Drama, drama everywhere but not a drop for Lewis Hamilton, as he claimed his 39th win in Formula 1 and his 6th of 2015 ahead of Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg and Lotus’ Romain Grosjean, who claimed his first podium since the American Grand Prix in November 2013 after Sebastian Vettel’s spectacular penultimate lap puncture.
After 4 weeks the drivers returned from their summer break, welcomed by glorious Ardennes sunshine and the familiar sight of a Mercedes front row lock out, Hamilton qualifying on pole, 4 tenths faster than nearest championship rival Rosberg.
Meanwhile, Ferrari had a disastrous Saturday. Sebastian Vettel only managing a lowly 9th and newly re-signed Kimi Räikkönen knocked out in Q2, again through no fault of his own which left Williams’ Valtteri Bottas free to claim the third spot on the grid. But let’s not forget that some things never change, the McLaren duo of Button and Alonso picking up a cumulative 105 grid-place penalty ensuring that they started somewhere just outside Gent.
So come Sunday, there were some good battles on the cards, the Force India’s of Hülkenberg and Perez looking dangerous and the Ferrari’s further back than they should be. It looked enticing with the addition of the drivers having to conduct their starts on their own. However, Hülkenberg could only manage a formation lap before his Force India ran out of grunt and he was quickly rolled back into the garage after stalling on the grid.
When the race did get under way it was Hamilton who seized the initiative, getting a clean start as Rosberg dropped all the way back to 6th place, not the dream start for the German, with Sergio Perez indeed starting well, launching himself up to second place, but by the end of the first lap, Hamilton had stretched out a 2 second gap.
Red Bull set up their car to be faster in a straight line, the ‘Monza-spec’ as it was named to allow Daniel Ricciardo to jump up to third and to allow Daniil Kvyat utilise his fresher tyres come the end of the race on the long Kemmel Straight after Eau Rouge and Radillon. However Ricciardo’s race came to a shuddering halt on lap 21 with hydraulics failure at the Bus Stop when he was holding a potential podium position. One can be sure that that will not help Renault’s straining relationship with the Austrian team.
Williams shot themselves in the foot as early as lap 10, when they fitted Bottas with 1 medium tyre and 3 soft tyres. A very serious and calamitous error by anyone’s standard, leaving the Finn with a drive-through penalty dropping him right into the wrong side of the midfield.
The main action of the race came in the last 7 laps. With a small threat of rain being reported by pilots near by, the front-runners had the dilemma of whether to pit for another set of slicks, or wait until the rain came, if it came. And that’s a big if. Red Bull brought Kvyat in for the yellow striped soft tyre, making sure he had enough pace to cause damage in the lower paying points positions, and it worked, carving through the 5 car battle for 5th position, dispatching Räikkönen, Massa, Bottas and Perez on his way to a solid and well earned 4th place. Lotus also brought in Romain Grosjean who was keeping the pressure on Vettel who stayed out. Grosjean closed and closed and looked for a way through with Vettel struggling on tyres that were 28 laps old and found a way through (unknowingly) on the 42nd and penultimate lap.
Down the Kemmel Straight came Vettel followed by the Frenchman and Vettel’s right rear Pirelli screamed ‘I’ve had enough’ and spectacuarly blew and quickly delaminated leaving the Ferrari limping back to the pits to finish a lowly 12th when he had a podium within touching distance. One must say that by Ferrari telling him to stay out, his championship charge exploded as quickly as the worn rubber.
But it was Hamilton who took the chequered flag to extend his championship lead to 28 points over Rosberg with 9 races to go. No repeats of last year’s first lap capitulation.
As Murray Walker often said ‘Anything can happen in Formula 1 and it usually does.’
Official Race Results
- Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:23:40.387
- Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) +2.058
- Romain Grosjean (Lotus) +37.988
- Daniil Kvyat (Red Bull) +45.692
- Sergio Perez (Force India) +53.997
- Felipe Massa (Williams) +55.283
- Kimi Räikkönen (Ferrari) +55.703
- Max Verstappen (Toro Rosso) + 56.076
- Valtteri Bottas (Williams) +1:01.040
- Marcus Ericsson (Sauber) +1:31.234
- Felipe Nasr (Sauber) +1:42.311
- Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) Puncture
- Fernando Alonso (McLaren) +1 lap
- Jenson Button (McLaren) +1 lap
- Roberto Merhi (Manor) +1 lap
- Will Stevens (Manor) +1 lap
Carlos Sainz (Toro Rosso) Engine
Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) Hydraulics
Pastor Maldonado (Lotus) Engine
Did Not Start
Nico Hülkenberg (Force India) Engine
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