F1 Belgian GP: Rosberg keeps his cool to win chaotic Belgian GP

Nico Rosberg has returned to winning ways at Spa-Francorchamps with an untroubled run to victory in an otherwise chaotic Belgian Grand Prix, as Lewis Hamilton limited the damage to his championship lead with a charge to third.
Kevin Magnussen's Renault after Spa crash
Kevin Magnussen’s Renault after Spa crash

In a race of dictated by numerous incidents through the field – including a red flag stoppage in the wake of a high-speed Eau Rouge shunt for Kevin Magnussen -, Rosberg nonetheless had few concerns out front, converting pole position into an early lead and controlling his advantage thereafter.

By contrast there was incident aplenty behind him, not least at the first corner when front row sitter Max Verstappen, Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel collided around La Source, the latter sent into a spin as the others sustained damage to necessitate a lap one pit-stop.

Kicking off a chain of events behind over the ensuing corners and shaking up the order, the early stages would also see Jenson Button and Pascal Wehrlein eliminated on lap one when the latter struck the back of the McLaren at Les Combes, before Carlos Sainz exited with a dramatic rear tyre blow out on the Kemmel Straight on lap two.

Up front Rosberg led from Nico Hulkenberg, Daniel Ricciardo, Felipe Massa and Romain Grosjean initially, with championship leader Hamilton making more cautious progress from the back row, ascending to 15th amidst the drama around him.

However, the race was brought to an abrupt stop when Magnussen crashed at the top of Eau Rouge on lap six, the Dane losing control of his Renault and impacting the barriers hard. Despite the severity of the crash, Magnussen was able to extricate himself, with Renault reporting an ankle injury

Forcing the red flag to be thrown on lap nine to allow marshals to repair the barrier, the race restarted on lap 11 taking the order from the stoppage.

The big beneficiary of this, however, would be Hamilton, who was running fifth place by lap nine as others ahead pitted under the safety car, only for the eventual red flag to negate their efforts. With rules allowing teams to work on the cars in a red flag stoppage, it meant Hamilton – and Fernando Alonso in fourth ahead of him – could restart in a vastly improved position, albeit slightly out of sync having started on the medium rubber.

At the restart Rosberg enjoyed an untroubled getaway to put a margin between himself and Ricciardo, running second having not stopped before the red flag, with Hulkenberg third, his pre-red flag stop by contrast not aiding his cause.

From here the race plateaued, Rosberg steadily building a gap over Ricciardo, one he would maintain through his final pit-stop and extend to 14.1secs over the Australian all the way to chequered flag as he clinched his sixth win of the season and his first since Azerbaijan.

Hamilton, meanwhile, quickly got the better of Alonso at the restart and made the most of his pace advantage over Hulkenberg to get the German back even when he made a late final stop that briefly put him back behind the Force India.

By recovering to third place Hamilton duly retains his championship lead, the Briton still a comfortable nine points ahead of Rosberg in the overall standings.

Though his personal wait for a maiden F1 podium continues, Hulkenberg equalled his best-ever F1 result in fourth, with Sergio Perez’s fifth allowing Force India to leapfrog Williams for fourth in the constructors’ standings.

Battling back up the order following his lap one spin, Vettel capitalised on the restart to scythe to sixth place, ahead of Alonso, the Spaniard making the most of circumstances to claim an unlikely seventh place for McLaren-Honda from last on the grid.

Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa notched up a double points’ finish for Williams in eighth and tenth, the pair split by Raikkonen in ninth.

The former champion endured an eventful day sparked by the turn one incident, which initially left him a lap down on the leaders when he returned from his early stop. However, after being given the chance ‘un-lap’ himself in the red flag stop, he made gains up the order.

However, he would come up against stiff defence from Verstappen – also trying to catch up ground -, the pair making contact through Les Combes and then nearly colliding on the Kemmel Straight the following lap,. Prompting an expletive-laden reaction from the Finn on the team radio it comes just two races after the pair fell out for a similar incident in Hungary.

Verstappen, meanwhile, endured a dismal afternoon, the damage from the first lap seemingly hampering him throughout the race as he struggled for pace. Coupled to being out-of-sync on tyres he could only recover to 11th.

Losing out with the red flag stop, Haas failed to get into the points following a bright start, while Esteban Ocon completed his first grand prix with Manor in 16th, a lap down.