RACE DEBRIEF

    A round-up of all the action at the Formula 1 2018 Johnnie Walker Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps...

    Ferrari

    Vettel was patient on the first lap, slipstreaming Hamilton ahead with panache down the Kemmel Straight to make what proved to be the decisive move of the race. From there he was in total control, to record his fifth victory of the season and narrow his deficit in the championship. Raikkonen didn't have such a serene day - hit from behind in the start chaos, he pitted with a puncture but with steering problems allied to poor grip, understandably retired.

    Sebastian Vettel, 1st

    "I’m very happy because we had a great race, the car now has proved to be robust on all tracks and this weekend we got a little more power from the new engine, which I think also helped us down the straights. At the start I tried to stay close to Lewis, getting a good exit out of Turn 1 and then taking advantage of the slipstream to get past. After the Safety car pulled out, it was just the other way round, so I looked after the exit of Turn 1 to stay ahead. The first stint was very close, only a couple of seconds between us; but then the guys did a fantastic pit-stop, I could not believe the light had turned green so fast, and that gave our rivals no chance. The second stint was ore about managing the car and the tyres for both of us. This is a great win for the whole team and hope in Monza it will be the same, but we need to keep fighting to be always up there."

    Kimi Raikkonen, DNF

    "I don’t know what happened at the start: the only thing I know is that somebody hit me from behind and straight after that I got a puncture. I had a lot of damage to the rear wing endplate and the floor; at that point I could not go fast and the DRS stayed open all the times, it was hard to remain on track. It was pointless to continue, the damage was too big, so we decided to go back to the garage."

    Maurizio Arriabene, Team Principal

    "That was a fantastic win today, with a great race from Seb and the whole team which, both at the track and back in Maranello, fought back from yesterday’s difficulties in a strong, calm and determined manner, while the car showed all its potential. What happened to Kimi is a real shame and, but for that, we might have had even more to celebrate and the constructors’ classification would look a bit different. Now, the important thing is to carry on working with determination and humility, without ever giving up. Now we come to Monza and right from Wednesday, we will get the chance to get close to our fans during the event at Darsena di Milano. I am sure that will be able to count on the support of all our tifosi, as the championship goes on, getting more and more interesting. We hope that, come the end of the year, we can give them something to really smile about."

    Mercedes

    Mixed emotions down at Mercedes. Bottas had a superb drive despite first-lap contact to make his way from P17 on the grid up to fourth, laying down a series of overtakes that included a breathtaking move around the outside of Hartley into Eau Rouge. Hamilton, meanwhile, had no answer to the speed of the Scuderia and after being passed by Vettel into Les Combes, couldn't keep pace and had to settle for second.

    Lewis Hamilton,

    "We gave it everything today but Ferrari just outperformed us and it was hard to match their times. I think we lost the race in the first lap and at the Safety Car restart. After that, it was done. They were just faster on the straights and there was nothing we could do. We came here with an upgrade, but unfortunately Ferrari were able to match us and even go faster. We've got to find more performance and improve on the areas where they're currently stronger than us. But the battle continues and for the sport this is really exciting. We will keep pushing."

    Valtteri Bottas,

    "Our goal for today was damage limitation and we've had a good recovery drive. I was hoping to maybe get the chance to be on podium, but I had a collision going into Turn 1 which damaged my front wing. After that P4 was the maximum we could get and it's not a bad result given the fact that we started from P17. I actually quite enjoyed the drive today, as I got to overtake a lot of cars. My favorite moment was probably the pass in Eau Rouge - that was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, we couldn't win the race today, but we scored more points than Ferrari, so that's one positive. They looked really strong this weekend, both in qualifying and in the race. We made a step forward with our engine for this weekend, but the Ferraris are still quicker so we need to keep pushing."

    Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport

    "Today was a little bit deflating after the drama of qualifying. Lewis was pretty powerless on lap one - he got swallowed up by Vettel on the straight, but then couldn't return the favour when Sebastian managed to break the tow on the restart after the Safety Car period. From then on, we were chasing a quicker car and didn't quite have enough pace to challenge for the lead. On the strategy, we did the only thing we could - which was to try the undercut - and try to put some pressure on Ferrari, but they didn't buckle. They were deserved winners today. Valtteri put in a great drive from the back to claim P4, so the points total brings us a small advantage on the constructors' side, while Lewis lost some ground in the drivers' standings. But most of all, we need to stay humble and keep working hard to improve our performance at every race."

