Australian Daniel Ricciardo won round 12 of the 2014 FIA Formula 1 World Championship in a Red Bull Renault over 44 laps of the magnificent Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium.
Ricciardo bracketed the mid-season break with wins in Hungary and now at Spa, a track where Red Bull drastically reduced the RB9’s downforce levels to give it some hope of matching the Mercedes pace – and it worked.
Championship leader Nico Rosberg of Mercedes extended his lead over teammate Lewis Hamilton, who retired, to 29 points by finishing second, with Valtteri Bottas on the podium for the fourth race in five in his Williams Mercedes.
Controversy surrounded the race after Rosberg started from pole, saw Hamilton speed into the lead, and tried a round-the-outside move on the Englishmen into the chicane known as Les Combes on lap two.
Hamilton resisted, the two touched and Hamilton’s race was ruined by a left rear puncture. Rosberg’s was compromised by damage to his front wing end-plate.
“This is a bad day for Lewis but also for the whole Mercedes team,” thundered team chairman Niki Lauda in the immediate aftermath of the race. “Why in the second lap?”
Ricciardo’s second victory in a row and his third of the season came in different style from the others in Canada and Hungary. The 25-year-old West Australian was in the lead by quarter-distance, then had to hold on as a flying Rosberg homed in on him in the closing stages.
Ricciardo stayed cool, kept a little up his sleeve and in the end won comfortably enough by 3.383 seconds.
“It feels a bit surreal, but another win is very cool, very cool,” said Ricciardo after securing the 50th Grand Prix victory for Red Bull in the team’s 177th World Championship start.
“It was difficult staying out at the end of the race. When you’re the leader as well you always feel like you’re the most vulnerable when it comes to a pit stop or not, but Simon my engineer came on the radio and said I think it’s 11 laps left, can these tyres get to the end? And I said I think I can keep more or less this pace, and we were able to, and then on the last lap I found a couple more tenths, so I was having a bit of fun then!”
Rosberg pitted on lap eight for a new nose and gave himself a further handicap on lap 17 with a massive lock-up into the last chicane. “As drivers, we are here to entertain and to show the fans a good time, so our duels are always on the limit,” the 29-year-old German said of the contact with Hamilton. “I regret that Lewis and myself touched, but I see it as a racing incident – just as the stewards did.”
“To see that kind of contact, so early in the race, is an unacceptable level of risk to be taking out on track. It cannot – and will not – happen again,” commented Mercedes racing boss Toto Wolff. It was Hamilton’s third no-score of 2014, whereas Rosberg has been off the podium just once.
Bottas produced a superb overtaking manoeuvre on World Champion Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull at Les Combes on lap 31 on the way to another fine result. Asked what had made him a regular podium visitor, the Finn – who turns 25 this week – said, “Why not? The team has done such a great job – we are definitely on the right way. We are still chasing for the highest step and it’s the future that matters.”
There was pre-race drama when Ferrari sent Fernando Alonso’s back on the grid to correct a fault on his car after the 15-second deadline had passed, earning the Spaniard a five-second penalty. While he got involved in some entertaining late-race battles he had to give best this tome to teammate Kimi Raikkonen, a strong fourth ahead of Vettel.
At the back of the field Caterham replaced Kamui Kobayashi with multiple Le Mans winner Andre Lotterer for the weekend but his race ended after only one full lap when he had to retire with loss of power on his Renault engine. Both Lotuses were among the four retirements.
Nico Rosberg • Mercedes • 2m 05.591s = 200.765 km/h
His first pole position at Spa
His seventh of the season and the 11th of his career
His fourth pole in a row
The fifth all-Mercedes front row of the season
Who took all the points?
1st (25) Ricciardo • Infiniti Red Bull Racing • 1:24.36.556 = 218.452 km/h
2nd (18) Rosberg • Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team
3rd (15) Bottas • Williams Martini Racing
4th (12) Raikkonen • Scuderia Ferrari
5th (10) Vettel • Infiniti Red Bull Racing
6th (8) Magnussen • McLaren Mercedes
7th (6) Button • McLaren Mercedes
8th (4) Alonso • Scuderia Ferrari
9th (2) Perez • Sahara Force India F1 Team
10th (1) Kvyat • Scuderia Toro Rosso
Rosberg • 1:50.511 = 228.161 km/h on lap 36
His fifth fastest race lap of 2014 and the ninth of his career
1 Rosberg 220 points
2 Hamilton 191 points
3 Ricciardo 156 points
4 Alonso 119 points
5 Bottas 110 points
6 Vettel 98 points
1 Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team 411 points
2 Infiniti Red Bull Racing 254 points
3 Scuderia Ferrari 158 points
Where do we go next?
To Italy for Round 13 at the Autodromo Nazionale, Monza, on September 7.