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Belgium analysis - the gloves come off in Mercedes title fight

25 Aug 2014

While Daniel Ricciardo was revelling in a third, well deserved win for Red Bull, it was Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton who dominated the post-race headlines after their lap-two tussle at Spa-Francorchamps.

Rosberg’s seemingly minor error of judgement had major consequences, costing the team a potential one-two, ending Hamilton’s victory hopes, and ratcheting up the pair’s already tense championship rivalry yet another notch. We take a team-by-team look back at a tense 44 laps...

Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo, P1

Sebastian Vettel, P5

Red Bull came to Belgium believing that they had no chance of winning, despite deliberately running very low drag for qualifying against the expectation of a dry race. Ricciardo thus had the car to take the fight to Mercedes after the Hamilton-Rosberg incident, and made the most of it after catching and passing Alonso and team mate Vettel to inherit the lead on the eighth lap when Rosberg pitted for repairs. Thereafter he controlled things beautifully to take arguably the best of his three victories to date and to become the first Australian to win at Spa since Sir Jack Brabham in 1960. Vettel, meanwhile, couldn’t keep him in sight and on average lapped 1.2s off his partner’s pace. He did, however, emerge victorious in a heady late-race fight for fifth.


Nico Rosberg, P2

Lewis Hamilton, Retired lap 39, car damage

The second-lap clash at Les Combes between Rosberg and Hamilton will be discussed for years. While the former insisted in a heated post-race team meeting that he had not deliberately crashed into his team mate, Mercedes made it very clear that they held the German accountable for what was seen as an avoidable incident and one which cost the Silver Arrows a near certain one-two. Rosberg may have wanted to show that he won’t be pushed around after Hamilton’s refusal to follow team orders in Hungary, but if so it was a clumsy way to make a point. Hamilton dropped to 19th and was later withdrawn, such was the damage to his car, but Rosberg was able to recover from an extra pit stop for a new nose to garner 18 more points, thus increasing his title lead to 29. There was clearly a significant amount of acrimony within the team afterwards, however, which will likely have some serious repercussions.


Valtteri Bottas, P3

Felipe Massa, P13

Bottas drove brilliantly to recover from his P6 grid position, and his passing moves were peerless and precise. He couldn’t hold off Rosberg in the closing stages, but beat Raikkonen soundly to take the podium that Williams had targeted. Massa, meanwhile, picked up tyre debris from the Hamilton-Rosberg incident and lost a lot of downforce as a result. It wasn’t removed until his second pit stop, after which he was flying.


Kimi Raikkonen, P4

Fernando Alonso, P7

Alonso’s race was doomed when his mechanics were still changing the battery at the start of the grid formation lap. He ran a strong third early on until the resulting five second stop-and-go penalty dropped him back, and his chances of beating Vettel failed on the last lap when he ran lightly into the back of the Red Bull at La Source and damaged his front wing. Thus it was Raikkonen who was Ferrari’s main man, for the first time this year, and for a while he seemed on target for the final podium slot before he was unable to resist Bottas’s fleet Williams on the uphill run from Eau Rouge.


Jenson Button, P6

Kevin Magnussen, P12

Magnussen was in the thick of a fight with Alonso for a long time, while Button played a long game. They all came together, with Vettel too, in the closing stages. Button so nearly jumped his three rivals, but having passed the Red Bull and the Ferrari he lost momentum behind his team mate and dropped back again. The Dane initially finished sixth, the Englishman seventh, but Magnussen dropped to 12th when a 20s post-race penalty was imposed by the stewards for failing to leave Alonso sufficient space as the Spaniard attempted to pass on the 36th lap.

Force India

Sergio Perez, P8

Nico Hulkenberg, P10

Perez said he was pleased with the way he handled a “crazy” race, and got a bonus when he moved from ninth to eighth as Magnussen was penalised. That also promoted Hulkenberg into the points, which he considered good after his self-admitted mistakes in qualifying had left him with a lot of work to do.

Toro Rosso

Daniil Kvyat, P9

Jean-Eric Vergne, P11

Kvyat and Vergne pushed hard all the way through and by the end the Russian was right on Perez’s tail, spurred on by Hulkenberg in turn hounding him.


Adrian Sutil, P14

Esteban Gutierrez, P15

There were no major revelations here as Sutil and Gutierrez fought one another all the way through, but the German said the car is improving and that it was now competitive in chassis terms, though sadly not in its power unit.


Max Chilton, P16

Jules Bianchi, P18

Bianchi got a tyre cut in a collision off the line with Grosjean, and thereafter tried to play catch-up. Chilton ran all the way through with Ericsson, and finally jumped him on the 42nd lap after a good battle.


Marcus Ericsson, P17

Andre Lotterer, Retired lap 2, engine cut out

Lotterer’s debut lasted only until Blanchimont on the second lap when his engine cut out, which was a big blow to the team as they wanted his concise technical input to try and fix some of the CT05’s abiding problems for future races. Ericsson, however, had a race-long fight with Chilton, which he only lost with two laps to go. His improved car was just 0.6s adrift of the Marussia at the flag.


Pastor Maldonado, Retired lap 2, exhaust problem

Romain Grosjean, Retired lap 34, bodywork

Another disappointing race for Lotus saw Maldonado stop with a broken exhaust in the early stages, as Grosjean had collided with Bianchi getting down to La Source. Later the Frenchman was withdrawn due to problems with the bodywork on his E22.