Nico Rosberg scored his first victory at Spa-Francorchamps while his title rival Lewis Hamilton claimed a podium finish from P21 on the grid in a chaotic Belgian Grand Prix.
By winning the race, Rosberg has now reduced the gap to his Mercedes team-mate Hamilton to nine points. But would have been hoping for more given the reigning champion’s back-row start due to numerous penalties accrued for three power unit changes.
Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo finished in a Silver Arrows sandwich on track while in the points standings, the money badger is third place ahead of the Ferrari pair of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, who could only manage sixth and ninth following numerous incidents.
The field was reduced to 17 cars within just five laps and was red-flagged on lap nine for barrier repairs after a massive crash that sent Renault’s Kevin Magnussen to hospital.
At the start, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was slow away from second and was swallowed up on the short run down to the La Source hairpin by both Raikkonen and Vettel.
As Vettel dived down the inside of Raikkonen and Vettel turned in, Raikkonen was left with nowhere to go in the middle and the trio made contact.
Vettel spun to the back, while Verstappen and Raikkonen were forced to pit due to damage sustained, with the Ferrari developing a small underside fire to add to the drama.
Later on the opening lap Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein ran into the back of Jenson Button’s McLaren coming out of Les Combes, with both retiring.
Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz was next out on lap two after sustaining a puncture along the Kemmel straight, and although he tried to continue, Sainz only succeeded in further damaging the car before pulling off track.
Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson, who had started the race from the pitlane due to the team working on cooling issues, also soon retired after losing sixth gear.
Penalised tail-end starters Fernando Alonso and Hamilton had reached P10 and P11 by lap six, when Magnussen ploughed into the Raidillon barrier.
Racing up through Eau Rouge, Magnussen appeared to take too much kerb on the exit, sending the Renault into a high-speed spin across the track before ramming into the wall, resulting in a Safety Car period.
A flurry of pit stops for fresh tyres followed over the first two laps under yellow, promoting Alonso and Hamilton up to fourth and fifth as they had no need to change rubber given they had started on the mediums at the back.
But with the barriers severely damaged, race director Charlie Whiting took the decision to red flag the race for 17 minutes to allow repairs to be carried out.
The running order at that stage was Rosberg ahead of Ricciardo, Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg, Alonso and Hamilton, with Vettel P11, Verstappen P16 and Raikkonen P17.
Raikkonen and Verstappen would make contact again soon after the race restart.
When Verstappen blocked Raikkonen on the following lap at high speed down the Kemmel straight, The Iceman again expressed expletive-laden anger.
Up front, Hamilton moved up to third on lap 18 of the 44 by passing Hulkenberg into Les Combes.
A slow pitstop three laps later dropped Hamilton to ninth, but as those ahead made their stops soon afterwards he rose back into the top three behind Rosberg and Ricciardo.
The out-of-sequence championship leader then had to overtake Force India’s Sergio Perez and Hulkenberg again after his third stop to clinch the final podium position, as Rosberg took the chequered flag by 14.1 seconds from Ricciardo.
Hulkenberg and Perez finished fourth and fifth, bringing Force India ahead of Williams to fourth in the constructors’ championship by one point.
The recovering Vettel and Alonso were sixth and seventh, with Williams pair Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa eighth and tenth either side of Raikkonen.
Verstappen tried a different strategy for his comeback drive but could only reach 11th.
On his F1 debut, Esteban Ocon held off Felipe Nasr to claim P16.
Belgian Grand Prix, race results after 44 laps:
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1h44m51.058s
2 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 14.113s
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 27.634s
4 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 35.907s
5 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 40.660s
6 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 45.394s
7 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Honda 59.445s
8 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1m00.151s
9 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m01.109s
10 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1m05.873s
11 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Renault 1m11.138s
12 Esteban Gutierrez Haas-Ferrari 1m13.877s
13 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1m16.474s
14 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m27.097s
15 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1m33.165s
16 Esteban Ocon Manor-Mercedes 1 Lap
17 Felipe Nasr Sauber-Ferrari 1 Lap
– Kevin Magnussen Renault Spun off
– Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari Retirement
– Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso-Ferrari Retirement
– Jenson Button McLaren-Honda Collision
– Pascal Wehrlein Manor-Mercedes Collision
1 Lewis Hamilton 232
2 Nico Rosberg 223
3 Daniel Ricciardo 151
4 Sebastian Vettel 128
5 Kimi Raikkonen 124
6 Max Verstappen 115
7 Valtteri Bottas 62
8 Sergio Perez 58
9 Nico Hulkenberg 45
10 Felipe Massa 39
11 Fernando Alonso 30
12 Carlos Sainz 30
13 Romain Grosjean 28
14 Daniil Kvyat 23
15 Jenson Button 17
16 Kevin Magnussen 6
17 Pascal Wehrlein 1
18 Stoffel Vandoorne 1
19 Esteban Gutierrez 0
20 Jolyon Palmer 0
21 Marcus Ericsson 0
22 Felipe Nasr 0
23 Rio Haryanto 0
24 Esteban Ocon 0
1 Mercedes 455
2 Red Bull-Renault 274
3 Ferrari 252
4 Force India-Mercedes 103
5 Williams-Mercedes 101
6 McLaren-Honda 48
7 Toro Rosso-Ferrari 45
8 Haas-Ferrari 28
9 Renault 6
10 Manor-Mercedes 1
11 Sauber-Ferrari 0
Next race: Italian Grand Prix, Monza. September 2-4.