamilton.
“I had a problem with the recovery and deployment of the ERS pack,” Button stated. “So the moment I got to the top of Eau Rouge I had no deployment all the way down the straight, and the same with the back straight.”I don’t know why that was, we’re looking into it, but for the whole race it wasn’t correct.”
A new contract with Ferrari does not appear to have changed bad luck for Kimi Raikkonen, as the Finn charged to seventh place in the Grand Prix. After months of speculation, Ferrari was to finally renew Raikkonen’s contract ahead of the Spa-Francorchamps weekend but, after a promising practice, the 2007 world champion ran into mechanical trouble in qualifying, leaving him with a dissapointing row eight start. Using the absence of both Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz from the grid to his benefit, Raikkonen made a solid start, and rose as high as fourth during the first round of pit-stops, but was not able improve on seventh place as his tyres wore down in the later stages of the race. “It’s disappointing, not just for me, but for the team,” Raikkonen complained, “Obviously, our starting place wasn’t ideal after what happened [on Saturday] – we tried to do our best but, obviously, it’s not a very good place to finish, although it’s better than where we started. We had two issues this weekend and it hurt both cars quite badly. I just couldn’t get past [Massa] as was behind one car and I was behind him, so more or less every lap he got DRS and nothing changed. After the pit-stop, I got next to him and had a good run down the left-hand side, but that was more or less the only chance to get past him. In the end, I struggled a bit with my front tyres and couldn’t really challenge.” Despite his frustration, Raikkonen’s points were the only ones that Ferrari ended the race with, following team-mate Sebastian Vettel’s late tyre failure, on the final lap. “We have to be realistic with where we started today,” he said, “We did our best and, obviously, it’s not where we want to finish, but that was our maximum today. We are doing the right things as a team but, sometimes, something seems to happen and it we’re not really getting the result. But we’ll keep working and improving things and, hopefully, we’ll get the results at some point.”
It was a disappointing weekend as well, for Lotus driver Pastor Maldonado. Maldonado’s second-lap retirement caused from a loss of power in the race was, according to his Lotus F1 team, “self-inflicted”. The Venezuelan driver went off the track at Eau Rouge, causing damage to his clutch control system, forcing him to retire for the seventh time out of eleven races so far this season. The incident came after a crash that the Lotus driver described as “very unlucky” during the Friday practices at Spa and three separate penalties that he received at the previous race in Hungary. However, Lotus trackside operations diractor Alan Permane stated that “Maldonado’s retirement was self-inflicted,” and “He had a huge off at Eau Rouge. That damaged the clutch-control system. The valves were damaged and that locked his clutch out. That’s why he couldn’t get back.”
Toro Rosso driver Carlos Sainz says he is becoming ‘desperate’ to finish races after suffering his fourth mechanically-caused DNF in a row during the race. The Spaniard’s car incurred an issue on the formation lap, forcing him to pit from what would have been tenth on the grid, causing the rest of the drivers to have another formation lap, meaning that there were only 43 laps, instead of the usual 44. Although the team quickly managed to solve the issue and he was able to rejoin, Sainz was left two laps down on the rest of the racers. Eventually withdrawing in an attempt to save the engine, Sainz admits he is starting to become frustrated with the ongoing reliability problems of the car, having now been forced to retire from top ten positions in each of the last four races. “I started the formation lap and I had no power from the engine, so I had to box. They managed to resolve it and I got out, but I was already two laps down. I did a bit of the race and then we decided to retire to save the mileage of the engine. I am very disappointed, very desperate to finish a race now because it is four consecutive races where we have been in the points and we don’t finish. You can imagine my frustration, but this is how it is sometimes. It doesn’t mean I am going to back off, I am going to keep pushing and showing my performances. Hopefully this is enough to keep going forward and learning.”
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo feels he could’ve managed a potential podium in the race before even more technical troubles forced him into an early retirement. The Australian was running in fifth place, just behind eventual podium winner, Lotus’ Romain Grosjean, when his car cut out on the exit of the chicane on lap 20. Prior to this mishap, Ricciardo believed he was in a good position to grab his second straight podium. “Everything just switched off as if I bumped the switch, but I didn’t. It is disappointing because the start was finally good. I joked about the start procedure helping us and I think it actually did. In the first stint we had pace on Perez but they are slippery down the straights, we knew that. We had our sights set on the podium. We put ourselves in that position from the start. We saw Perez had quite a bit of degradation, but we felt on the option we would have been stronger. I think we would have been in the fight with Grosjean for the podium. It’s disappointing but that is part of [the sport].”
While Force India team-mate Sergio Perez enjoyed his best weekend of the year, Nico Hulkenberg had one of, if not, his worst. Hulkenberg had power issues in qualifying and didn’t help matters when he locked up on the approach to La Source, causing him to miss the apex, costing him precious time which left him eliminated in Q2. A recovery in the race should have been possible for the driver, but power problems became apparent as he made his way to the grid; Force India attempted a repair on the car and told him initially to pit, before taking the start, which he caused to be aborted when these issues were not fixed. It was a missed opportunity for Hulkenberg.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel’s hopes of finishing on the podium came to an abrupt end after he suffered a blown tyre on the penultimate lap of the Belgian Grand Prix. The Ferrari driver was holding off Lotus driver Romain Grosjean on a one-stop strategy, but this gamble failed as his right-rear tyre exploded down the Kemmel straight, handing third place on the podium to Grosjean. Speaking after the race Vettel appeared angry at Pirelli for the tyre failure, saying “things like that are not allowed to happen”.
In conclusion, for Mercedes fans at least, the race was a success, with Hamilton and Rosberg back in the game with a 1-2 finish. It was a bittersweet weekend for Lotus supporters, with Grosjean coming in at a surprising third, however, Maldonado suffered a painful DNF. For the most though, the race almost seemed a bore in comparison to last month’s thrill at Hungary. What lies in store for Monza, however, is unknown.
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