Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo took full advantage of Nico Rosberg’s short term optimism to score an impressive and unexpected win at Belgian Grand Prix.
The race was meant to be a duel of fates between championship rivals and Mercedes F1 team mates Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton who started 1st and 2nd on the grid respectively. The Mercedes car offers Rosberg and Hamilton unrivaled dominance over the rest of the field, but things didn’t go to plan for the team from the very start.
When the race got underway Hamilton out dragged Rosberg going into the first corner, La Source, a tight right hand hairpin. Hamilton was followed swiftly by Sebastian Vettel, the Red Bull driver then got into Hamilton’s aerodynamic tow on the 1km straight after exiting Eau Rouge.
With 1st place in sight Vettel carried too much hope with him going into the third corner, Les Combes, locked up and headed straight for the run off area instead of rounding the corner. This allowed Rosberg to regain 2nd place with Vettel scrambling back into 3rd.
On lap 2 of 44 Rosberg, like Vettel before him, got a tow from Hamilton’s slip stream heading into Les Combes. Hamilton went defensive by positioning his car to the right which meant Rosberg would have to go the long way round.
They went into Les Combes side by side but Rosberg was forced to back off slightly as Les Combes is a fast right to left hand corner which tightens up at the apex.
Hamilton’s entry point meant he had the advantage and therefore the racing line, Rosberg should have backed out fully but his right front wing tip kissed Hamilton’s left rear tyre causing an immediate puncture.
Hamilton limped back to the pits for a new set of tyres but with only three wheels damage to the underside of his car was inevitable. Hamilton did rejoin but remained a distant spectator in 17th. The floor damage had caused a handling imbalance which meant the performance of his race pace never recovered and he eventually retired just over five laps from the end.
Rosberg lost aerodynamic advantage due to the contact on lap 2 which also significantly affected his pace and he pitted early on lap 9 for a set of new tyres and a new front wing, rejoining the race in 15th.
By lap 11 and after the first round of pitstops Daniel Ricciardo, who had started 5th, had jumped into the lead with the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen in 2nd and Vettel in third who was followed by Bottas and Rosberg.
Ricciardo would go onto to build up a comfortable lead but Rosberg was out of sync with his race strategy, yet he managed to regain composure and found himself in 3rd place after making making his final pit stop on lap 34 for a fresh set of soft tyres. This transformed Rosberg’s pace and he disposed of 2nd placed Raikkonen with ease and set off after the Red Bull of Ricciardo, hunting for the win with just nine laps to go and a 21 second gap to whittle down.
Rosberg’s pace was by now significantly faster, just over 2 seconds a lap faster, but Ricciardo had just enough or rather too few laps remaining to worry about Rosberg who eventually decreased the gap to just three seconds with the Williams of Bottas denying Ferrari and Raikkonen a podium finish. Ricciardo crossed the finish line to clinch victory number three of the season.
But after the podium celebrations were concluded and the interviews over Nico Rosberg’s second place was shrouded in uncertainty as news filtered out that he may well have deliberately hit Hamilton as the two clashed on lap 2 in what initially seemed like a driving incident. If this proves to be the case Rosberg could face some kind of sanction, but the FIA have already said that the incident will not be further investigated.
Mercedes F1 team principle Toto Wolff openly criticised Rosberg for his rash overtake believing it was way too early in the race to contemplate such a risky move. For a team principle to do this is highly unusual because F1 is a tight lipped sport at the best of times. But when Wolff criticised Rosberg he didn’t have full knowledge of Rosberg’s post race, behind closed doors, bombshell that he deliberately made contact with Hamilton.
What happens next is anyone’s guess, you can be sure the British press will be vying for German blood, what Rosberg did, if confirmed, was effectively diving in a football match to gain a penalty to win the game. But it might be Rosberg who ends up getting a penalty himself.
2014 Belgian Grand Prix Result