Key talking points from the Belgian Grand Prix

August 23, 2015 8:37 pm

The Belgian Grand Prix is an iconic race in the Formula One calendar and is always an eventful race.  So, as Lewis Hamilton extends his lead in the 2015 Championship, what are the key talking points from the race?

1. Starts are good

The biggest starting point before today’s race was the new start rules. The drivers could only adjust the clutch setting when leaving the garage and receive no aid from the team engineers on the formation lap regarding the best setting. Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes were not sure this would be the best way forward, citing starts would become more unpredictable and more dangerous.

The start of the Grand Prix, the first one with the new rules. Image courtesy of Sky Sports

The start today was certainly unpredictable as Nico Rosberg had a slow start, but there was no danger. Even at the first corner with 3 cars running side by side, it saw Vettel jump up a few places and Perez nearly passed Hamilton early on. With no casualties at the start, this should placate any party who felt the new rules are going to be risky.

2. Williams need to check their tyres

One of the oddest situations was on display. Normally, there are 2-tyre compounds in the race with each one identified by a colour strip. Drivers will race with the same tyres on all wheel positions. It seems Williams took a new approach with three Yellow-Soft tyres and a single Medium tyre was installed on the right rear tyre.

Williams tyre blunder. Image courtesy of F1 official.

The multi-compound approach would never work and is still against the rules. Luckily, Bottas got just a drive-through penalty on what was a rough race for the Finn. Williams really ought to keep proper stock on their tyres and ensure there are no mix ups, having penalties every race is never going to help.

3. Ferrari need to review strategy calls

Ferrari made a disastrous call regarding Sebastian Vettel’s late-race strategy. More than 25 laps were spent on the Medium Tyres after he made his first stop. He had asked for a change but with the threat of rain, Ferrari were unsure whether to reel him in for a tyre stop, with the possibility of a 3rd pit stop to the intermediates, should it rain. This was costly.

Vettel’s blow out on lap 42. Image courtesy of Sky Sports.

While all behind him were on much fresher tyres, Seb drove brilliantly and smartly as he pushed the tyre life to its limits. It seemed he might just be able to hold out, but early into the second last lap of the race, his right rear tyre blew. Being the longest circuit and more than 3/4ths of the lap left, it would not help the quadruple world champion who was passed by other drivers (nearly colliding with Massa) to be classified 11th.

This error was costly and has surely ended his championship but the team should now take into consideration how long they can realistically pull out of a tyre and not play on chance. If Vettel could have stopped around lap 30 as he had wanted, he could have still made a late charge for 4th or even 3rd! Big discussions will take place at Ferrari.

4. Lewis Hamilton is set to become a three-time champion
Image courtesy of Sky Sports.

There seems to be no stopping Lewis Hamilton. He is consistently able to extract the most out of his superb car. He hardly puts a foot wrong and it seems Rosberg’s late surge always comes too late. There will be no stopping Lewis from taking his 3rd title, given the results.

Nico might realistically get a win or 2 at max, but it’s hard to see Lewis not adding more wins to seal his 3rd title in style. Unless Rosberg really pushes it to the limits and tries to take most of the wins. What’s confirmed is that Hamilton will remain first till at least Monza.

5. Mixed fortunes for some teams

Teams like Force India, Torro Rosso and Lotus suffered mixed fortunes during the race. In qualifying, Force India’s Sergio Perez took P4 and would finish the race 5th while team-mate Hulkenberg would not even start the race.

Grosjean took his first podium in 30 races. Image Courtesy of F1 website.

Lotus had Pastor Maldonado retire very early, but Grosjean was able to exploit the power out of their Mercedes engine to make the podium, the first in 30 races for himself and the team. Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen finished in the points despite starting far down the grid while Sainz complained of power issues and would eventually retire.

Given such situations, the team should really double check both cars, as the strong performance indicates there might be an issue in the complex running of the machines.

6. Red Bull’s resurgence

At the start of the season, Red Bull looked like they were in a crisis. They were unable to keep pace thanks to the unreliable Renault power units. Given Ferrari’s large jump in the off-season, people expected Red Bull to win the battle against Williams for 3rd in the constructors. The first half of the season saw Williams continually outpace the Austrian team and sometimes even challenge Ferrari.

Hungary saw Red Bull secure a 2-3 as Williams did not finish, and Williams were genuinely outpaced by Red Bull in Spa. Kvyat finished 4th (and in the top 6 for the 3rd consecutive race). Even though Riccardo suffered malfunctions with his car, he seemed quick overall, given his performances in practice, race and qualification. This coupled with Williams struggling with Bottas who seemed to lack pace throughout (even allowing Max Verstappen to overtake him later). Massa was more or less in a losing duel with Kvyat and Perez.

Good to see Riccardo is not scared of the media. Image courtesy – Red Bull Racing.

If Red Bull can find the pace and use technical courses later on to their advantage, they might yet win the battle for 3rd in the constructors.

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