As our Formula One Rewind reporter, Craig Telford enjoys a break, we are still bringing a rewind as we revisit the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix ahead of F1’s trip to Spa Francorchamps this weekend.
With the birth of the hybrid era, Mercedes were the dominant force but Spa Francorchamps would mark a significant turn in Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg’s rivalry for the title, which would further set the stage for one of the sport’s most tense feuds of the modern era across the next two seasons.
This race also saw one Aussie produce a dominant race performance to take his third victory of 2014 in a campaign which saw him dismantle his four-time world champion teammate at Red Bull, as we rewind six years to a thrilling race weekend around Spa.
Rosberg topped the opening practice session from Mercedes’ teammate, Lewis Hamilton by just 0.097 seconds ahead of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who finished third fastest despite stopping at the edge of Eau Rouge with a power unit issue whilst Kimi Raikkonen was fifth quickest after a spin at La Source before his ERS overheated with McLaren’s Jenson Button splitting the two Ferrari cars in fourth position.
That top three order stayed broadly the same in FP2 but with Hamilton fastest ahead of Rosberg by 0.604s and Alonso stayed third as the Williams duo of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas finished the session as fourth and sixth quickest drivers as Button sandwiched the pair in fifth.
Lotus’ Pastor Maldonado meanwhile failed to set a FP2 time after losing control on exit of Rivage to slide across the track into the barriers and bring out the red flag, whilst Sebastian Vettel didn’t even get out as a ignition failure in his Red Bull necessitated a power unit change. Esteban Gutierrez meanwhile caused a second stoppage when his gearbox failed and caused him to spin at Blanchimont.
FP3 begun in damp conditions but drivers eventually got out onto the track during the closing stages with Bottas setting the fastest time of a 1m 49.465 ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and Rosberg, as Raikkonen, Hamilton, Alonso, Daniil Kvyat, Button, Massa and Jean-Eric Vergne rounded out the top ten.
Torrential rain and a hailstorm fell shortly before Qualifying to leave the track soaked when Q1 began with the Caterham duo of Marcus Ericsson and Andre Lotterer locking out the back row, ahead of Gutierrez’s Sauber and the Marussia of Max Chilton with Nico Hulkenberg and Maldonado rounding out the Q1 exits, as the Venezuelan missed out by 0.180s to McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen.
Marussia’s Jules Bianchi produced a shock escape in 16th position as he advanced into Q2 for the third time in four races, where he was the 16th slowest driver with Romain Grosjean, Adrian Sutil, Sergio Perez, Vergne and Kvyat rounded out the Q2 casualties in a session topped by Lewis Hamilton with a 2m 06.609 ahead of Rosberg who had topped Q1 times.
Sunshine however began to break out during Q3 as Rosberg snatched his first Belgian pole position with a 2m 05.591 which was 0.228s quicker than Hamilton’s best Q3 effort as Vettel, Alonso, Ricciardo, Bottas, Magnussen, Raikkonen, Massa and Button rounded out the top ten.
Fernando Alonso’s race got off to a terrible start before he even begun the formation lap as his car failed to ignite due to an empty battery, which required a jump-start battery being fitted just before everyone had passed him, although he was hit with a five second time penalty because Ferrari mechanics hadn’t vacated the grid 15 seconds before the formation lap commenced as per regulations.
Come lights out, Rosberg got a poor getaway from pole as Hamilton and Vettel leapfrogged him but the latter ran wide at Les Combes to concede second to Rosberg who set about reeling Hamilton in heading onto lap two, when the Brit decided to repeat his same defence against Rosberg as he deployed against Vettel a lap earlier on the Kemmel Straight into Les Combes.
This time, Hamilton found himself with a rear left tyre puncture from Rosberg midway through Les Combes corner as the Mercedes duo collided, which consequently caused bodywork damage and hindered his downforce level throughout the remainder of his race until he was retired at the end of lap 38.
Ricciardo meanwhile benefitted from DRS on lap three to get past Alonso into third through Les Combes which then became second two laps later as Vettel ran wide at Pouhon onto the artificial grass, before claiming the lead on lap nine when Rosberg pitted for fresh medium tyres plus a new front wing following his collision with Hamilton.
Lotterer and Maldonado meanwhile both retired on the opening lap with power unit and exhaust issues for Caterham and Lotus respectively.
Apart from relinquishing the lead to Bottas twice, Ricciardo would then go on to control the race whilst Rosberg endured a tough afternoon following his first stop, having to deal with loose tyre carcass on lap from a tyre puncture on Bianchi’s car which had wrapped itself around Rosberg’s radio antenna before eventually releasing itself.
Seven laps later, Rosberg made a failed attempt to pass Vettel for third into the Bus Stop Chicane which caused him to run wide as he locked up and flat spotted his tyres, thereby allowing Bottas to get pass on the Kemmel Straight with DRS as the Mercedes driver then pitted two laps later to replace his destroyed tyres and re-joined in 11th position.
Rosberg soon found himself passing Button for fifth come lap 23 but a fuel limit issue saw the Brit snatch the position back before eventually conceding a lap later to Rosberg, who then passed Alonso for third on the run to Les Combes on lap 25 for third.
Up front, Ricciardo made his last stop at the end of lap 27 which enabled him to emerge 3.7s clear of Rosberg and soon reclaimed the lead at the start of lap 29 when Bottas pitted.
Bottas would then reel in Vettel and Raikkonen on laps 30 and 40 respectively en route to third, whilst Rosberg pitted at the end of lap 34 to try and win via a three stop strategy, only for that risk to be in vain as Ricciardo held on to take his third victory of the season by 3.383s from Rosberg with Bottas, Raikkonen and Vettel rounding out the top five.
Button, Alonso, Perez, Kvyat and Nico Hulkenberg rounded out the points in sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth positions respectively after Magnussen received a 20s time penalty added post race to drop him from sixth to 12th, whilst Grosjean and Bianchi suffered power and gearbox failures as the French pair joined Hamilton in late retirements from the race during the final laps.
Rosberg stretched his lead over Hamilton to 29 points with seven races left in the 2014 campaign but come the checkered flag in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton had overturned his deficit to win his second title by 67 points with six wins and a second placed finish across the last seven races of season on top of double points in Abu Dhabi where Rosberg failed to score due to a late ERS failure.
Ricciardo meanwhile solidified third place which he eventually held through to season end, despite taking just two third placed finishes in the remaining races of that season.