Nico Rosberg led a dramatic Belgian Grand Prix full of contact and a red flag from the start to claim his sixth victory of the season, but Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton remains top of the drivers’ standings.
Rosberg and Hamilton began the day separated by 19 points and 20 places on the grid, with the German on pole while the defending champion started from 21st after accumulating penalties for power unit changes over the course of the weekend to the tune of a 55-place demotion.
Being at opposite extremes enabled the duo to steer clear of all the potentially damaging action in between, with Hamilton recovering to take third position behind Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Rosberg.
There was drama from the very first turn, with home favourite Max Verstappen, Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel – who started second, third and fourth respectively – all taking contact and having to enter the pits in the early stages.
A heavy crash for Kevin Magnussen, who hobbled away from his wrecked Renault with an ankle injury, at the top of Eau Rouge led to a red flag at the end of lap nine so barrier repairs could be carried out.
By that point Hamilton had made his way up to fifth, though a late pit stop for medium tyres to take him to the end of the race kept him from passing Ricciardo for a Mercedes one-two, Rosberg cruising to the chequered flag to move to within nine points of the championship leader.
DOUBLE BUBBLE FOR ROSBERG
Not only had Rosberg never topped the podium in Belgium, a victory in the months of August, September and October had also eluded him throughout his career. That gives the German extra reason to celebrate his success.
HAPPY DAYS FOR HAMILTON
After setting the slowest time in qualifying as Mercedes focused on setting up his car for the race, Hamilton admitted it may have been the worst grand prix to take a spate of engine penalties at.
However, it ended up proving an inadvertent masterstroke as the reigning world champion navigated his way safely through all the drama up front to get to fifth by the time the red flag came out.
Hamilton quickly attacked, sweeping past Fernando Alonso – himself doing brilliantly to come in seventh after starting 22nd – and Nico Hulkenberg by lap 18 before going to work on closing gap to Ricciardo.
Deteriorating soft tyres required a change, and, although he managed to regain a place on the podium, the Red Bull had got too far ahead.
MAGNUSSEN FACING FURTHER TESTS
After losing control at high speed at the top of Eau Rouge, Magnussen careered off the track and span into the tyre wall and left serious concerns for the driver’s safety.
However, Renault confirmed the Dane was conscious and appears to have escaped with minimal injuries, though he will be checked over at a nearby hospital.
A team statement read: “He left the car unaided and was taken to the medical centre for precautionary checks. He is fully conscious and responsive. He has a small cut to the left ankle and has been escorted to a nearby hospital for further routine checks.”
IN THE POINTS
1. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
2. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) +14.113secs
3. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +27.634s
4. Nico Hulkenberg (Force India) +35.907s
5. Sergio Perez (Force India) +40.660s
6. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +45.394s
7. Fernando Alonso (McLaren) +59.445s
8. Valtteri Bottas (Williams) +60.151s
9. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) +61.109s
10. Felipe Massa (Williams) +65.873s
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 232
2. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 223 (-9)
3. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) 151 (-81)
4. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 128 (-104)
5. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) 124 (-108)
1. Mercedes 455
2. Red Bull 274 (-181)
3. Ferrari 252 (-203)
4. Force India 103 (-352)
5. Williams 101 (-354)
There will barely be time for the dust to settle before we are back up and running again, with another Formula One race coming next weekend with the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. After four weeks off, there is no rest for the wicked.