Rosberg victorious in chaotic Spa race

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

Drivers’ standings:

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

Constructors’ standings:

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.

Rosberg takes Spa pole and yet Verstappen impresses

After a long summer break, Formula 1 returns with a positive feeling with Nico Rosberg taking pole position at Spa-Francorchamps while Max Verstappen achieved his best-ever grid slot with second place.

Pole position for Rosberg was expected considering the speed of the Silver Arrows while his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton choosing not to try for pole, on account of a 55-place grid penalty for multiple engine changes, Rosberg looked set to face a relatively unchallenged run to pole.

And yet, Max Verstappen became the challenger for P1. The fight for the top spot was exciting but in the end, second quickest time for Red Bull is still impressive. Verstappen becomes the youngest driver since Ricardo Rodriguez back in 1961 to start from the front row.

As for championship leader Lewis Hamilton. The Mercedes driver will run a new power unit but thanks to the penalties applied to changing parts with tokens, he will start the Belgian Grand Prix in last place.

Joining Hamilton will be another champion, in the shape of Fernando Alonso. The McLaren also received penalties due to the power unit. Pure irony that the Honda engine let go even before the start of his qualifying lap…

Kimi Raikkonen was third fastest for Ferrari, almost two tenths clear of team-mate Sebastian Vettel, who lost time to a big oversteer moment at the Bus Stop chicane on his final flying lap. Raikkonen also dropped time at the end of his lap, and felt that cost him a shot at pole.

Daniel Ricciardo was fifth for Red Bull, just over three tenths down on his team-mate Verstappen.

Ricciardo endured a poor first run in Q3, but improved enough on his second to make the top six.

Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg took sixth and seventh places respectively for Force India, while fellow Mercedes customer team Williams suffered software problems with both cars in Q3.

This meant it couldn’t run full qualifying mode on the engines, restricting Valtteri Bottas to eighth and Felipe Massa to tenth.

Massa also locked his brakes heavily at La Source on his single Q3 run, and Jenson Button’s McLaren-Honda was able to squeak ahead of him into ninth position.

Button’s place in Q3 came at the expense of Romain Grosjean’s Haas, which ended up missing the cut by 0.265 seconds.

Renault delivered its best qualifying performance of the season so far with Kevin Magnussen P12 and team-mate Jolyon Palmer P14.

They were split by Esteban Gutierrez, who faces a five-place grid penalty for impeding Pascal Wehrlein’s Manor at Raidillon in final practice.

Wehrlein made it through to Q2 was a solid effort, but wound up last in that segment, after a disappointing run in which he went slower than he did in Q1.

Carlos Sainz was just ahead of him for Toro Rossos, also unable to improve on his Q1 best.

Felipe Nasr failed to escape Q1 in the heavily revised Sauber by just 0.048 seconds and wound up P17, a tenth ahead of Manor debutant Esteban Ocon.

Daniil Kvyat endured yet another Q1 exit for Toro Rosso, ending up P19, fractionally ahead of Marcus Ericsson.

Reigning world champion Hamilton recorded P20, completing a lap within the 107% qualifying rule knowing he will start at the back of the grid.

Fernando Alonso’s McLaren-Honda broke down before he could complete an out-lap in qualifying, so he failed to set a time.

Honda found what it described as a “data anomaly” with Alonso’s engine after the final practice session, but elected to send him out without making an engine change.

Belgian Grand Prix, qualifying positions:

1    Nico Rosberg    Mercedes    1m46.744s
2    Max Verstappen    Red Bull-Renault    1m46.893s
3    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    1m46.910s
4    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    1m47.108s
5    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-Renault    1m47.216s
6    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    1m47.407s
7    Nico Hulkenberg    Force India-Mercedes    1m47.543s
8    Valtteri Bottas    Williams-Mercedes    1m47.612s
9    Jenson Button    McLaren-Honda    1m48.114s
10    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    1m48.263s
11    Romain Grosjean    Haas-Ferrari    1m48.316s
12    Kevin Magnussen    Renault    1m48.485s
13    Jolyon Palmer    Renault    1m48.888s
14    Carlos Sainz    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m49.038s
15    Pascal Wehrlein    Manor-Mercedes    1m49.320s
16    Felipe Nasr    Sauber-Ferrari    1m48.949s
17    Esteban Ocon    Manor-Mercedes    1m49.050s
18    Esteban Gutierrez    Haas-Ferrari    1m48.598s
19    Daniil Kvyat    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m49.058s
20    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    1m49.071s
21    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    1m50.033s
22    Fernando Alonso    McLaren-Honda     No time