At Spa F1’s normality was restored. After the fumbling last time out in Hungary from driver and team both Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes in the Belgian Grand Prix re-established the sort of dominance we’ve grown very accustomed to. No one got near the Mercs – indeed the next guy home arrived more than 35 seconds later. And it took Lewis only the opening handful of corners to put the result beyond almost all doubt.
Normality was restored too, ironically, at a venue known for unpredictable races. Not even the place’s notorious inclement weather arrived. Nor did its drama. Well not over the first couple of places anyway.
The start proves critical
Much was decided off the line, as with the much-anticipated restrictions of pit wall assistance for starts in place for the first time Nico Rosberg didn’t get a good one, and indeed was down in fifth place from the off. Nico later said that having an aborted start (due to his namesake Nico Hulkenberg having technical problems) created problems with his clutch overheating, which he admitted he didn’t respond to well enough for the next get-go. The upshot did a lot of frame the day.
Mixed fortunes for Vettel and Grosjean
It amounted to a perfect day for Mercedes as its closest challenger Sebastian Vettel didn’t trouble the scorers. The Ferraris were oddly off the pace in qualifying here but Seb as he seems to do every time this campaign got his car about as high as feasibly possible in the race, in this case running third via a one-stop strategy. But then with two laps to go his rear-right tyre burst – a matter we won’t have heard the last of. Whatever is the case this setback turns his already remote championship prospects into being almost certainly non-existent.
But even with all of this there’s a good case to be made that the big story of the day was Romain Grosjean. A driver increasingly forgotten it seems by F1’s employers. A guy who has had to drive a dog of a car over the past two years. In a team indeed that hasn’t had better than seventh place finish in that time. A team indeed whose latest manifestation of its chronic financial woe is that its cars this weekend were under threat of being impounded. Somehow though the Lotus looked quick around Spa and overcoming a grid penalty Grosjean fought his way through for a third place finish. There scarcely was a dry eye in the house. And he was right with Vettel when he had his puncture so the result wasn’t all about luck. F1 does a strong line in the bitter-sweet, and few will have been more so than this one.