Nico Rosberg led a thrilling race from start to finish, closing the gap at the top of the drivers’ championship to nine points, but Lewis Hamilton did superbly to move from the back of the grid to third
Nico Rosberg has cut Lewis Hamilton’s title lead to nine points with victory at an action-packed Belgian GP.
But both Mercedes drivers had reason to celebrate when they joined the second-placed Daniel Ricciardo on the podium after emerging unscathed from a race of chaos and controversy.
While Rosberg enjoyed an incident-free cruise to victory from pole position, Hamilton successfully navigated his Mercedes car from 21st to third to only lose ten points to his team-mate and solitary title rival.
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“Congrats to Lewis, to go from the last row must have been pretty impressive,” conceded Rosberg.
Hamilton’s damage limitation operation was substantially abetted by a first-lap collision that effectively took Kimi Raikkonen, Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen out of contention for a podium finish along with four retirements – including Jenson Button’s – across an unruly opening half-dozen laps followed by a 20-minute stoppage for a horror crash involving Renault’s Kevin Magnussen.
Hamilton: The fight is on
“I’d have had an even better summer if I’d known I’d be coming out nine points ahead after three new engines,” said Hamilton. “To come out with a clean race like I did, only lose 10 points and have three new engines, it’s a super bonus.”
Nico Hulkenberg equalled his best-ever result in F1 by taking fourth ahead of Force India team-mate Sergio Perez and Vettel while McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, who started alongside Hamilton on the back row, produced the drive of the day to fight to seventh. “To be in the points at a circuit like this was unthinkable a few months ago,” said the Spaniard.
Belgian GP driver ratings
Although both Williams drivers finished in the points, the team have now slipped behind Force India in the Constructors’ Championship.
On an afternoon of relentless drama in the Ardennes, this was F1 at its most breathless, captivating, chaotic and, in the case of Magnussen, dangerous.
Renault’s Kevin Magnussen causes the Belgian GP to be red flagged after a massive crash at Raidillon.
It was only testimony to the sport’s increased safety levels that the young Dane was able to clamber out of his wrecked Renault car after slamming into the barriers at the summit of Eau Rouge, the most famous corner in the sport and one of the fastest, at over 150mph. Magnussen’s ankle injury after being taken to the medical centre amounted to a remarkable escape.
Verstappen hits out at Ferrari pair
The tone was set at the very first corner when Raikkonen, Vettel and Verstappen arrived at the Hairpin simultaneously, triggering an accident that saw Vettel slew off the circuit, Raikkonen suffer a puncture and, to the crushing disappointment of a packed-out Spa crowd swelled by legions of border-crossing Dutch supporters, the Red Bull driver lose most of his front-wing. “After that it was race over,” he rued.
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Verstappen, Vettel and Raikkonen collided at the first corner
For the young Dutchman it would prove a chastening afternoon. For all his support in the grandstands, Verstappen continues to lose friends on the track with Raikkonen particularly vexed by the teenager’s overly-aggressive defence as the Finn fought back to ninth. “There could have been a big accident,” raged the Ferrari driver. “It’s a big lie,” responded Verstappen.
Even the race winner had something to say about the teenager. “I understand you wanted Verstappen to be up here, but he’s very young,” Rosberg responded to a smattering of heckles on the podium. “He has many years to go!”
On that, everyone could agree.
Belgian GP race result
1. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:44:51
2. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, + 14.113
3. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, + 27.634
4. Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, + 35.907
5. Sergio Perez, Force India, + 40.660
6. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, + 45.394
7. Fernando Alonso, McLaren, + 59.445
8. Valtteri Bottas, Williams, + 60.151
9. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, + 61.109
10. Felipe Massa, Williams, + 65.873
11. Max Verstappen, Red Bull, +71.138
12. Esteban Gutierrez, Haas, +73.877
13. Romain Grosjean, Haas, +76.474
14. Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, +87.097
15. Jolyon Palmer, Renault, +93.165
16. Esteban Ocon, Manor, + 1 lap
17. Felipe Nasr, Sauber, + 1 lap
Did not finish: Kevin Magnussen, Pascal Wehrlein, Jenson Button, Carlos Sainz