F1 2014 Belgian Grand Prix Spa result: Hamilton’s hopes punctured as Ricciardo wins
- Credit: Mercedes-Benz
Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton saw his 2014 Belgian Grand Prix hopes controversially punctured following an early collision with Mercedes colleague Nico Rosberg at Spa-Francorchamps.
The unfortunate 29-year-old Mercedes AMG Petronas racer from Hertfordshire retired with five laps remaining as Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo took the chequered flag for back-to-back F1 victories.
World championship leader Rosberg, who started on pole position, recovered from his coming together with Hamilton to take second place in Belgium. However, the German was later booed on the podium, having shredded Hamilton’s rear left tyre after trying to overtake on the outside on lap two.
Williams ace Valtteri Bottas completed the podium positions in the provisional Spa results, with Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen fourth.
Sebastian Vettel took fifth place for Red Bull ahead of McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen on the road, with Jenson Button just behind in seventh. Fernando Alonso crossed the finishing line eighth for Ferrari.
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Magnussen was subsequently handed a 20-second penalty by FIA race stewards for not leaving Alonso enough room on the run down to Les Combes, dropping down to 12th in the revised results. That promoted Button up to sixth and Alonso climbed to seventh place.
But once again the intense rivalry between warring Mercedes colleagues Rosberg and Hamilton stole the headlines for all the wrong reasons, with Mercedes-Benz Motorsport head Toto Wolff and team chairman Niki Lauda both calling Rosberg’s overtaking move “unacceptable”.
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An emotional Hamilton, meanwhile, was “gutted” by the outcome but said he will continue to push for the world title over the final seven races of the season.
Speaking in the paddock afterwards, Hamilton said: “I’m gutted with the result – not just for my own Championship hopes but for the team, as we really should have had a one-two today.
“It’s been a tough year for everyone and the whole team has been working so hard – every time we’ve been knocked down they’ve never given up. I didn’t fully understand what had happened until I saw the replay just now, but I gave him plenty of space, took the corner like I usually do and suddenly felt a big hit from behind.
“There was nothing I could do about it and that was effectively my race over. I wanted to retire the car early – not because I was giving up, but because I couldn’t catch the people in front of me and even with a safety car I don’t think I would have been able to pass them.
“The car was quite badly damaged and my thoughts were to preserve the engine after the last one was destroyed in Hungary.”
Hamilton added: “What happens next is not my call – that’s one for the bosses to make.
“But I’m now almost 30 points behind in the Championship so that’s the main thing on my mind. It’s a big gap and it will be hard to recover from here. That’s tough to swallow – but ultimately it’s just been one of those days.”
Hamilton’s view differed from Rosberg’s official version of events. He said: “As drivers, we are here to entertain and to show the fans a good time, so our duels are always on the limit. I regret that Lewis and myself touched, but I see it as a racing incident – just as the stewards did.
“I was quicker down the straight and went to the outside as the inside line was blocked. I gave it a go and, after we touched, I realised that my front wing was damaged and thought that was it.
“In the next second I saw that Lewis also had a problem, which was very unfortunate for him and for the team.”
He added: “We sat down quickly after the race but there will be some more meetings to be held in to avoid races like today.”
Lining-up alongside each other on the front row, Hamilton overtook pole-sitter Rosberg in the opening seconds of the race as the world championship leader dropped down to third behind a fast-starting Vettel.
Rosberg claimed second place when Vettel cut the chicane, dropping Red Bull’s world champion down to fifth and setting up a Silver Arrows shootout at the front.
But Hamilton’s chances of a podium were punctured less than a lap later when he was clipped from behind at Turn Five by Silver Arrows sparring partner Rosberg and he had to limp back to the pits for fresh rubber, with the Mercedes hierarchy saying, post race, the German driver was at fault.
Rosberg also suffered damage to his Mercedes’ front wing in the lap two collision with his teammate and needed a nose change when he pitted for prime tyres, dropping down to 15th, while Hamilton found himself at the back of the field.
Despite valiantly soldiering on, Hamilton failed to carve his way through the field as he had done in Hungary last month and eventually retired on lap 39 of 44.
Rosberg finished second to extend his FIA World Drivers’ Champions lead to 29 points, but his mistake in the opening laps could have huge ramifications for the Mercedes team going forward.
Afterwards, Mercedes chief Toto Wolff said: “Today we saw our worst case scenario when the drivers made contact on lap two – and that ultimately cost us a one-two finish today, because we saw that our car had that kind of performance in it.
“It has been our clear policy to let the drivers race this year but rule number one is: don’t hit each other.
“To see that kind of contact, so early in the race, is an unacceptable level of risk to be taking out on track. It cannot – and will not – happen again.
“After the collision, Nico drove the first stint with a significantly damaged front wing, changed it, then had to make an additional stop after flat-spotting his left front tyre to the point where it was dangerous.
“He then charged back through the field and was impressively close to taking the win in spite of a dramatic race.”
Wolff added: “As for Lewis, he was fighting with one hand tied behind his back after the puncture, which damaged the floor and cost him a significant amount of performance.
“We left him out there in case the Safety Car came out, bunched up the field and allow us to gain some places, but it became clear that he had lost too much performance and was continuing to do so, so we retired the car before the finish.
“Overall, not a good day for the team and it is clear that we need to strengthen our focus on securing the Constructors’ Championship by delivering the potential of both cars in the next races. Now we need to regroup and come back stronger in Monza.”
Technical director Paddy Lowe said: “We got off to a strong start, with Lewis taking the lead and Nico eventually recovering second place from Sebastian.
“One lap later, however, the incident between the two at turn five effectively ruined our afternoon. It’s a great shame, as the car had looked strong all weekend and we were in an excellent position to potentially score a one-two finish.
“We opted to continue the race with Lewis in case of a safety car scenario, which may have given him an opportunity to recover the lost ground. But in the end this never came and, with his floor heavily damaged by tyre debris on the second lap, the condition of the car deteriorated further as the race continued.”
Over in the McLaren garage, Button claimed sixth spot following some dramatic racing in the closing stages. He crossed the line seventh, but gained a place after teammate Magnussen was hit with a post-race penalty, relegating the Dane down to 12th overall.
Button said: “I had a lot of fun out there, especially racing Kevin [Magnussen], Sebastian [Vettel] and Fernando [Alonso] at the end.
“In the final laps Kevin and I didn’t touch, although I had to back off a bit at Turn Eight, when Fernando ran off as he and Kevin were dicing. I lost a place to Fernando there, which was a bit of a shame, and in turn a place to Sebastian after that, but as I say I really enjoyed it out there.”
After receiving a 20-second penalty, Magnussen said: “Despite being penalised after the race, I have to say I enjoyed the weekend. I had great fun out there this afternoon – I was involved in exciting racing on an awesome circuit.
“It was a tough challenge, because everyone around me had slightly fresher tyres than I did, and they’re all great drivers: they’re not the easiest guys to keep behind. So I just tried my best to defend my position as well as I could.”