Hamilton extends championship lead thanks to Spa victory

Hamilton Spa 2015 race

Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton produced a masterclass display at Spa-Francorchamps to record victory number 39 and thereby extending his lead in the championship from Nico Rosberg to 28 points.

The Mercedes driver made a good start from the grid and held off the challenge from Sergio Perez in the Force India at Les Combes to lead.

Rosberg was slow off the grid, dropping down to fifth, and though he recovered to second and started closing the gap to Hamilton, he was unable to get close enough to challenge.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was on course to complete the podium, after attempting a one-stop strategy that required a 29-lap stint on the mediums, but a right-rear tyre failure with a few laps to go ended his race.

That allowed Romain Grosjean, who had been chasing Vettel, to give Lotus its first podium of the season – a big boost considering uncertain future and legal battles inside the team.

The start was initially aborted when Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg suffered mechanical issues on the grid, waving his hands to signal he would be unable to get away.

The field went round for a second formation lap while Hulkenberg was pushed into the pits where he retired the car.

At the second start, the field got away with Perez battling Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo into La Source and coming out on top to take second.

Red Bull ran its low downforce setting at Spa, which allowed Daniil Kvyat and Ricciardo to attack on the straights.

Kvyat charged to fourth after going out of sequence on tyre strategy, but last year’s winner Ricciardo was in contention for a podium, running third early on, before slowing and retiring on the exit of the Bus Stop. A brief virtual safety car was required while the Red Bull was taken away.

Perez secured his best result of the season with fifth in the Force India ahead of Williams’s Felipe Massa and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, who rescued some points after starting P16.

Max Verstappen tried a move on Raikkonen at Les Combes on the last lap but ran out of space and had to settle for eighth, ahead of Valtteri Bottas, whose race unravelled when Williams mistakenly fitted his car with three soft tyres and a medium, which earned him a drive-through penalty.

Sauber fitted the 2015-spec Ferrari engine to its cars for the first time this season with Marcus Ericsson benefiting from Vettel’s late tyre failure to snatch the final point with tenth, one position ahead of team-mate Felipe Nasr.

Vettel was classified P12 for his first non-scoring finish of the season.

McLaren’s Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso made brilliant getaways, on a weekend when drivers had to find their own clutch bite point under new rules.

Alonso climbed from last to P12 while Button rose from P19 to P14, but duo struggled on the high-speed Spa circuit and finished P13 and P14 respectively.

Carlos Sainz Jr pulled into the pits after the formation lap, citing a loss of power, and though Toro Rosso managed to get him going, he retired with 11 laps to go.

Lotus’s Pastor Maldonado was unable to take advantage of his top ten start as he parked the car early in the race with a mechanical problem.

So another Mercedes one-two with the championship leader winning at Spa-Francorchamps for the first time.

Congratulations to Lotus in scoring a podium finish with Romain Grosjean. Finally a positive result considering the future of the Enstone-based team.

Mercedes Spa 2015 race

Belgian Grand Prix, race results after 43 laps:

1    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    1h23m40.387s
2    Nico Rosberg    Mercedes    2.058s
3    Romain Grosjean    Lotus-Mercedes    37.988s
4    Daniil Kvyat    Red Bull-Renault    45.692s
5    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    53.997s
6    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    55.283s
7    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    55.703s
8    Max Verstappen    Toro Rosso-Renault    56.076s
9    Valtteri Bottas    Williams-Mercedes    1m01.040s
10    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    1m31.234s
11    Felipe Nasr    Sauber-Ferrari    1m42.311s
12    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    Tyre
13    Fernando Alonso    McLaren-Honda    1 Lap
14    Jenson Button    McLaren-Honda    1 Lap
15    Roberto Merhi    Marussia-Ferrari    1 Lap
16    Will Stevens    Marussia-Ferrari    1 Lap
–    Carlos Sainz    Toro Rosso-Renault    Retirement
–    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-Renault    Retirement
–    Pastor Maldonado    Lotus-Mercedes    Retirement
–    Nico Hulkenberg    Force India-Mercedes    Not started

Drivers’ standings:

1    Lewis Hamilton    227
2    Nico Rosberg    199
3    Sebastian Vettel    160
4    Kimi Raikkonen    82
5    Felipe Massa    82
6    Valtteri Bottas    79
7    Daniil Kvyat    57
8    Daniel Ricciardo    51
9    Romain Grosjean    38
10    Max Verstappen    26
11    Sergio Perez    25
12    Nico Hulkenberg    24
13    Felipe Nasr    16
14    Pastor Maldonado    12
15    Fernando Alonso    11
16    Carlos Sainz    9
17    Marcus Ericsson    7
18    Jenson Button    6
19    Roberto Merhi    0
20    Will Stevens    0

Constructors’ standings:

1    Mercedes    426
2    Ferrari    242
3    Williams-Mercedes    161
4    Red Bull-Renault    108
5    Lotus-Mercedes    50
6    Force India-Mercedes    49
7    Toro Rosso-Renault    35
8    Sauber-Ferrari    23
9    McLaren-Honda    17
10    Marussia-Ferrari    0

Next race: Italian Grand Prix, Monza. September 4-6.

