Nico Rosberg leads all way to win Belgian Grand Prix
Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton rallies to finish third and stay 10 points clear of rival
German Formula One driver Nico Rosberg of Mercedes AMG GP celebrates winning the 2016 Formula One Grand Prix of Belgium yesterday. Photograph: Srdjan Suki/Epa
Nico Rosberg won the Belgian Grand Prix with a pole-to-flag victory untroubled at the front of the field but in his wake, Lewis Hamilton, his Mercedes team-mate, achieved far more than he expected by putting in a superb recovery drive to claim third place and minimise the damage that starting on the back row of the grid had done to his world championship ambitions.
Hamilton had led the title race by 19 points going into the race but having fitted three new engines at Spa, he took penalty places that saw him begin the race second from last. He has maintained his lead, which now stands at 10 points, and given the circumstances and his own fears that the hot temperatures would work against his ability to come through the field, he will be pleased with his afternoon’s work, especially given he now has a stock of power units for the rest of the season.
Sixth win of season
The German driver put in exactly what was needed with aplomb. Victory was required and he delivered, working his tyres well, albeit with no real opposition. He may have hoped for more in terms of regaining points in the title fight but a failure to win would have been more damaging. Hamilton, in turn, was favoured by events including a safety car and the race being red-flagged but was also controlled and skilful in passing and staying out of trouble.
Force India enjoyed another great weekend at Spa with Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez in fourth and fifth respectively. Fernando Alonso, who had taken three new power units for his McLaren over the weekend, incurring a 60-place grid penalty and who had started from the back of the grid, finished in seventh place after a great drive, but his team-mate Jenson Button retired with a mechanical problem after just one lap, having been hit from behind by the Manor of Pascal Wehrlein.
Hamilton had started from the last row with a 55-place penalty for the new engines this weekend, which was compounded to an even greater level of meaninglessness with a further five places deducted when the team broke a seal on the car under parc ferme conditions – in order to be able to change the gearbox at the next round in Monza.
Rosberg had leapt into the lead from what was a messy start behind him that saw the two Ferraris take damage from one another after Max Verstappen went up the inside on the first corner. Vettel spun and the Dutch driver also suffered in the incident and he and Raikonnen were forced to pit. Their drama was swiftly overshadowed however, when Carlos Sainz’s Toro Rosso suffered a huge blowout on lap two, which brought out the virtual safety car. At which point Hamilton had made a superb start to make it to 13th from 21st on the grid – one that was bettered by Alonso, who had started at the back and had moved up to 11th.
The damage to the tyre wall proved extensive and after four laps behind the safety car the race was red-flagged. The cars retuned to the pit lane where Hamilton took advantage of the free stop to switch to the soft compound tyre and Rosberg to the medium. An 18-minute delay ensued before the green flags were back, with Rosberg leading Red Bull’s Ricciardo and Force India’s Hulkenberg and Alonso behind them.
Hamilton was on a charge, however, and moved up into fourth, passing Alonso on the Kemmel Straight a lap later. His gap to the leader was 5.6 seconds but he was losing time behind Hulkenberg – a further two down in the next two laps. On lap 18 he passed the German, again on the Kemmel Straight, putting him into the podium places.
Offered third on Friday morning, one suspects he would have snapped it up. Guardian Service Results in Sports Round-up