    James Allison, Technical Director

    "There's no way of dressing it up today: we were well beaten by a quicker team, who were able to stretch away from us on both tyres throughout the stint. It was very disappointing after yesterday's qualifying performance and what we believed our performance would be in the dry, to find today that we did not have the pace that we thought. Both drivers delivered good performances but neither of them had the car under them to do more today; we have some work on our hands in order to take the fight to Ferrari in Monza and the remaining races this year."

    Red Bull

    Verstappen had a quiet but composed race, gaining places at the start before picking off both Force Indias. From there he was comfortable in keeping the boys in pink behind without challenging those in front, but a first Spa podium is not to be sniffed at. Ricciardo got caught in the first corner carnage, hit from behind and then tagging Raikkonen ahead, the Australian had front and rear wing damage and despite Red Bull managing to get him back on track, ultimately retired when still two laps down.

    Daniel Ricciardo, DNF

    “I don’t know exactly what happened at the start, but I felt a tap and to be honest I just remember sliding and the next minute I hit the back of Kimi. It was just a Turn 1 incident and apologies to Kimi if his retirement was down to me, but I’m pretty sure it all started behind me and was a chain reaction. It was a big crash for quite a low speed corner and I think Hulkenberg hit Alonso pretty hard from what I heard. My rear wing was pretty much ripped off and the mechanics tried to get me back out with a new wing before we went a lap down; we just missed that but they did all they could. We tried to stay out and hope for a Safety Car so we could get back on the lead lap, but we couldn’t just keep racing and hoping until the end, so we chose to retire with 14 laps remaining to save mileage on the engine and gearbox. After the rear wing change there was still some damage on my car as they had to fix it so quickly, we overtook quite a few cars but we weren’t really that fast and we were just circulating. Just one of those Sundays I guess. A lot of people would love my bad days, there you go, perspective. We will try again in Italy.”

    Max Verstappen, 3rd

    “After a bit of bad luck here in Spa in the past I’m very pleased to finally be coming away with a podium. There was a bit of first lap chaos to contend with but we made it through cleanly and managed to settle into a good pace right away. From there on I managed to pass Grosjean up the hill and concentrate on chasing the Force Indias. I knew I would have to be patient and in the end I got close enough. I was surprised by their pace, I thought with DRS I would be able to get by easily but they were very strong. This made it a bit more enjoyable to try and pass. After this little battle it was quite a lonely race, it was good to push the car and learn from it but there wasn’t a lot more action for me. Seb and Lewis were once again too quick for us but in terms of balance the car felt really good. It is always good to be on the podium but being on it here in Spa with so many Dutch fans is really special. On the last lap I was able to take in the orange crowd and enjoy it. Monza shouldn’t be strong in theory but as you can see from today a lot of things can happen. We will do our best and try to be there so if something happens our car can be in the running.”

    Christian Horner, Team Principal

    “Max just drove a great grand prix today, recovering from seventh on the grid passing the Haas of Grosjean on lap 1 and then the two Force Indias. Obviously he lost touch with the leaders in the course of making those passing moves, and certainly in the first half of the race we didn’t quite have the pace to keep in touch with the leaders. As soon as the pit stops had taken place he had good pace and was able to match the leading cars until the end of the race. So, in reality quite a lonely race for Max, but fantastic for him to achieve a podium in what is effectively his home grand prix in front of such an enormous crowd here in Spa. For Daniel it was a great shame he got caught up in someone else’s accident at the first corner. It looks like Hulkenberg misjudged his braking to cause the chain of events and the damage to the front and rear of Daniel’s car was significant. The mechanics did a wonderful job in getting the car turned around but unfortunately having lost two laps to the lead car, and with engine mileage at a premium, we had to make the decision to retire the car from what was only ever going to be a 16th place finish for Daniel today.”

    Force India

    Ocon and Perez were feisty at the start, both sensing an opportunity when Vettel made his move on Hamilton. Nearly four abreast at one point, it was Perez who picked the better line to pip his team mate. The Mexican ran in third for a fair few laps before Verstappen and Bottas ultimately going ahead, but nonetheless fifth and sixth is a very solid result for a team starting on zero points in the constructors' standings before this race.

    Sergio Perez, 5th

    “It’s a great performance by the team today and I think we executed an almost perfect weekend. My only disappointment is from yesterday because I think pole position was within reach, but we can definitely be happy about the points we have scored. We just couldn’t have kept the top teams behind us in the dry so to be ‘best of the rest’, with Esteban right behind me, is the most we could have done. My start was really good and I was able to place myself in the right positions during the first few corners. After that, my pace was strong and consistent. I opened a gap and after that I was able to control my race. There was nothing I could do to keep Valtteri [Bottas] behind me - sometimes you just need to pick your fights and think of the bigger picture. I am happy with what we have achieved; we have scored some important points for the team and sent a strong message for the next few races. It’s a nice start of a new era for the team.”

