Daniel Ricciardo took his third win of the season at the iconic Spa Francorchamps in Belgium over the weekend.
PRACTICE AND QUALIFYING
Practice saw the Mercedes pick up where they left off, but the Williams were never far away. To Ferando Alonso's surprise (and delight), the Ferraris were much-improved.
Lotus resumed their form, with Maldonado having a significant off in practice and failing to get out of Q1.
Newcomer Lotterer (replacing Kobayashi at Caterham) outqualified his teammate while Chilton took to the track despite being replaced on Friday by Alexander Rossi due to "contractual issues" that cleared unexpectedly.
But the action was at the front, with Rosberg laying down a sensational time on the wet track.
Hamilton tried with all his might, but was defeated by time and a suspect set of brakes. Ricciardo nearly threw his car into the wall on his final flyer but managed fifth behind Alonso, Vettel and the two Mercedes.
The drama began on the warm-up lap with Alonso still sitting in the air on his jacks as the grid moved away for the parade lap.
An investigation was immediately instigated as team members were on the grid after the fifteen second signal.
The race got away without further incident, with Hamilton leaping into the lead from second place. Vettel tried to mug Hamilton's at Les Combes but ended up going straight on to avoid an accident.
Ricciardo held his place while Vettel settled back into third behind Rosberg.
On the second lap, disaster struck the Mercedes team. Hamilton got a little wide out of Eau Rouge allowing Rosberg to get a run on him. The German stuck his nose in at Les Combes, but then backed off, but not in time.
The front wing of Rosberg's Mercedes clipped Hamilton's left rear tyre, causing his wing some damage but puncturing the Briton's tyre. Hamilton limped around to the pits and switched to medium tyres, but it was the beginning of the end.
Roberg's car was unhappy after it, but nowhere near as unhappy as Lewis Hamilton who went right to back of the field.
Niki Lauda put the blame on Rosberg while Toto Wolff was furious. "An unacceptable race. One rule, don't crash into each other. Unbelievable."
Daniel Ricciardo, meanwhile, got past the Ferrari of Alonso to take third place and get himself right on the rear of Sebastian Vettel.
A lap later, on lap six, Ricciardo passed Vettel for second after the German went into Pouhon way too fast.
Andre Lotterer's impressive Formula 1 debut was already over, sadly, his Caterham grinding to a halt at the pit entry. Lotus lost Pastor Maldonado's car to engine failure, the team's Twitter wag suggesting they were sending out Hercule Poirot to investigate.
Valtteri Bottas worked on Alonso and was able to pass the Ferrari on lap eight before charging after Vettel.
Rosberg came in at the end of lap eight, fitting a new front wing in the process. Ricciardo took over the lead while Raikkonen came in to jump the Mercedes as the front wing replacement held Rosberg up.
Ricciardo quickly created a three second gap to Vettel who was fighting off the Wiliams of Bottas.
Rosberg's woes continued as he got some tyre debris caught on his aerial and flapping in his face.
Vettel - curiously - pitted first despite being second on the road. The German fell behind the Toro Rosso of Vergne but passed him on the Kemmel straight for seventh. Ricciardo pitted the next lap but maintained his place ahead of his teammate.
Alonso's first stop had a five seconds stop-go added for the silliness on the grid, a relatively light punishment compared to the peril. Raikkonen, by contrast, was flying with a mighty set of laps catapaulting him into contention for the podium.
Bottas pitted at the same time as Alonso, another clever leapfrog move mirroring Raikkonen's stop to get ahead of Rosberg.
After the pit stops shook out, Ricciardo resumed the lead, with Raikkonen chasing.
Rosberg's pitwall helpfully informed him that to win he would have to pass Vettel (without mentioning Raikkonen or Ricciardo). The championship leader tried to pass the reigning champion at the Bus Stop but had a huge lock-up.
Bottas leapt on the error, chasing the Mercedes down through La Source and Eau Rouge before passing on the Kemmel straight.
Rosberg complained of vibration from his flat-spotted tyre and he duly pitted on lap twenty, after just twelve laps on the supposedly longer-lasting medium tyre.
Hamilton radioed the pits politely asking to retire, but he was told to stay out in case there was a safety car, usually a good bet at Spa.
