Belgian Grand Prix: Full race report

Daniel Ricciardo celebrates victory at the Belgian Grand Prix

Daniel Ricciardo celebrates victory at the Belgian Grand Prix

Daniel Ricciardo took his third win of the season as a second-lap collision involving Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton badly compromised Mercedes‘ race.

Rosberg suffered front wing damage but eventually fought his way back to second place but Hamilton, who sustained a puncture in the incident, dropped to the back of the field and finally retired on lap 39.

Valtteri Bottas claimed his fourth podium finish of the season with third place ahead of Ferrari‘s Kimi Raikkonen, who took his best result of the season so far.

Ricciardo was all smiles as he savoured his third career win at the sport’s most daunting venue, “There was a bit of pressure, it probably looked a bit easier because I had the lead early on and I just kept it. We couldn’t really rest though because I knew Nico Rosberg would be quick at the end but we held on and it was nice to taste the champagne again.

“It couldn’t have gone better considering everything that’s happened, especially during pre season. It’s been awesome and I have enjoyed every moment of it. Monza will be challenging but if Mercedes slip up then we will be there to capitalise,” he added with a grin.

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg moment of impact

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg moment of impact

Rosberg, who was booed on the podium by fans , said, “Of course I am very unhappy for the team because we have the fastest car and we should have had first and second. For sure I regret that we touched because it cost me the win and it was unavoidable.”

The podium is becoming a familiar place for Bottas as Williams once again gave him a handy car, and he seized the opportunity to claim his fourth top three finish in five race. He reflected afterwards, “The team has been doing a very good job, we are certainly going it the right way. We are still chasing for the higher step but for this season we are going the right way.”

“I think this season it’s going to be tough, we need to be lucky because Mercedes are very quick and on a track like this so were Red Bull. There is still work to do but we are going the right way,” added the Finn.

Even before the start of the race, Fernando Alonso’s afternoon was already going badly. The Ferrari driver’s car was still on jacks as the parade lap began and though he finally got going, members of his crew were still on the grid inside the 15-second cut-off point before the formation lap. It would later earn him a five-second stop-go penalty.

Start of the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix

Start of the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix

At the start Hamilton passed the slow-starting Rosberg and stole into the lead on the run up to La Source. Vettel too made a good start and passed his fellow German around the outside. Vettel then attempted to overtake Hamilton into Les Combes but out-braked himself, ran wide and rejoined behind Rosberg.

The drama wasn’t over, however. On the following lap Rosberg attempted a pass on his team-mate at Les Combes, but as Hamilton shut the door the pair collided, the right side of Rosberg’s front wing clipping the rear left-tyre of Hamilton’s car.

The Briton immediately swerved off track with a puncture while Rosberg shipped heavy front-end damage. Hamilton limped back to the pits for a new wheel, but while Rosberg reported much damage he was told to stay out and see how matters developed.

Behind the front two, Ricciardo was on the move, passing Alonso at Les Combes. He was soon on Vettel’s tail and overtook his team-mate when the champion ran wide at Pouhon. The Australian then set off after Rosberg who appeared to be suffering badly due to the front wing damage. Ricciardo closed to within a second and Mercedes took the decision to pit the leader for a new wing and medium tyres. The Red Bull driver assumed the lead.

Valtteri Bottas on his way to third place

Valtteri Bottas on his way to third place

Valtteri Bottas too was making a move. The Finn passed Alonso for third on lap eight, overtaking the Ferrari under DRS on the Kemmel Straight.

Rosberg was soon in trouble again. On lap 10 he picked up some debris on the track while racing down the Kemmel Straight. The debris became entangled in the aerial on the nose cone of his car and fluttered dangerously around his steering wheel.

Alonso, meanwhile, was handed a five-second stop-go penalty by the stewards, which he elected to serve during the first round of stops.

That round of stops was completed by the end of lap 15. Ricciardo, on softs, still led, with Kimi Raikkonen now second ahead of Vettel. Rosberg, who took on medium tyres during his stop, was now fourth ahead of Bottas, Magnussen and Alonso. Hamilton was now 16th and some 16 seconds adrift of Sauber’s Adrian Sutil.

