“I thought ‘what? Seriously…?'”
So said Nico Rosberg after his drive to win the Belgian Grand Prix, one that was near enough perfect. But, as his words betray, it was only at the end that he discovered it wasn’t quite as perfect as he might have assumed. As his team mate and chief rival had somehow ended up in third place after starting dead last.
It was a day that had been anticipated for months. Representing a major hurdle between Lewis Hamilton and this year’s world title, when Nico could be expected to inflict plenty of points damage. Ever since a series of failures early in the season Lewis has faced the prospect of a big grid drop somewhere in order to have enough parts to get through the season. This time he took it, as outlined.
Rosberg Routs the Rest
And really Nico cannot be faulted in keeping up his end of the bargain. From a hard-won pole position his drive to victory at Spa was one from the copybook, looking fast and untouchable out front as all sorts went on behind.
With all due respect too it wasn’t even a stunning drive from Lewis. Certainly it wasn’t full of the feisty racing we often associate with him and his result from its starting point would imply. Indeed it’s hard to cite a single amazing overtake from Lewis this time, only a couple of simple cruises past much slower opponents. Instead the race rather came to him.
As intimated behind Nico it was – with honourable exceptions such as second place man Daniel Ricciardo – rather a scrappy and (literally) stop-start affair. Lewis gained a few places in the first lap or so via others getting into prangs, including Max Verstappen and the two Ferraris coming together at the track’s notorious and tight first turn of La Source, which rather ruined each of their races.
Fortune Smiles On Lewis
But what really rescued Lewis’s day was a violent crash for Kevin Magnussen at Eau Rouge on lap six – Kevin’s injuries, mercifully, are light. Initially it was covered by the safety car but four laps later the race was stopped due to barrier damage. This caught a few out as they’d pitted under the safety car and lost places, and a red flag stoppage in effect zeroes things as they re-start in the order they happened to be in at the time and everyone can change tyres in the downtime. Lewis didn’t pit under the safety car as he’d started on the more durable medium compound, and it meant he re-started, all-of-a-sudden, in fifth…
He picked off two more before the end, and thus ceded just ten points of his world championship lead to Nico. Whichever way you slice that it is a major save. Plus as he pointed out with relish after the race he now in a reversal to before has more engines available than Nico does for the season’s remainder. After a wretched start to the campaign someone, somewhere, has been smiling on Lewis these past few months. Not that he really needs it.
Nico’s reaction as given at the outset could become rather the story of the season. Perhaps if you are to be especially grim it’s the story of Lewis and Nico’s relationship more broadly. You would forgive Nico if he ever wondered what exactly he had to do. His Spa win was one in which perfection it seemed was not enough.