RACE DEBRIEF

    Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton may have won the 2020 Belgian Grand Prix from pole position at a canter – but one driver’s efforts impressed our judges even more than Hamilton’s sparkling display. Read on to find out who shone the brightest around Spa-Francorchamps.

    HOW IT WORKS

    • Our five-judge panel assesses each driver after every Grand Prix and scores them out of 10 according to their performance across the weekend – taking machinery out of the equation

    • Our experts’ scores are then averaged out to produce a race score – with those scores then tallied up across the season on our overall Power Rankings Leaderboard (at the bottom of the page)

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    What a performance from the former Belgian racewinner. Ricciardo had already done a stellar job to get himself fourth position on the grid for Sunday’s race. And while the Lap 1/Turn 5 heroics many F1 fans were hoping for didn’t quite materialise, Ricciardo did an amazing job from there on out, gapping the Red Bull of Alex Albon after his pit stop, while an inspired final few laps saw him come within four seconds of fighting for the podium with Max Verstappen. The judges duly handed out perfect scores across the board – while the only sour point for Ricciardo is that Renault appear to be coming on song just as he’s poised to leave them…

    READ MORE: Ricciardo buzzing after ‘big’ final lap gives him extra point to go with fourth place

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    Another other-worldly performance from Hamilton, who was at his scintillating best on Saturday, as he set not one but two new track records en route to pole position. Sunday was then a perfectly-managed raced, the gap to Max Verstappen in third never getting beyond 16 seconds, but never needing to either, as Hamilton consummately held on to draw equal with Jim Clark and Kimi Raikkonen on four Spa wins.

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    It says a lot that Pierre Gasly matched Hamilton’s race score from Spa. In a race he dubbed as “important” given that he was racing in memory of his fallen friend Anthoine Hubert, Gasly was rampant throughout the Grand Prix, with his searing overtake on Sergio Perez at the inside of Eau Rouge – after resisting a not-very-friendly squeeze from the Mexican against the old pit wall – an undoubted highlight. Frustratingly, it was exactly those kinds of moves that netted Gasly the Red Bull seat for the start of 2019 – and which were in short supply in his half a year with the team.

    READ MORE: Gasly dedicates P8 to Hubert after ‘intense’ Eau Rouge overtake

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    Max Verstappen never really had an answer to Mercedes’ raw pace around Spa – but then he kind of knew that coming into the weekend. But once again, he somehow managed to get his Red Bull RB16 to do a fairly decent impression of Mercedes race pace, sticking on Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas like a barnacle throughout the Grand Prix, the three cars lapping well clear of the rest of the field for the majority of the race, as he took his sixth straight podium finish. There’s not much more he can do at this point.

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    Another race weekend for Esteban Ocon where he seemed to lag half a step behind his team mate Ricciardo, as he continues to play himself back into frontline F1. But it was nonetheless a solid performance from the Frenchman, capped off by a last-lap overtake on the Red Bull of Albon to snatch fifth place – his best finish of the year so far – as Renault took their biggest points haul since returning to F1 in 2016.

    READ MORE: Ocon hails ‘fantastic race’ after last-lap pass on Red Bull’s Albon to secure P5

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    It was a slightly backfooted Grand Prix for Lando Norris, who was left irked in qualifying by Ocon’s crawling out lap, which forced Norris to set his final Q3 effort without a tow, leaving him 10th on the grid – while Norris admitted that he’d had to play himself in during the race, having lacked confidence in the car in the early stages. Once that confidence was in place, though, he drove fantastically to be within a second of launching an attack on Albon when they crossed the line.

    READ MORE: ‘One more lap and I’d have got Albon’ – Norris frustrated after missing out on sixth at Spa

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    Coming into the weekend, no one on the current grid had won more times at Spa than Kimi Raikkonen. And relative to where the team are currently, this was a worthy display from the Finn at his undoubted favourite track, Raikkonen twice passing the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel before ending up 12th. Points still evade Raikkonen in 2020 – but the picture appears to be improving for him and Alfa Romeo.

    READ MORE: The Winners and Losers of the 2020 Belgian Grand Prix

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    On the one hand, it must be hard for Valtteri Bottas currently, forced as he is to race alongside two once-in-a-generation talents in the form of Hamilton and Verstappen. On the other hand, you can’t feel too much sympathy for a driver armed with a Mercedes W11 this year, and it was a shame that we didn’t see a touch more aggression from Bottas on the opening lap, or the Lap 15 Safety Car restart, as he wound up a relatively distant second to Hamilton.

    READ MORE: 'He played it too well' - Bottas rues missed opportunity to jump Hamilton at Belgian GP start

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    Another weekend where George Russell undoubtedly maximised the performance potential of the Williams FW43. On Saturday, the Briton did a fine job to qualify just over two-tenths off the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel, having once again made it to Q2. Most likely, the race would have conformed to type, with Williams lacking the long run pace to work their way into the points – but such questions became academic when Russell, through no fault of his own, was caught up in the melee caused by Antonio Giovinazzi’s smash.

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    It’s worth repeating that “taking machinery out of the equation” is the guiding mantra that underpins Power Rankings. And by that standard, Charles Leclerc continues to do good work in a Ferrari SF1000 that looks like it simply does not want to play ball. Once again, it was Leclerc who appeared to have the upper hand over Sebastian Vettel, ending up two seconds behind the German on track in the race despite having had two pit stops to his team mate’s one – the shorter of those lasting five seconds, the longer 10.4s – while he’d once again outqualified Vettel the day before, for the fifth time in seven races.

    WATCH: Charles Leclerc on his 2019 Spa win and what he's doing to help Ferrari out of their slump

    MISSING OUT

    Alex Albon, Carlos Sainz and Sergio Perez sit on the bubble this week. Albon looked improved in qualifying but then failed to unleash his traditionally excellent racecraft, as he finished the race behind the Renault pair in a car that, in Verstappen’s hands, was quick enough to stay with the Mercedes.

    Sainz quite simply didn’t make the start, but had looked primed to do something good in the race after qualifying P7. And Sergio Perez admitted that Racing Point’s strategy had left him mystified, as he wound up classified 10th, and behind team mate Lance Stroll for the second time in as many races.

    READ MORE: Perez says he ‘didn’t understand the strategy’ that left him P10 in Belgian GP

    THE OVERALL STANDINGS

    No change in the top two positions for Hamilton and Verstappen, but the biggest mover upwards this week is Ricciardo, who climbs to fifth after his first perfect score of the year. Bottas is the biggest mover in the other direction, dropping four places, while Gasly has now slipped past Norris for P3 after his string of impressive performances.

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