Vettel pitted again at the end of lap twenty-two. Rosberg passed Button at Eau Rouge and then handed back the place after considering it a suspect move. He made it past on the next lap without incident.
Raikkonen passed Button the next time around, continuing his campaign to redeem himself after an indifferent season so far.
Up front, however, Ricciardo was in clear air with a huge gap of fourteen seconds over Bottas. He pitted at the end of lap twenty-seven, losing just one place and coming out within sight of Bottas, just over two seconds behind.
Bottas pitted and dropped to fifth, handing the lead back to Ricciardo and finding himself right behind Vettel. He got past on lap thirty-one, going around the outside at Les Combes and pulling away.
Lewis Hamilton continued his campaign to retire the car, but the team kept him going, bringing him in to the pits for a new set of medium tyres.
Rosberg pitted on lap thirty-five for soft tyres that had to last nine laps. Vettel pitted behind him.
Rosberg's strategy looked to be in trouble straight away as Bottas blew by on the Kemmel straight. But the German fought back on its fresher tyres, taking back third place at the Bus Stop and then Raikkonen's second place at Les Combes.
That late stop for soft tyres was a fighting move to catch Ricciardo. With seven laps to go, he was three seconds a lap faster than the Red Bull with a twenty second gap.
He got by on lap forty on the way into Les Combes and drove away.
Hamilton was finally told to pit by his team five laps from the end, citing a degradation in aero data, a strategic move to allow the team to change the gearbox without penalty.
Ricciardo had a 10.8 second lead at the beginning of lap forty-one but his pursuer, Rosberg, was much, much faster.
The two McLarens, Alonso and Vettel had an almighty battle over fifth place over the final two laps. Cars swapped places and Alonso even spent some time on the grass along Kemmel.
Magnussen took no prisoners, hanging Button out to dry and holding off Alonso who wasn't taking no for an answer. Magnussen pushed Alonso wide into the astroturf as he had done with his teammate, allowing Vettel past.
The Dane was later handed a twenty second post-race penalty by the stewards, dropping him fifth to twelfth and promoting Hulkenberg into the points.
Rosberg continued to close in on Ricciardo, a gap of four seconds at the start of the final lap.
Meanwhile, Vettel muscled past Magnussen while Alonso fought desperately, only to damage his front wing against the Red Bull's right rear tyre.
Rosberg came home second with smoking brakes and Bottas third after his own brilliant drive.
Daniel Ricciardo took the flag in first place after a faultless drive at a circuit famous for sorting the racers from the journeymen.
"It's great. We're really motivated right now. It's been a really good day for us on a track we didn't expect to get maximum points from, so yeah, it'll keep us smiling for a while," Ricciardo said.
Formula 1 returns in two weeks for the Italian Grand Prix.
- Daniel Ricciardo - Red Bull-Renault - 1h24m36.556s
- Nico Rosberg - Mercedes +3.383s
- Valtteri Bottas - Williams-Mercedes +28.032s
- Kimi Raikkonen - Ferrari +36.815s
- Sebastian Vettel - Red Bull-Renault +52.196s
- Kevin Magnussen - McLaren-Mercedes +54.262s
- Jenson Button - McLaren-Mercedes +54.580s
- Fernando Alonso - Ferrari +1m01.162s
- Sergio Perez - Force India-Mercedes +1m04.293s
- Daniil Kvyat - Toro Rosso-Renault +1m05.347s
- Nico Hulkenberg - Force India-Mercedes +1m05.697s
- Jean-Eric Vergne - Toro Rosso-Renault +1m11.920s
- Felipe Massa - Williams-Mercedes +1m15.975s
- Adrian Sutil - Sauber-Ferrari +1m22.447s
- Esteban Gutierrez - Sauber-Ferrari +1m30.825s
- Max Chilton - Marussia-Ferrari -1 lap
- Marcus Ericsson - Caterham-Renault -1 lap
- Jules Bianchi - Marussia-Ferrari -5 laps
- Lewis Hamilton - Mercedes - 38 laps
- Romain Grosjean - Lotus-Renault - 32 laps
- Pastor Maldonado - Lotus-Renault - 1 lap
- Andre Lotterer - Caterham-Renault - 1 lap
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