Ricciardo masterclass as Mercedes duo blow it

Daniel Ricciardo on his way to victory in Belgium

Daniel Ricciardo on his way to victory in Belgium

Daniel Ricciardo once again defied the odds to take well calculated victory at the Belgian Grand Prix, delivering a masterclass in tyre conservation as he notched up his third win of the season at the sport’s most daunting venue, while pre-race favourites Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton collided on the second lap, with Briton coming off worse and the German surviving to finish second ahead of Williams driver Valtteri Bottas.

The afternoon belonged deservedly to Ricciardo, as he tenaciously kept Rosberg at bay in the final laps despite well worn tyres on his Red Bull, turning fifth place on the grid into maximum points. And tellingly, along the way dispatching world champion teammate Sebastian Vettel with a slick move on lap five after setting the fastest lap and by lap eight led for the first time at Spa-Francorchamps. Thereafter he managed his pace to collect his third winner’s trophy of the season.

Sporting his traditional big smile, Ricciardo reported, “I think back home there is a huge following for F1 but this is almost as many Aussie flags as there was in Melbourne so thanks so much. It is a bit different when you lead the race for that long, it’s more about composure and trying to keep steady. Once Nico went in I knew he would be quick at the end so I had to keep my pace u to stay ahead of him.”

Start of the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix

Start of the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix

“When you are leading the first thing is you hope everything holds together, mechanically you hope everything gets you to the finish line but certainly when you are in the lead the chequered flag can’t come soon enough,” he said with an inevitable grin.

The big headlines and talking point will  no doubt be all about the clash between the Silver Arrows teammates, and title rivals, who were expected to dominate the race, but instead their well laid out plans were in tatters by lap two.

Hamilton made a bullet start while Rosberg battled with Vettel to stay in second, which did and then proceeded to attack at Les Combes but Hamilton held the inside line and braked very late but made the apex. But Rosberg was too ambitious and tried to go around the outside, but clipped his teammate’s left rear tyre – and that was that for Hamilton.

The Briton made the 6 km trek back to the pits, with a rear tyre shredding to ribbons and inevitably damaging the rear-end of the Mercedes, he rejoined but thereafter spent the rest of the race requesting to be retired to save the engine. The team finally called him in with 6 laps remaining.

Lewis Hamilton leads Nico Rosberg shortly before they collided

Lewis Hamilton leads Nico Rosberg shortly before they collided

Rosberg damaged his front wing, but managed to continue in the lead for several laps before pitting for a new one. In the final stages he was easily the quickest driver on track and started stalking Ricciardo, but Red Bull had done their maths. Rosberg had to settle for second, but the result was a huge boost to his title ambitions as his lead at the top of the championship table over Hamilton is now 29 points.

The large crowd that assembled for the podium ceremony aired their sentiments with resounding boos every time Rosberg was mentioned or spoke, to the point of embarrassment which prompted master of ceremonies Eddie Jordan to call for respect.

Rosberg said afterwards, “I got a good run on Lewis and tried to go round the outside and we just touched in the end unfortunately and it hurt both of our races, but that’s just how it goes.”

“I have not seen it yet so it wouldn’t be good of me to comment on it, I will have a look at it and then speak about it. I was pretty confident [we could get a one-two] we had good race speed but unfortunately it didn’t work out for us,” he lamented.

Hamilton reflected on his third DNF of the season, “What can I say? Initially it was really gutting I was driving so hard to try to get what I could get out of the car, it might not have looked that way but it was so damaged and I am just gutted for my team.”

“The guys work so hard, I got a good start, it was looking good, I took the corner as I should because it was my line and I don’t know why he hit me but I am sure he will leave here happy tonight,” Hamilton added.

Belgian Grand Prix, Spa-Francorchamps – 24 August 2014
Pos No Driver Team Laps Time/Retired Grid Pts
1 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing-Renault 44 1:24:36.556 5 25
2 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 44 +3.3 secs 1 18
3 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 44 +28.0 secs 6 15
4 7 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 44 +36.8 secs 8 12
5 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 44 +52.1 secs 3 10
6 22 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 44 +54.5 secs 10 8
7 14 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 44 +61.1 secs 4 6
8 11 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 44 +64.2 secs 13 4
9 26 Daniil Kvyat STR-Renault 44 +65.3 secs 11 2
10 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 44 +65.6 secs 18 1
11 25 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Renault 44 +71.9 secs 12
12 20 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 44 +74.2 secs 7
13 19 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 44 +75.9 secs 9
14 99 Adrian Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 44 +82.4 secs 14
15 21 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 44 +90.8 secs 20
16 4 Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 43 +1 Lap 19
17 9 Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault 43 +1 Lap 22
18 17 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 39 Gearbox 16
Ret 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 38 Damage 2
Ret 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 33 Damage 15
Ret 13 Pastor Maldonado Lotus-Renault 1 Exhaust 17
Ret 45 Andre Lotterer Caterham-Renault 1 Power unit 21

Note – Magnussen originally finished sixth but had 20s added to race time for forcing another car off track