Hamilton leads Mercedes power top five at Spa

Hamilton Spa 2015

Championship leader Lewis Hamilton achieved his tenth pole of the season at the magnificent Spa-Francorchamps circuit by beating his team-mate Nico Rosberg by quite some margin.

This was Hamilton’s 48th career pole in P1 and his sixth consecutive, matching Michael Schumacher’s record in 2000 and ’01. This achievement also clinched the FIA pole trophy for 2015.

Rosberg was narrowly faster than his team-mate in Q2 at Spa, but the reigning world champion reversed the situation by a massive 0.446 seconds after their respective first runs in Q3, then lowered his lap time to a 1m47.197s on his second run to secure pole.

Valtteri Bottas achieved a solid third for Williams while Romain Grosjean recorded his best-ever qualifying position with fourth. Big shame for the Lotus driver to drop down the grid come race day no thanks to the penalty.

Sergio Perez made it a Mercedes-powered top five for Sauber, showcasing the serious grunt ‘the three-pointed star’ at Spa.

Ferrari would normally be expected to fill row two of the grid, but Sebastian Vettel could only lap ninth fastest in his SF15-T, while team-mate Kimi Raikkonen failed to make it into Q3 at all after his car broke down on track with what the team believes was a loss of oil pressure.

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo rounded out the top six, ahead of Felipe Massa and Pastor Maldonado.

Carlos Sainz Jr’s Toro Rosso completed the top ten, despite well adrift of the rest of the Q3 runners.

Perez had set a solid fourth-best time in Q2, but Nico Hulkenberg failed to make the top ten, finishing up over three tenths adrift of his Force India team-mate in P11.

Daniel Kvyat was another surprise failure in Q2, finishing up P12, ahead of Marcus Ericsson.

As for the ‘king of Spa’ Kimi Raikkonen, The Iceman ended up in P14, ahead of the Toro Rosso of Max Verstappen, who took not part in Q2 after suffering a suspected loss of power with his Renault engine in Q1.

Sauber’s Felipe Nasr was the big loser among the tight midfield battle in Q1.

Verstappen’s Toro Rosso was vulnerable thanks to a suspected loss of power early on in his final flying lap, but Nasr fell short of beating the teenager by 0.121 seconds, so wound up P16.

Jenson Button was a second further back in the best of the McLaren-Hondas.

The 2009 world champion described his time of one minute, 50.978 seconds effort as “the best lap I’ve done for a long time”, but it was only good enough for P17…

Team-mate Fernando Alonso was nearly half a second adrift in the other MP4-30, after sitting out the final practice session with an exhaust leak.

Will Stevens won the private battle of the Manor/Marussias at the bottom of the timesheet, beating team-mate Roberto Merhi by 0.151 seconds.

Spa 2015 Mercedes

Qualifying times from Spa-Francorchamps:

1    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    1m47.197s
2    Nico Rosberg    Mercedes    1m47.655s
3    Valtteri Bottas    Williams-Mercedes    1m48.537s
4    Romain Grosjean    Lotus-Mercedes    1m48.561s
5    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    1m48.599s
6    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-Renault    1m48.639s
7    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    1m48.685s
8    Pastor Maldonado    Lotus-Mercedes    1m48.754s
9    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    1m48.825s
10    Carlos Sainz    Toro Rosso-Renault    1m49.771s
11    Nico Hulkenberg    Force India-Mercedes    1m49.121s
12    Daniil Kvyat    Red Bull-Renault    1m49.228s
13    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    1m49.586s
14    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    No time
15    Felipe Nasr    Sauber-Ferrari    1m49.952s
16    Will Stevens    Marussia-Ferrari    1m52.948s
17    Roberto Merhi    Marussia-Ferrari    1m53.099s
18    Max Verstappen    Toro Rosso-Renault    No time
19    Jenson Button    McLaren-Honda    1m50.978s*
20    Fernando Alonso    McLaren-Honda    1m51.420s*

*Grid penalties for changing power units