August 24, 2014

Mini-F1Update!: Belgium 2014

No rain greeted the F1 Circus as they made their way to the grid, but cautious eyes were cocked to the skies.  This is Spa, after all, and if it isn't raining at Spa, it's getting ready to.  So did it?  What sort of effect did it have on the race?  And can anybody stop Mercedes from running away with this darn thing?  THIS is your Mini-F1Update! for the 2014 Grand Prix of Belgium!

*THE RACE:  Right off the starting line, it was clear that Lewis Hamilton, sitting second on the grid in his Mercedes, was going for the win.  He quickly took the lead, all the while being hounded by Red Bull's 4Time Vettel.  That threat ended at the end of the Kemmel Straight when Vettel missed the turn, letting pole-sitting Nico Rosberg back into 2nd place.  Rosberg spent the rest of the first lap tracking down his teammate.  On Lap 2, at the same place Vettel went off, Rosberg made the turn but attempted what may have been an overoptimistic move.  The result was a shredded left-rear tire for Hamilton and a broken front-right nosewing for the man leading the Driver's Championship.  Almost immediately, Hamilton began whining more than a jet turbine.  His race was ruined, dropping from the lead to 19th in the space of one lap, while the tire carcass tore pieces of bodywork free.  He would eventually retire the car, out of the points.  Rosberg pitted for new tires and a new nose on Lap 8, relinquishing the lead to Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo in the process.

*THE END:  And that's how it ended up.  Rosberg's nose change forced him into a three-stop strategy while Ricciardo stayed with a two-stopper.  This gave the Red Bull roughly a 30 second advantage, regardless of relative speeds on track.  To be fair, Ricciardo needed all of it.  Rosberg made his last stop with eight laps to go, and immediately began to rip two or three seconds/lap off of the Australian's lead.  Surprisingly, much of this was down to the greater maneuverability of the Mercedes.  Red Bull was carrying practically no rear wing in this race; this was great on the high-speed sections of the track, but cost them on the turns.  Qualifying with such little rear wing in the wet must have been a nightmare!  But Rosberg's charge fell short by about three seconds in the end.  Twenty-five seconds later, Valterri Bottas brought his Williams home in third place.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Daniel Ricciardo was handed the opportunity to win his third race this season when the two Merc drivers made contact, and he grabbed it.  In the end, with tires beginning to give up and a hard-charging Nico Rosberg on fresh rubber, the Australian could have thrown it away with a single error... yet no such error occurred.  It may have been handed to him, but he still ran with it.

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  Red Bull.  They're clearly second-best this year, but it's a solid second, and a first-fifth today has made them contenders for the Driver's Championship as well.

*MOMENT OF THE RACE
:  If the accident between Rosberg and Hamilton hadn't've occurred, chances are they finish one-two.  Now, however, Mercedes is saying things like "that was unacceptable" and "Nico was at fault" and "There will be team orders."  This can't bode well for the team down the road.  They'll still win the Constructor's Championship.  They'll probably win the Driver's.  But there's going to be a change down the road.

*SELECTED DRIVER QUOTES OF THE RACE:

"Freak yeah.  Get yo freak on!" - Daniel Ricciardo

"It was British fans that were booing me on the podium." - Nico Rosberg

"Y'know, this is my fourth podium in five races.  Bedammned!" - Valterri Bottas

"mrmrmrblrm mr rmmrbrrlrlmrmr rmrmrlrrlrmrbrmrmr mrmrm." - Kimi Raikkonnen

"So, having problems this season... let's change race engineers!" - 4Time Vettel

"(whine)" - Lewis Hamilton (note: this video really does capture his complains accurately... even the fireball)

So that's it for Belgium!  In two weeks, we find ourselves in Italy for the fastest race on the calendar: Monza!  We'll see you there!

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