On lap 16 Rosberg attempted to pass Vettel for third place but ran wide under braking and the error allowed Bottas to close and eventually pass the Mercedes driver under DRS on the following lap as the pair raced down the long Kemmel Straight.

Sebastian Vettel finished fifth

Sebastian Vettel finished fifth

Rosberg then reported that he was getting significant vibration from the tyre he had lit up attempting the pass on Vettel and he was forced to pit again on lap 19, taking on more medium rubber. He rejoined in 11th place but was soon up to ninth behind Sergio Perez.

Raikkonen made his second stop from second place on lap 21, taking on medium tyres. Vettel took his set of mediums on lap 22 and rejoined in P8. Ricciardo pitted from the lead on lap 27, taking on medium tyres, which he would race to the flag. Bottas now assumed the lead, having stopped just once, ahead of Rosberg who had made two stops and carved his way through the pack.

Bottas pitted on the very next lap, which promoted Rosberg back to the lead he had lost on lap eight. The German, on 10-lap-old medium tyres, would need to stop again, though with Bottas rejoining in fifth and new third-place man Raikkonen also possibly requiring another stop, Rosberg was told he was a “safe second”.

On lap 31, Bottas passed Vettel for fourth place and seemed set to secure his podium place as both Vettel and third-placed Raikkonen looked set to take on fresh tyres, whereas Bottas was on a two-stop plan.

With 10 laps to go Rosberg and Vettel made their stops, with both taking on soft tyres, aimed at utilising the tyre’s better pace to see what they could achieve against the two-stoppers on ageing prime tyres.

Kimi Raikkonen enjoyed his best race of the season

Kimi Raikkonen enjoyed his best race of the season

Rosberg rejoined in fourth and quickly dismissed Bottas and Raikkonen, but now the German was 22 seconds down on Ricciardo. That was simply too big a gap to make up to the Australian and the Mercedes driver settled in the end for his safe second place.

Behind him Raikkonen defied expectation, the Finn attempting to cling on to third on the set on prime tyres he had taken on at the end of lap 21. It was a brave choice but ultimately one that failed as Bottas, breezed past the Ferrari on the Kemmel Straight four laps from home.

Nevertheless Raikkonen would be satisfied in at last beating his teammate this year, and said, “It would have been nicer to finish higher up but it’s disappointing. They wanted me at the front to push for a win but I finished fourth. We have a pretty good speed in the race but when we are starting at the back after qualifying it’s going to be tough.”

With Raikkonen secure in fourth, a furious battle developed for fifth. Magnussen held fifth but a train was building up behind him, featuring Alonso, Button and the hard-charging Vettel.

Top three celebrate on the podium

Top three celebrate on the podium

A titanic battle ensued, with at times, the drivers racing four abreast on the run to Les Combes. It was Vetttel who came out on top, thanks to fresher tyres. Magnussen was sixth ahead of Button and Alonso. It wasn’t without a price though and Magnussen given a 20 second time penalty as well as two penalty points after stewards investigated the incident with Alonso.

Fifth was little consolation for quadruple world champion Vettel who saw his teammate notch up a third win while he has yet to celebrate on the top step of a podium this year.

He summed up his afternoon, “Disappointed because we didn’t have the speed today. I was trying to put Lewis under pressure from the off, we were set up for straight lines but the tyres were colder than expected. Lap two was good to see the two Mercedes hit each other and give us a chance but I just didn’t have the pace.”

Ahead, though, Ricciardo took a calm and controlled third career win, to leave him on 156 points, just 35 behind championship contender Hamilton, who stays on 191 points.

Rosberg, meanwhile, moves to 220 points and a healthy title lead as the championship heads towards Monza.

The day at Spa belonged to Daniel Ricciardo and Red Bull

The day at Spa belonged to Daniel Ricciardo and Red Bull

Final word to winning Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, “This was supposed to be a damage limitation race. We have managed to find a balance and Daniel has managed to find a confidence in the car that has managed to produce a good lap time.”

“Ultimately we benefited from the Mercedes’ little get together but in like-for-like pace we were not far off them today. The incident between the two Mercedes was was two guys going for a world championship and going for the same piece of tarmac,” he added with a twinkle in his eye.

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.