    Esteban Ocon, 6th

    “I am satisfied with today’s race and I think we finished where we deserved to with the pace we had. I made a good start and I was on the inside of Sebastian [Vettel] at turn one. He had better traction, but I was very quick on the straight and tried to get the lead on the Kemmel straight. I had a good run down, slipstreaming both Vettel and Lewis [Hamilton] and I tried to find a way on the inside, but in the end I lost a place to Sergio. It was good, fair racing all around. It’s a good start to the “new” life of the team; we scored a lot of points which is important for our championship comeback. We showed good pace all weekend and hopefully this is going to continue in the final part of the season.”

    Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal

    “To come away from Spa with 18 points feels pretty good. We have been quick all weekend and it was important to convert our potential into a strong result today. It was a very eventful first lap, but we stayed out of trouble in turn one and Esteban was even challenging for the lead on the approach to Les Combes. Once things settled down, both drivers delivered clean and tidy races, but ultimately we didn’t have the pace to race for the podium today. Picking up fifth and sixth is just what we needed and it’s a credit to all 405 members of staff who have showed great resolve in recent weeks. I congratulate them all and look forward to scoring more points in the races to come.”

    McLaren

    Alonso's race ended in dramatic fashion - in the middle of the pack, he was hit from behind by a late braking Hulkenberg, which pitched his McLaren up and over the top of Leclerc's Sauber. All three drivers walked away from what initially looked a nasty incident. Vandoorne did finish his home race, but had the ignominy of coming last in every session across the weekend.

    Fernando Alonso, DNF

    “I’m disappointed. We made a good start. There were a couple of possibilities of overtaking in Turn One – you play it cautious, you brake at the same point, then you look in the mirrors and see the guys behind you behaving as if this was the last corner of the championship.

    “I saw Nico in the mirrors coming with all four wheels locked, at a very high speed. He completely missed the braking point by a long way, not just a couple of metres. There was no way I could avoid that, then I felt the impact and flew over Charles’ car. Nico played bowling a little bit with us today.

    “It’s sad to see this happening, because usually these kinds of accidents have major consequences, but on the positive side, everyone involved is fine, especially Charles, as I flew over his car. Not that we needed any proof, but the halo showed again today it is a very good thing to have on the car.

    “Now I feel okay, but we need to wait a couple of hours to see how things develop when it cools down.”

    Stoffel Vandoorne, 15th

    “It was a pretty boring race to be honest! I was on my own all the way. It was a very unfortunate crash on lap one, luckily everyone was unhurt so that’s the most important thing.

    “We tried to do something different with the tyre strategy and pit behind the Safety Car, and unfortunately that didn’t really pay off. I think the race in general was quite boring for everyone, there wasn’t much overtaking and for us there were no miracles today.

    “Whatever we did there was nothing much we could get out of it. Whether pitting the second time was the right thing to do is hard to tell, but it didn’t make much difference. We more or less confirmed our pace anyway and we aren’t very quick at all. The only chance we had for a good result was to try something completely different and it didn’t work, but I don’t think we lost anything by doing it.”

    Gil de Ferran, Sporting Director

    “Overall, a disappointing end to a difficult weekend.

    “We’re relieved that no-one was hurt at the first corner accident, which took Fernando out through no fault of his own.

    “With Stoffel, we soldiered on as best we could, but we were unable to overcome our pace deficit.

    “We now have a lot of work to do in a short amount of time, repairing cars and carefully further analysing our performance in Spa.

    “We move on and focus on maximising our performance at Monza next weekend.”

    Haas

    Despite starting in the thick of the action, miraculously both Haas drivers emerged from the first lap unscathed, albeit with Grosjean losing a place to Verstappen. From there they lost a further position to Bottas but drove composed races to come home seventh and eighth and score much needed points for the team, which has closed the gap to Renault in the battle for fourth in the constructors' championship...

    Romain Grosjean, 7th

    “That was about what we expected today. We knew the Force Indias had the same pace, if not a bit quicker, so it was difficult to stay with them. They were quick on a straight line. I’m pretty happy with how the race went, and I’m happy Kevin was there as well. We did the best we could. Two cars in the points – in seventh and eighth – that’s really good for the constructors’ championship. It was a lot of points for us and zero for some others, so that’s a positive from this race.”

    Kevin Magnussen, 8th

    “We scored points with both cars, which was the goal for today. We did everything we could. In the race, I lost a lot of time around the pit stops, which was unfortunate but, even so, I don’t think I could have fought the Force Indias. It would probably have just been a swap between me and Romain. We’re catching up on Renault, and that’s the target. I’m really just happy for the team. We can be pleased with the result today. Scoring 10 points on a day when Renault didn’t score any points – that’s important.”

