Nico Rosberg rides his luck as Daniel Ricciardo triumphs at Belgian Grand Prix
German extends his lead in the drivers' standings but is booed by fans after colliding with Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton
Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo beat Nico Rosberg to win an incident-packed Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday, while Rosberg extended his championship lead over Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton in acrimonious circumstances.
Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas was third.
The increasingly strained relations at Mercedes look set to get even worse after Rosberg effectively ended Hamilton’s race chances with a risky overtaking move that saw him clip and puncture the Briton’s left tire.
Rosberg was loudly jeered by the Spa crowd when he went onto the podium.
“It’s not my position to comment on it at all because I haven’t seen it,” Rosberg said afterward of the incident. “Of course it’s very disappointing from a team’s perspective. We could have done a lot better than just finish in second place with the car we have.”
Hamilton retired with five laps remaining after his team noticed some further degradation and he appeared to blame Rosberg after the race.
“I’m sure he’ll leave here happy,” Hamilton told the BBC.
It was a second straight win for Ricciardo after victory at the Hungarian GP last month and the third of an impressive season. The Australian continues to outshine his Red Bull teammate Sebastian Vettel who was fifth. Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was fourth.
“We’re happy with what we’re doing,” Ricciardo said. “The consistency was there and we’re making the tires last.”
Rosberg started from pole for the fourth straight race, but a great start by Hamilton and Vettel saw them both zoom past the German at the first turn.
Just two laps into the race, as Hamilton fixed his racing line, Rosberg tried to pass him on the outside but instead his front wing hit Hamilton’s left side, also causing damage to Rosberg’s front wing.
“Nico hit me, Nico hit me,” an exasperated Hamilton said over the race radio.
Early signs are that the Mercedes team looks like coming down heavily on Rosberg for taking a risk right at the start of the race.
The two drivers have clashed throughout the season.
In Hungary, Hamilton refused team orders to let Rosberg past.
At the Monaco GP in May, Hamilton was incensed when Rosberg surprisingly crashed late in qualifying when under no pressure, leading to a safety car coming out and squandering Hamilton’s chances of pole.
On Sunday, after pitting for repairs, Hamilton was told to manage at least 15 laps on his new tires, to which a despondent Hamilton responded “the rear tire is never going to last.”
He had qualified on the front row for the first time in six races.
But once again the 2008 champion needed to carve his way back through the field, just like in the previous two GPS — Hungary and Germany — where he qualified 20th and 22nd due to technical problems.
Rosberg’s front wing was replaced on lap nine.
Then, in another dramatic turn, some flying debris got attached to the radio aerial of Rosberg’s car and blew around in his face. He tried in vain to remove it with his left hand as it flapped around, even catching on the steering wheel.
Meanwhile, a worried Hamilton asked “Is my pace really far off?” as his team reassured him that he was closing the gap.
By now, Rosberg was fourth, with Vettel, Raikkonen and Ricciardo in front after 15 laps.
Two laps later, Rosberg tried and failed to overtake Vettel as smoke billowed from his front left tire.
Halfway through the 44-lap race, Hamilton was down in 16th and asked his engineers if it would be better to retire and save the engine.
“We are looking at the options now,” his race engineer replied. Hamilton then complained about having no downforce on his car but his team insisted he scrap for points.
With 30 laps gone, Rosberg overtook Raikkonen and looked to close on Ricciardo, who was about three seconds ahead.
Things got intense in the battle for fifth.
Two-time champion Fernando Alonso waved his left hand in frustration after failing to get pas Denmark’s Kevin Magnussen on lap 38.
Alonso was so desperate to get past Magnussen that he ended up losing two places after he was forced too wide. Both Vettel and Jenson Button moved inside him and the Spaniard finished eighth.
Others had trouble on the 7-kilometre track nestled in the Ardennes forest. It is the longest and one of the most demanding on the circuit, due to its undulating nature with difficult turns such as Eau Rouge and Blanchimont.
Jules Bianchi’s left rear wheel flew off his Marussia after contact on the first corner.
Lotus driver Pastor Maldonado and Caterham’s Andre Lotterer — making his F1 debut — both retired early on, while Alonso had to take a five-second stop-and-go penalty after his mechanics stayed on the grid too long.