Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes AMG
Petronas got his 80th podium at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit for
round 11 of the championship, the 2015 Formula 1 Shell Belgian Grand Prix. Lewis’s win draws him level with the
great Ayrton Senna in fourth in the all-time lists. His teammate Nico Rosberg who
came in second has 36, in level with two-time champion Graham Hill.
Romain Grosjean of Lotus came
in third and with that it was his 10th rostrum of his career, but probably the
most unlikely. Grosjean and Lotus last stood on the podium in November 2013, in
Austin. He couldn’t hide his delight as he stepped out to take the applause in
front of a raucous Spa crowd. The biggest cheers were reserved for Grosjean
though, who addressed the crowd in his native tongue, before adding, "It
has been an incredible weekend for us. I still can't believe we are on the
podium. These guys work so hard to give us this car. Of course at Spa I still
remember Turn 1 in 2012, but I think that made me stronger. For us has the
prize of a race win."
Meanwhile, Rosberg admitted
that the start cost him. "I completely messed up the start. Then I fought
my way through and gave it everything, we were both really on the edge all the
time. Lewis did a great job and deserved the win. I gave it everything - but
not enough. I'm rushing off - we're expecting our first child at any moment!"
he said immediately after the race.
Spa Francorchamps is the
longest and most exciting track on the Formula One calendar which includes the
iconic Eau Rouge flat out uphill corner that is loved and feared by every
driver. With new start procedure regulations in place, the race was bound to be
exciting and it was.
Before the race even began,
Nico Hulkenberg of Sahara Force India and Carlos Sainz Jr of Torro Rosso faced
the gremlins early on with problems on their cars. The race start was abandoned
after Hulkenberg started waving his hands after the formation lap on the grid
and had his Force India car pulled into the garage. On the second formation
lap, Sainz came into the pits in his Torro Rosso to retire.
When the lights finally went
out, Hamilton jumped to the first corner with a decent un aided start while
Rosberg struggled and dropped down the grid. This gave Sergio Perez (Force
India) sitting on 4th on the grid to leapfrog to 2nd and challenge Hamilton
through Eau Rouge and onto the Kemmel straight. Perez slipstreamed momentarily
to the lead only for Hamilton to out-brake him into the turn and maintain his
lead and go on to lead the entirety of the race to take the win.
Rosberg fell down the grid due
to his poor start but through the race managed to climb up to 2nd. On the second lap however, it was a sad
moment for the Colombian, Pastor Maldonado of Lotus who faced engine problems
and was forced to retire.
The grid was shuffled and
reshuffled due to numerous and brilliant over takes and moves and also pit
strategies that didn’t play too much of a factor, but none the less made a
difference. The first set of pit stops came from Daniel Ricciardo, who pitted
his Redbull to undercut Perez successfully on lap 8. Valtteri Bottas was having
a great race until his first pit stop. Williams brought the Finn into the box,
and sent him out on 3 soft tyres and 1 medium tyre. The error caused Bottas a
drive through penalty, but he soldiered on with the mixed set, took his penalty
on lap 14, then continued on with his stint to his next scheduled pit stop as
it didn’t make much of a difference.
The Aussie Redbull driver,
Ricciardo, last year’s Belgian GP winner, was having a fantastic race up to the
point where his hydraulics gave in on the 20th lap. This forced the smiling
Aussie to walk back to the pits, retiring his RB11 F1 car to the marshals.
The second set of stops came
in due to the Virtual Safety Car being imposed on the track for the marshals to
remove the RB11 off the track and into safety. This reshuffled the pack even
more as many cars dived into the pits.
Williams didn’t have an easy
day as well as the team was using too much wing which led them to struggle to
keep the others at bay. This also gave the spectators a huge show as the battle
for 5th to 8th position was fired up and remained until all of them crossed the
On their 900th Grand Prix
entry, Ferrari might have some regets from the weekend and would rather forget
than celebrate. With problems faced by Kimi Raikkonen in qualifying and a
gearbox change that enforced penalty, the Iceman managed a hard fought 7th
place while Sebastian Vettel who was 2 laps away from taking the 3rd spot away
from Grosjean, suffered a blown tyre on the Kemmel straight 2 laps to the
chequered flag. The German, the only competition from another team to
Hamilton’s world title could score points after a brilliant race by finishing
12th. Should Ferrari, and could Ferrari had decided to pit Vettel in the given
window of opportunity, the German might have walked away with some points
rather than empty handed.
After a disappointment from
one car retiring early on, Lotus was given a reason to celebrate, despite their
internal financial woes when Romain Grosjean came across the finish line 3rd
behind both the Mercedes cars for his first podium since the US Grand Prix in
2013. Daniil Kvyat came in 4th for Redbull, while Sergio Perez only finished
5th after a brilliant start to his race. Felippe Massa managed a commendable
6th after holding off Raikkonen in 7th. Max Verstappen lost a place on the
final lap to the more experienced Finn to check-in in 8th place. Valterri
Bottos in the 2nd Williams finished 9th after his penalty and Marcus Ericsson
took the final point of the race with a 10th place finish for Sauber.
Felipe Nasr, Sebastian Vettel,
Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button and, the two Manor Marussia cars of Will Stevens
and Roberto Mehri were the final ones to finish the race in that order.
With Hamilton extending his
Championship lead, the party now heads to Monza for the Italian Grand Prix from
Carlos Sainz Jr
Scuderia Torro Rosso
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