Rach F1's Rachit Thukral assesses the performance of five drivers who shined at the Belgian Grand Prix, a race dictated by a first-corner crash and an early red flag.
5. Nico Rosberg
With Lewis Hamilton starting from the back of the grid following a spat of engine penalties, all Nico Rosberg had to do was cruise to the finish line. And the German drove flawlessly at Spa, surviving the early red flag to take his sixth win of the season.
Crucially, it brought an end to Hamilton’s winning streak and reignited Rosberg’s title challenge, reducing the deficit to just nine points between the two.
4. Daniel Ricciardo
Daniel Ricciardo was fortunate to escape from the turn 1 incident with minor damage - and take advantage of the multi-car crash to move up to second place.
The red flag played into his hands, allowing Red Bull to change the front wing on his car without spending any extra time in the pits. It also allowed Ricciardo to regain second position, which he had lost to Hulkenberg in the early laps of the race.
Once the race resumed, Ricciardo was quick to establish a buffer over Hulkenberg, while keeping race leader Rosberg honest. He managed to fend off a charge from Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, scoring his third successive podium in the process.
3. Lewis Hamilton
Mercedes’ reduced advantage at Spa should have made Hamilton’s charge from the back of the grid harder, the Brit no longer having the advantage to jump places in quick succession. However, the early red flag catapulted him into fifth place, with the 31-year-old progressing from thereon to finish third.
From the championship perspective, the stars couldn’t have aligned better for Hamilton as it did at Spa.
2. Nico Hulkenberg
Nico Hulkenberg was placed in a prime place to take advantage of the lap 1 incident, swiftly maneuvering his car to jump to third. He passed Ricciardo on the following lap and established a four second lead over the Australian on the faster supersoft tyre.
At this stage, a maiden podium looked like a serious possibility. But as we’ve seen so often in his career, fortunes changed quickly, with the red flag ruining any chance of a podium. The German then found himself behind Ricciardo and vulnerable to Hamilton.
In the end, Hulkenberg could only manage a fourth place finish, equalling his best result so far.
1. Fernando Alonso
Fernando Alonso made a blistering start from the very last on the grid, jumping to 12th by the end of the first lap. He was ahead of Hamilton before the red flag neutralised the field and mounted a challenge of Hulkenberg at the restart, before conceding defeat to a car that was clearly quicker on the straights.
Losing places from theron was inevitable, but the fact that he was able to keep Williams’ Valtteri Bottas at bay was a clear sign of how far McLaren-Honda have come since their 2015 struggles.
In all, a superlative drive by the Spaniard to bring McLaren back into points and place them ahead of Toro Rosso in the constructors standings.
by Rachit Thukral