    Guenther Steiner, Team Principal

    “A good end to a solid weekend. Starting off on Friday, we were not where we wanted to be, but we worked our way up. We brought home both cars in the points and made a good step in the championship. We need to do more of that and we’ll be fine.”

    Renault

    A day to forget. Hulkenberg was found at fault for the first-corner crash that took out Alonso and Leclerc, as well as the German. Admitting his mistake in braking too late, Hulkenberg has been handed a ten-place grid drop for next weekend. Sainz started on the medium tyre compound, ran long and tried to make up places, but having started P19 after a power unit component change, was always too far back to claw his way into the points.

    Nico Hulkenberg, DNF

    “When I hit the brakes, it locked up the front wheels and I slid. These cars are aerodynamically sensitive, especially with cars bunching up ahead as you lose a lot of grip and load. I have to admit it caught me by surprise today. It was probably a misjudgement from my side as I was a bit late on the brakes, so it’s frustrating for me, the team, and the other drivers caught up in the incident. That’s racing and unfortunately these things happen. We have Monza next weekend, so I want to get this out of the system as soon as possible and focus on that.”

    Carlos Sainz, 11th

    “Overall, it’s been a difficult weekend. We struggled in sector two today and overtaking was difficult as we couldn’t get into DRS range of the drivers ahead. When you lack confidence and balance in the car, it makes things tough at this track. We have things to analyse and look into. On Friday I was more comfortable with the car, so we have to check what’s happened over the course of the weekend. We know what we need to improve. We have a couple of days to work hard and get set for Monza.”

    Cyril Abiteboul, Team Principal

    “Today’s race was not a good way to return from the break. We knew this weekend would be challenging with a scheduled Power Unit change and the resultant grid penalty for Nico, then we opted to do the same with Carlos after his struggles in qualifying and this meant we started the race from the back of the grid. From aggressive aero setups to tyre choices, we tried various measures to turnaround this very challenging situation that simply didn’t work. On his side, Nico made a misjudgement at the start. He’s not known for this type of error and I’m sure he’ll learn from it and move on. Carlos made the most of challenging circumstances and finished narrowly outside of the points. Today’s result doesn’t reflect our actual place so we reset for Monza and remain focused on our development strategy.”

    Williams

    Sirotkin was hit by Bottas at the start, for which the Finn later received a time penalty. In truth it did little to affect the result, with Williams off the pace and unable to keep faster cars behind. Finishing outside of the points, both drivers kept out of the barriers and will hope for better things in the coming races.

    Sergey Sirotkin, 12th

    "It was a reasonable race to be honest. Our race pace was closer to our competitors and I was fighting a Sauber for points at the beginning of my stint which showed we were having a proper fight, which wasn’t down to just luck. The prospect of getting points was a nice feeling but we just missed it. I enjoyed the couple of laps at the start, I was manging the pace and my stint. I think we had good pace compared to where we are usually. After the pitstop, everything looked even better. I wasn’t lucky catching the Toro Rosso at that part of the track, I struggled for a lap and a half with the tyres and that’s how Carlos (Sainz) got through, otherwise I think had enough pace to keep him behind. That would have made for a very special race for where we are and what we have but I think we can take a lot of positives from today."

    Lance Stroll, 13th

    "I felt we were better compared to the rest of the field today than we have been recently, and that is a positive sign. Renault was a bit quicker than us, but not too much quicker. I think they had that bit better extra pace and undercut us. Carlos was on the mediums at the beginning and we were on the softs, and he was kind of maintaining the pace, but on the supersoft he undercut us quite easily."

    Paddy Lowe, Chief Technical Officer

    "A fine day in Spa without rain so at least the race was not complicated by the weather, but there was a big set of incidents at turn one. There was an impact between Bottas and Sergey, so we were very lucky to emerge from that unscathed and we were able to continue. We came through with both cars in reasonably good positions. We ran a late one-stop strategy, soft to supersoft tyre, which worked well for us. We were able to beat Hartley and Vandoorne and very nearly held Sainz behind us. But none the less, considering recent results this is a good result today for the team and a good solid performance from both drivers. We will build on this in the races to come."

    Sauber

    Leclerc's race was over in a flash of orange as Alonso piggybacked across his Sauber, cannoning them both into blameless retirements from which they fortunately walked away unscathed. Ericsson avoided that incident to run strongly and record his fourth points finish of the year.

