There’s no point in titling this with “Hamilton wins yet again, this time in Spa” or something along those lines, because let’s be honest, we’ve exhausted those titles.
It’s grand that Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton is as talented as he is, but a win isn’t nearly as exciting or surprising anymore. It’s more like “ah yes, he’s done it again” with a smile, a good pat on the back for a job well done, and then we move on to the chaos of the next week.
I’m jaded readers, I’m sorry.
I will say Hamilton did drive a great race, as he always does, and pushed to ensure his title contender, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, didn’t make a pass to further his grasp around the championship. The near-pass after one of the few cautions of the race was one of the most exciting. I believe I held my breath momentarily as I watched.
But that was mostly it. Vettel’s teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, made a bit of a mistake failing to slow for the yellow caution issued after Red Bull’s Max Verstappen had to pull his car aside due to another engine failure for the umpteenth time.
Okay, it’s the sixth time (see that stat here on Formula1.com), but still, if you’ve been following the season, Verstappen’s retirement record has been awful and embarrassing for the Red Bull team.
Verstappen, although young and perhaps a bit bullheaded on the track, is still a mighty talented driver, and as he continues to sit out races due to mechanical issues and failures, and to add insult to injury, watch his teammate, Daniel Ricciardo land consistent podiums, the gears are turning as to what next steps he could be making in his career. Ferrari is out of the question with Vettel’s 3-year deal and Raikkonen’s 1-year deal now signed going into the weekend, but there’s still a chance for Mercedes with Valtteri Bottas not signed quite yet.
Honestly, it would be a mistake for Mercedes not to sign Bottas for the next year after his impressive performances and podiums this season (also having been ahead of Hamilton in podium finishes up until this weekend…). But the silly season gates have been open and the floods are to begin. Things can and will get, well, silly.
Oh, and now to wrap up the Raikkonen thing. Our red jump-suited Finn was given a 10-second stop/go penalty for failing to slow down in the yellow sectors. He was a bit surprised, and the result brought him down to P7 when he returned to the field, yet he finished P4 overall. Yes, it nabbed him of a podium finish, but when you watch the replay, dearest Kimi, it is clearly yellow everywhere. Not sure how you missed it.
So what’s to say of the rest of the field? Force India are back at it again, after behaving themselves the last couple of races before summer break. Clearly the few weeks of relaxation didn’t take away their angst for one-another, and rather yet another collision happened in the race, leaving Sergio Perez without a rear right tire, a run on his rim all the way back to the pit and enough damage that although they patched him up well, they for some reason retired him with two laps to go.
Now, I’m not a team boss, nor am I in the garage of Force India. But first–how are they, as a team, letting it get this out of hand every weekend? The costs for damages, repairs and team spirit (as well as the drivers’ relationships…) must be more costly than the approach to “just let them race.” Second, why bother going through with all of the repairs just to retire a car that has lasted near the entire race with only two laps to go?
Perez was running far more ahead than 17th when they asked him to box and retire. Again, I don’t know what may have been going on with the car, and there may have been issues on board, but the call appeared out of place, and although he wasn’t in a spot to gain points, pitting within the last two laps is painful.
But again, I (nor you) are the brains behind the Force India team orders, so what do we know?
This weekend was the final straw for the team , as it was mentioned actions would be taken to ensure the two drivers stay away from each other during the races moving forward.
The upcoming arrangement, whatever it may be, sounds more like Force India driving a car with two fighting children in the back seat. “Oh–it will be taken care of.”
Funny how that works.
And what’s a good 2017 F1 race recap without mentioning the woes of McLaren? Listen, I’m a McLaren fan, which means I too, feel the pain of the ongoing, near-weekly retirements. Fernando Alonso’s smile from his month in Indianapolis has finally faded, and you can hear the pain and disappointment in every interview, post-retirement.
Right, I forgot to mention, he did retire this race a little over halfway at Lap 27. But not before leaving us with some prime entertainment on the radio.
Just one of the exchanges:
McLaren: “Fernando, Stoffel is pitting this lap.”
Alonso: “Why? The only **** car that I will overtake.”
McLaren: “Fernando we didn’t want to be pushed back into Hulkenberg and Stroll. Sorry. Palmer and Stroll.”
Alonso: “They will pass me in the next lap. I have no protection now. But anyway, it doesn’t change my life.”
Other exchanges are equally as notable, but all show the same frustration with driving what should be, an incredible car. Rather, it’s far from it.
(Also note McLaren was also surprised it was Palmer behind them…poor Palmer.)
What was most interesting was NBCSN’s interview with Alonso once he was out of his retired car. When asked how much longer he could put up with the poor performance and retirements of his McLaren car, he sorta laughed and said “How many do we have left? Seven or eight more races?
His post-race interview sounded a little reminiscent and final to a point–almost as if he had made up his mind that perhaps F1 wasn’t where he would be next year.
Now, that is purely speculation on my end, and I’ve not seen many other outlets take a swing at that portion of the interview. But don’t be surprised if we see that Alonso has decided to move on to greener pastures, perhaps across the pond….
And to jump to IndyCar for a brief moment, Andretti Autosport (Alonso’s ride for the Indy 500 this year), just had a spot open as it is said this year’s 500 champion, Takuma Sato, will be leaving to join Graham Rahal on the Rahal Letterman Lanigan team. No official confirmations yet on any end, but I mean, how convenient that all happened….
As for Alonso’s future in racing overall, we know he was happier here (the U.S.) in the weeks up to and during the 500. And he wore a bit of that smile on the weeks following his little adventure. So we know he is capable of smiling and enjoying racing, just maybe no longer in the F1 paddocks.
So with that, it’s on to Monza next week and seven more races after that to determine the Championship. Hamilton’s win at Spa put him only 7 points behind Vettel in the standings, and as we’re in the second half, I’ll be providing the top 5 standings along with the race results.
Welcome back from holiday, F1. We’ve missed you.
Results for the Formula 1 Pirelli Belgian Grand Prix:
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
3. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull)
4. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari)
5. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
6. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault)
7. Romain Grosjean (Haas)
8. Felipe Massa (Williams)
9. Esteban Ocon (Force India)
10. Carlos Sainz (Toro Rosso)
11. Lance Stroll (Williams)
12. Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso)
13. Jolyon Palmer (Renault)
14. Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren)
15. Kevin Magnussen (Haas)
16. Marcus Ericsson (Sauber)
17. Sergio Perez (Force India)
DNF Fernando Alonso (McLaren)
DNF Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
DNF Pascal Wehrlein (Sauber)
Top 5 Driver Standings for the Championship:
1. 220 pts – Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
2. 213 pts – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
3. 179 pts – Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
4. 132 pts – Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull)
5. 128 pts – Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari)