Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Rosberg Gains Championship Ground On Hamilton With Belgium Win

Photo Credit: Mercedes AMG

The welcomed restart of the 2016 Formula 1 season after a summer break, the Belgian Grand Prix at the prestigious Spa-Francorchamps is the ideal place to restart the flow of competitive juices on-route to the final race in Abu Dhabi for November.

During June and July, the World Drivers' Championship gained intensity when Nico Rosberg's dominant start to 2016 was countered by struggles and the resurgence of reigning series champion Lewis Hamilton. Following Hamilton's Hockenheimring victory, there was a 19-point gap between the Mercedes AMG drivers. With Hamilton prevailing to win the championship in the previous two years of Formula 1, Rosberg would undoubtedly want to avoid being second-best for a third consecutive season. In qualifying Nico Rosberg put his best foot forward by taking pole in Belgium. The top time trial effort for the German driver coincided with misfortune for Lewis Hamilton who struggled with power unit issues in practice for the weekend. Potentially a major opportunity to regain standing as the top 2016 title fighter.

Contending with high temperatures throughout the weekend at the 7.004-kilometer Spa-Francorchamps track, the conditions left some considerable challenges for the drivers, teams and equipment. The variables led to the 22 cars taking part in the Belgian Grand Prix operating with several different strategies with medium, soft and supersoft Pirelli slick tires found on vehicles starting the race. Set to be run for 44 laps on Sunday, the grand prix would provide twists team's pre-race strategy did not take into consideration.

At the start, pole sitter Nico Rosberg enjoyed a near-perfect launch. The same could not be had about the fellow front row starter Max Verstappen. Verstappen's poorly-timed start allowed the two Ferrari race cars of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen to draw close to the Red Bull-TAG Heuer. A Three-wide fight developed for what was the second place position into the first corner resulting in contact. Max Verstappen was positioned on the lower line causing Raikkonen to crowd teammate Vettel into the first turn. Sebastian Vettel spun while Kimi Raikkonen's car sustained damage.


A three-wide racing deal where neither driver appeared willing to back down, the aftermath resulted in damage to each vehicle. Critical of Verstappen's positioning, Raikkonen responded to the incident in post-race through Ferrari saying, ”After the start, at the first corner, Sebastian didn’t see that there was another car on the inside: he expected me to turn but I couldn’t, so I found myself stuck in the middle with nowhere to go. We ended up touching each other and this was pretty bad for the rest of the race." What was fortune for the three drivers involved in that incident was they were able to complete the grand prix. Other cars deeper in the field such as Jenson Button and Pascal Wehrlein were also involved in a separate first lap collision incurring damage that parked both vehicles.

While many cars survived the first lap chaos, the drama of high-speed impacts reached a climax on lap 5. In the Eau Rogue section of the Spa-Francorchamps track, the Renault machine driven by Kevin Magnussen made contact with the curbing and lost control of his race car at high speed slamming into the well-lined tire wall. Despite the violence of the impact, Magnussen was able to climb from his race car under his own power. It took safety officials operating under a red flag for more than 15 minutes to clean up the accident. The Renault driver would be promptly evaluated by medical officials who noted the greatest extent of Kevin Magnussen's crash was a cut left ankle. Conscious following the crash, the Finnish driver pledged to return for the next event in one week's time.

Anchoring the starting field in the race due to power unit issues in practice prior to qualifying in Belgium, Lewis Hamilton averted the early on-track incidents to raise to 5th place by the 9th lap. While Nico Rosberg would continue to lead the Belgian Grand Prix, Hamilton's lapping well within the point-scoring positions insured the Brit would still leave the event on the top spot of the current Formula 1 Drivers' standings.

Photo Credit: Mercedes AMG

The start of the race as well as the various tire compounds being used at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit. Nico Rosberg's Mercedes AMG race car started on soft compound Pirelli slicks but would receive medium compound rubber through the two pit stops made within the 44-lap race distance. Including Rosberg, only three drivers completed the Belgian Grand Prix on a two-stop strategy (all three finished the race in the points). Tire degradation experienced by many competitors necessitated the need for a three pit stop.

