Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix 2016

Verstappen, Raikkonen & Vettel collide at La Source, Belgian GP, 2016

After the four week break, F1 restarted in anger and I’m late writing my overview of the race, I guess that I am not as big a fan as I used to be. Anyway, I digress, Nico Rosberg was handed an easy win after team mate Lewis Hamilton elected to take three new engines to ease his engine woes for the rest of the season; meaning he started from the back bar one, McLaren’s Fernando Alonso also took grid penalties.

But the real talk of the race was Red Bull’s Max Verstappen who was involved in the first lap incident that caused the three way collision that changed the race completely and also further incidents with excessive movement blocking the Ferrari’s. Verstappen took a lot of heat from drivers and critics alike for his actions, personally I think the sport has suffered from the nanny mentality with penalties for everything.

Verstappen had wheelspin falling behind Kimi Raikkonen; but Verstappen wasn’t giving up on 2nd place diving down the inside of La Source, Raikkonen gave Vestappen room while Ferrari team mate Sebastian Vettel turned in on Raikkonen not knowing Vestappen was inside of him. The end result was contact, Vettel sent into a spin and dropping to the back and new front wings for Raikkonen and Verstappen.

Jenson Button’s race was ended prematurely by Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein who rear ended the Briton going through turns 5 and 6, this collision also ended Wehrlein’s race on lap 1. Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz’ race also ended prematurely due to a right rear tire failure which destroyed his wing and suspension.

There was further carnage on lap 6 when Kevin Magnussen lost control of his Renault cresting the top of Eau Rouge spinning backward into the barrier which initially brought out the safety car, triggering a lot of activity in the pitlane, many teams stopping for tires. Meanwhile Hamilton and Alonso stayed out which worked out brilliantly for the former team mates getting a free pit stop due to the race being red flagged.

After the red flag period, Alonso and Hamilton resumed in 4th and 5th place behind the safety car. The race restarted in anger on lap 10 and there was very little actual anger with no change of place happening during the 10th lap. Alonso could not hold off the Mercedes of Hamilton for long, the Briton making the pass for 4th place on lap 12, sadly the Honda power unit is still nowhere near the top power units.

During the next 31 laps, The Ferrari’s made good progress, although Verstappen made life difficult for Vettel and Raikkonen making what many consider to be illegal moves causing the chasing drivers to take avoiding action. Although the stewards saw it differently electing to not penalize the Red Bull driver. Personally I like this way of thinking, stewards need to stop punishing every second ‘incident’.

Force India’s Sergio Perez made a great late charge to move upto 5th place behind team mate Nico Hulkenberg in 4th place. Fernando Alonso eventually slipped back to 7th place losing out to Vettel on lap 35, the German finished in 6th place after falling to the back of the pack on lap 1. Williams instructed Massa and Bottas to switch positions to allow the faster Bottas to chase down Alonso, but to no avail.

Bottas got close, but remained in 8th place while team mate Massa was left vulnerable to attack from Raikkonen losing 9th place to the Finn on the penultimate lap leaving the Brazilian to settle for 10th place. Lewis Hamilton claimed the final spot on the podium, which given the 55 place grid penalty is miraculous. Daniel Ricciardo who had a non-eventful race after the red flag took the second step of the podium.

The talking point of Spa is Verstappen and his borderline maneuvers in defense; which I think were aggressive, but acceptable. I remember when drivers would weave back and forth trying to break the tow of the car behind, now we have the single defensive move rule which stifles racing in my opinion. Drivers are afraid to attack and defend aggressively for fear of penalties, F1 has become a pale shadow of itself.

The second issue for me was the way that rules allowed for Mercedes to replace three perfectly good engines to gain an advantage knowing that grid penalties are not carried over into subsequent races. This is a loophole that immediately needs to be closed; if the FIA intend to keep this loophole in place, let’s just abandon the engine limits and let them use whatever engines they want during the season.

F1 seems to be going down a very bad path, they are doing themselves no favors in their decision making process. We had the stupid qualifying that ended up getting abandoned; then the communication restrictions were relaxed and all but abandoned and now we have this, Mercedes taking the piss out of the sport as a whole changing three engines over a race weekend for a single penalty with limited impact.

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