    Marcus Ericsson, 10th

    “It was quite a positive race. I had a solid start, stayed out of trouble, and made some good decisions. Throughout the race, I had some interesting fights. The car felt good, and it is nice to finish the weekend with a point. The team did a great job, and we are encouraged as we go into the next race. We are heading to Monza now, which is Alfa Romeo’s home race. It will be exciting to see all of the passionate fans there, and I look forward to racing again.”

    Charles Leclerc, DNF

    “It was disappointing to end the race in such a way. Just after the start, I was caught up in an incident between two other drivers and had to retire from the race. I am now looking forward to the next race weekend at Monza. It will be an important one for us, especially with our Title Sponsor, Alfa Romeo, being such an iconic Italian brand. We will do our best to have a positive weekend there.”

    Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal

    “It was a mixed race for us. Charles had to retire on the first lap due to an incident that took place between two other drivers. On the other hand, Marcus had a strong race and finished in P10, scoring another point for the team. He gave a consistent performance and did a good job. Our next stop is Monza, which will be an important race for us as a team. Our target is to continue making progress, and we aim to deliver a strong qualifying result with both of our drivers there.”

    Toro Rosso

    Gasly went for an aggressive strategy, starting on new supersofts and put them to good use to run in the top 10 and score more valuable points for the team. Hartley was compromised at the start, dropped places and from there struggled for pace. He did demonstrate his racecraft, though, in a multi-lap battle for position with Ericsson, ultimately losing the place to the fresher shod Sauber after some stout defending.

    Pierre Gasly, 9th

    “I’m really happy to score points today! It was supposed to be a difficult weekend for us on a track like this, and to end up with two points is really positive. The race itself was actually quite calm for me, I started in 10th position and overtook Daniel and Kimi on the inside of Turn 1 which put me in eighth. A few laps later Valtteri passed me but we knew there wasn’t much we could do about that, so I just pushed as much as I could. In the end we finished in P9, so it’s really satisfying. The car felt great all weekend and Honda did a really good job, we definitely made the most out of our package this weekend. We will try and do the same in Monza in a few days, another track that on paper does not suit our car, but It’s our home race and I will give it all to get the best possible result.”

    Brendon Hartley, 14th

    "I'm not happy with how today's race went. I had a couple of good battles on track, but it wasn't easy out there. I was right behind Daniel on the exit of Turn 1 which would have shaped up to be OK, but then he had contact with Kimi and he lost his wing. I got stuck behind and then both the Williams and a Sauber ended up passing me before Eau Rouge, so I lost out in the mix of the first corner scrap and my race wasn't looking too good at that point. We went really long on our first stint to help the other car to consolidate a points finish, as we knew points were out of reach for me. We ran a different strategy to Pierre's car and started on the harder compound which we knew would be tricky for Turn 1, but it made sense to split strategies. I'm happy as it's a quick turnaround before Monza."

    Franz Tost, Team Principal

    “Heading into this weekend we knew Spa would be a tough race for us as it’s a track that does not suit our car. Therefore, we are really happy to score some points with Pierre finishing ninth. We also had a decent day yesterday as our cars Qualified in 11th and 12th position. At the start of the race, we were quite lucky to avoid the heavy accident at the first corner, fortunately for us we came out without receiving any damage, and it was good to see the drivers involved in the crash walk away without injury. Pierre had a really good start, followed by an equally good race; he controlled his speed from the beginning onwards and managed the tyres well, deserving to finish P9. As for Brendon, he was a little bit unlucky at the beginning when he lost a couple of positions at the first corner after the crash. He started on the Soft while Pierre was on the Supersoft, so they started on alternate strategies. The Supersoft worked better than expected which meant we could extend the stint before going on the Softs, with which he finished the race without any trouble. In the end, we scored two points which are very important for the Constructors’ Championship. Next stop: our home race in Italy!”

    Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director

    “We can be pleased to come away from the technically difficult Spa circuit with 2 points, as we had not expected it to suit our package very well. Pierre did a very good job and so did Brendon, enjoying some good battles and overtakes. This result is down to good team work and, from our side, the fact the PUs ran reliably through all sessions. We now head to Monza, which is another major challenge for the power unit. It is also the home race for Scuderia Toro Rosso, which is further incentive to do well.”

    Pirelli

    Mario Isola, Head of Car Racing

    “The tyres stood up very well to the very intense demands of Spa. The early safety car had the effect of extending the opening stint, with the majority of drivers managing their pace sufficiently to comfortably ensure a one-stopper. A different approach was taken by Valtteri Bottas, who managed to finish in the top four from the back after stopping twice, with a long middle stint on the supersoft. Now we head for our home race at Monza next weekend, where we will have the same tyre nomination.”

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