Commanding the lead position of the 2016 Belgian Grand Prix, Nico Rosberg and his #6 Mercedes AMG took the checkered flag with a 14.113-second advantage over the race's runner-up. "I am so happy to win here in Spa at this legendary track. It wasn’t an easy weekend for us. We had to work a lot on the setup – but in the race it was perfect." said Rosberg in the Mercedes AMG team's post-race transcript. The triumph at Spa-Francorchamps is Nico Rosberg's sixth victory for the 2016 season and 20th in his career. His latest victory allowed provides him four times more grand prix wins than the career achievement of this father, 1982 Formula 1 champion Keke Rosberg.

Scoring maximum points, Nico Rosberg's gained ground on teammate Lewis Hamilton in the 2016 Drivers' standings but continues to trail him. Overcoming a deficient of track position on the grid, Hamilton sailed across the Belgian Grand Prix's victory lane in 3rd place. "As I said yesterday, I really didn’t know what would be possible today. But I came into the race with a positive mental attitude and it all came together. It was a steep mountain to climb – but we did it together as a team. I’m so happy and so proud of everyone." said Lewis Hamilton. Losing 10 points to Rosberg through the final race results, Hamilton still holds a 9-point advantage heading towards Monza.

Splitting the efforts of the Mercedes AMG teammates in Belgium, Daniel Ricciardo took the second to Nico Rosberg. The effort was the Red Bull-TAG Heuer driver's second consecutive runner-up spot and third straight podium result.

For what was a personal-best run for an underwhelming 2016 season, Nico Hulkenberg finished fourth ahead of his Force India teammate Sergio Perez. The highest finishing member of the first lap madness between the Max Verstappen and the Ferraris, Sebastian Vettel recovered to cross the Spa-Francorchamps finish line in sixth place. Kimi Raikkonen would also survive to collect a ninth place position finish allowing the Ferrari team to salvage what could have been a more impressive result for the organization. The third participant in the first corner skirmish, Max Verstappen, settled for 11th place crossing the line seconds ahead of the Haas F1 Team cars.

McLaren Honda driver Fernando Alonso also mounted an impressive march to the front. While teammate Jenson Button was faster in qualifying, Alonso benefited heavily from a well-timed safety car on his way to a 7th place finish. Button's race ended on lap one when the 2009 Formula 1 World Champion and the Manor Racing car driven by Pascal Wehrlein collided in turn five. The top-10 results for the 2016 Belgian Grand Prix is completed by the appearance of Williams Martini Racing vehicles with Valtteri Bottas crossing the finish line in 8th while Felipe Massa captured the final championship point in 10th place.

The next race for the 2016 Formula 1 tour is the Italian Grand Prix taking place at the high-speed, low-downforce course in Monza.

2016 Formula 1
Belgian Grand Prix
Race Result

Pos # Car # Driver Team Engine

1 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
2 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull TAG Heuer
3 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
4 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes-Benz
5 11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes-Benz
6 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Ferrari
7 14 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda
8 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams F1 Mercedes-Benz
9 7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari
10 19 Felipe Massa Williams F1 Mercedes-Benz
11 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull TAG Heuer
12 9 Esteban Gutierrez Haas F1 Team Ferrari
13 8 Romain Grosjean Haas F1 Team Ferrari
14 26 Daniil Kvyat Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari
15 30 Jolyon Palmer Renault Renault
16 31 Esteban Ocon Manor Mercedes-Benz
17 12 Felipe Nasr Sauber Ferrari
18 55 Carlos Sainz Jr Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari
19 20 Kevin Magnussen Renault Renault
20 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari
21 22 Jenson Button McLaren Honda
22 28 Pascal Wehrlein Manor Mercedes-Benz

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