Pirelli tyres exploding, legal disputes, dairy farmers threatening to protest the race, Maldonado crashing in Practice. Formula 1 is truly back isn’t it?
Lewis Hamilton was finally given the win he was denied of 12 months ago in front of the Belgium crowed, after teammate Nico Rosberg got a bad start and had to regroup during the second stint of the race. Starts were on everybody’s mind heading into the race weekend, largely due to the changes made to the procedure designed to put control back into the drivers hands.
To all intents it worked well. On his reconnaissance lap Rosberg reported bad wheelspin and when it came down to taking the five light sequence, it was down to him to manage the car. As it turned out just about everyone else around him got a good start, which is where he lost crucial time to Hamilton during the first stint. He did gain it back in the second stint however, and rather cheekily so during the Virtual Safety Car period.
This was a similar problem in the support races where drivers were able to gain a second to the car in front and in some cases overtake them, due to not knowing what takes priority between whats being displayed on the dashboard and the flags being waved by marshals. I’d always say its the latter, however it’s unfair for drivers to be penalised for acting on the advice of marshals.
The other story of the race was Sebastien Vettel’s tyre blowing out on the penultimate lap. This came just two days after Rosberg suffered a similar high speed blowout going through Blanchimont, with Vettel understandably livid at the tyre supplier in the post-race interviews. Whilst Pirelli stated after Rosberg’s blowout that there are no structural issues with their tyres, engineers are still unconvinced with the tyre manufacturers findings.
For me it was a combination of going too long on one set of tyres (the race was predicted to be at least a two-stop) and abuse of the track limits. You ride the kerbs too aggressively and its going to damage your car, especially when you’re trying to go beyond the expected tyre life. In Le Mans drivers are told to stay off the kerbs during their stints in order to get as much laps out of them as possible, and Michelin aren’t told to produce rubber that falls off the cliff.
Ferrari were right in believing that they could one-stop the race, after all Vettel was two laps from home. But they should’ve asked their driver to not attack the kerbs. It probably would’ve meant conceiving position to Grosjean, but fourth place and some points is better than 12th and nothing.
Speaking of Lotus and Romain Grosjean, I believe they were the real winners this weekend. Grosjean has had a tough time in that team since the new regulations came into effect last year, and coming into this weekend a lot of people often remind him on his crash at the first corner in 2012. Coupled with the fact that he is teammates with Crashtor Maldonado, and its easy for people to draw to conclusions about this team.
The fact is though – and I’ve said this all along – that Grosjean is one of the star drivers out there. When Raikkonen was in the team he matched his pace on a number of occasions and challenged for race wins in a car that was arguably the fourth best on the grid. I said after the Spanish Grand Prix this year that if Renault end up buying their way back into F1 – which according to some rumours looks like it is very possible – Grosjean could well see himself back under French power at Enstone, with a manufacturers backing and hopefully some success.
Elsewhere I have to commend Sergio Perez for what was a pretty good start off the line in his Force India, appearing ahead of Hamilton heading into La Source before slotting in behind heading up Eau Rouge. It looked like Perez might be able to repeat the successes of Giancarlo Fisichella for a moment, however much like in 2009 the works team had the better of him where it mattered on the straights.
Final thoughts of the weekend go out to Justin Wilson.
Much like everyone in the motorsport community I am deeply saddened and shocked to hear of his death, in what was an incident completely out of his control. It comes not long after we suffered the loss of Jules Bianchi, and after a weekend of some lucky near misses in the feeder categories racing at Spa Francorchamps. But again the motorsport community has shown its strength and came together in its darkest hours.
Whats remarkable is how Justin chose to be an organ donor, and that on the day of his death his organs managed to save six lives. Its quite inspiring, and perhaps a measure of the man that many have paid heartfelt and warm tributes to over the past couple of days.