Well, that was some race, wasn’t it? Spa’s delicate eco-system seems to be able sniff out game time, and the heavens threatened to open moments before the lights went green.
It didn’t, thankfully, but it wasn’t needed to spice up what turned out to be a great race. A fast charging Lewis Hamilton – smarting from yesterday’s second placed start – strode past pole sitter Rosberg heading into the first corner, and it looked like we were finally going to get the on-track ding-dong these two have been boiling up to.
Only it was an actual ding that happened; Rosberg, challenging Hamilton into Les Combes, attempted to go around the outside. He couldn’t make it stick, and put his front wing into Lewis’ rear tyre, slicing it wide open.
Rosberg charged forward with a broken wing, while Hamilton’s stricken tyre began to shred itself all over the track as he limped his way back to the pits. His floor was damaged too, meaning the Merc’s almost unstoppable pace wasn’t to hand. In the closing laps – and after repeated requests – Hamilton eventually retired the stricken Benz.
Toto Wolff was angry; “This is an absolutely unacceptable race for us,” he later said. “Unbelievable.”
Ricciardo must have thought it unbelievable too, but was only happy to oblige and soon overtook third-placed Vettel (after he ran wide at Pouhon), inheriting the lead after Rosberg pitted to change his broken wing.
From then on he and second-placed driver Valtteri Bottas swapped the lead as per their pit stops, though it was Ricciardo who cruised to the end and a thoroughly well deserved win – his third of the year and second on the bounce. Rosberg, having spent most of the race battling below, followed him home second, with Bottas beating out Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen to grab the final podium spot.
But the battle for fifth… that was something. Around six laps from the end, the mother of all scraps broke out, as Vettel, Magnussen, Alonso and Button all went toe-to-toe. It was superb, superb stuff. Vettel ended up fifth, with Magnussen and Button behind, and Alonso eighth.
While Perez and Kvyat rounded out the top ten, it’s all gone Def Con 1 at Mercedes. Rosberg was roundly booed on the podium, despite Eddie Jordan’s repeated requests to the crowd to calm down. Wolff later said: “There is one rule and that is that you don’t crash into each other.” Lauda also wants a meeting to discuss the incident. Like we said, some race.