Drafting the Circuits

Formula 1 Report

Summer Break August 24

By Steve Aibel


Lewis Hamilton extended his championship lead to 28 points with a textbook shellacking at the legendary Belgium Grand Prix at Spa Francorchamps. Hamilton took pole position and commanded every aspect of the 11th Grand Prix of the season. This was his 6th win, 39th of his career, and equaled the 80 podium finishes of Ayrton Senna. This places Hamilton tied for 4th position all time in podiums, behind Michael Schumacher (155), Alain Prost (106) and Fernando Alonso (97). As Hamilton racks up these accomplishments, it is worth mentioning that he is etching his place with some of the all time greats!

Hamilton's 80th podium ties Ayrton Senna for 4th place

Hamilton’s 80th podium ties Ayrton Senna for 4th place

Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg finished in 2nd position while Romain Grosjean of Lotus took 3rd. This was Grosjean’s first podium since 2013 at Circuit of The Americas in Texas. Grosjean showed his talent taking a Lotus car that has continued to improve throughout the season and essentially carrying the Lotus results this season on his shoulders.

Grosjean sweet Champagne bath after his first podium since 2013 at COTA

Grosjean sweet Champagne bath after his first podium since 2013 at COTA

Hamilton was truly never in jeopardy and is grabbing control of the title fight. As the European segment wraps up in two weeks in Monza, Hamilton seems to be laser locked on securing his third World Championship. Another mark that will place him with some all time greats.

Nico Rosberg seems to be the only competitor with a chance to challenge Hamilton, but even for Rosberg, the task seems formidable. With new rules governing start procedures, Rosberg got off to a poor start and spent the first half of the race navigating traffic before he could mount any semblance of challenge to Hamilton.

The battle seems to be between the Mercedes pair....but we already know that

The battle seems to be between the Mercedes pair….but we already know that

The best on track battle occurred late in the contest as Romain Grosjean battled with Sebastian Vettel. Grosjean, with the faster car secured the final podium position after Vettel lost a tire while blasting onto the Kemmel straight. Ferrari took an aggressive approach employing a single stop strategy trying to maintain a podium finish. It did not work for Vettel. With a shrinking gap, Vettel was fending off Grosjean effectively until a right rear tire exploded in spectacular fashion as Vettel exited Eau Rouge and Raidillon and started up the long Kemmel Straight. Fortunately for Vettel, the tire held until he had passed through Eau Rouge as a failure there could have been catastrophic for the German. Vettel did not hide his fury after the race.

Vettel podium hopes were shredded

Vettel podium hopes were shredded

“Things like that are not allowed to happen,” Vettel remarked. “If it happened 200 metres earlier, I’m not standing here now, I’d be stuck in Eau Rouge. If this happened earlier then I’m f****d.”

Paul Hembery, Director of Motorsports for Pirelli, took a different approach stating that for Vettel “It was at the end of wear life and when you do that, any tyre in the world, when it gets to its wear life, you’re going to have a problem.”

With high speed Monza ahead this will surely be a topic that comes up frequently in the next two weeks. For the safety of the racers, I hope that any solution comes squarely on the side of safety!

Continuing with the strange tire motif, the pit crew at Williams compromised Valtteri Bottas’ race when they placed three soft tires and 1 medium tire on the car during a pit stop.


This caused a drive through penalty for Bottas and probably cost him a top 5 position. With Williams qualifying well, this was another disappointing race at a track where Williams was expected to perform well. Spa, along with Monza, should suit the Williams Fw37, but for some reason, the team have been unable to take advantage at these tracks.

Rob Smedley, Williams Head of Engineering, said that more teams such as Force India, Lotus, and Red Bull, had better pace at Spa. This places more emphasis on strategy and pit execution in order to find a podium position. Teams have caught up to Williams and they may find themselves battling down with these teams rather than up Ferrari for the third position in the Constructor’s race.

Red Bull had another mixed result with Daniil Kvyat finishing strongly in 4th position after starting in 12th while Daniel Ricciardo did not finish after what looked to be an electrical problem caused the car to lose power. Kvyat went ahead of Ricciardo in the Drivers Championship with his form improving consistently throughout the season.

Daniil Kvyat pulls ahead of teammate Daniel Ricciardo in Red Bull points

Daniil Kvyat pulls ahead of teammate Daniel Ricciardo in Red Bull points

Force India is following the Star Wars trend as “The Force Awakens” in Belgium for Sergio Perez.

There has been an awakening.   Have you felt it?

There has been an awakening.
Have you felt it?

The Mexican had, perhaps, the best start of the field and was challenging Lewis Hamilton for the race lead on the opening lap. Perez simply did not have podium pace, but was certainly more competitive in the B-Spec Chassis. Nico Hulkenberg had the exact opposite experience at Spa as electrical problems on the starting grid caused Hulkenberg to retire the car before the lights started the Grand Prix.

The European season ends in 2 weeks at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza. It is then on toward the second set of flyaway races. Monza’s space on the future F1 calendar is in question so it will be interesting to see where the track stands as the F1 spotlight turns to fast Italian track and the fans of the Scuderia.

Drivers’ Championship

  1. Lewis Hamilton 227
  2. Nico Rosberg 199
  3. Sebastian Vettel 160
  4. Kimi Raikkonen 82
  5. Felipe Massa 82
  6. Valtteri Bottas 79
  7. Daniil Kvyat 57
  8. Daniel Ricciardo 51
  9. Romain Grosjean 38
  10. Max Verstappen 26
  11. Sergio Perez 25
  12. Nico Hulkenberg 24
  13. Felipe Nasr 16
  14. Pastor Maldonado 12
  15. Fernando Alonso 11
  16. Carlos Sainz Jr. 9
  17. Marcus Ericsson 7
  18. Jenson Button 6


Constructors’ Championship

  1. Mercedes 426
  2. Ferrari 242
  3. Williams 161
  4. Red Bull 108
  5. Lotus 50
  6. Force India 49
  7. Toro Rosso 35
  8. Sauber 23
  9. McLaren 17
  10. Manor/Marussia 0