August 27th, 2013 (F1plus/R. Baillie)).- Typical Spa weather on Saturday shook the grid up but the rain stayed away come race day allowing Sebastian Vettel to dominate the 44 lap race through the Ardennes forest, leaving Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton in his wake.
With the teams and drivers now looking towards the Italian Grand Prix, we review each driver’s race.
1. Sebastian Vettel - Red Bull Racing - 25 Points
The current world champions straight line speed was astounding coming out of Eau Rouge where he was able to catch Lewis Hamilton out to take the lead. Vettel proceeded to completely dominate the race finishing 17 seconds ahead of second place man and rival Fernando Alonso.
After the race Vettel commented that the cars speed had come as a surprise, “I don’t think we expected to be dominant here, and it surprised all of us actually; it's a great result.”
The threat of rain spurred the German on to pull out a large gap over Alonso, allowing him to relax during the last few laps.
“It wasn't clear if the rain was going to come at the end of the race, so we kept pushing, but the gap we had by that stage meant we were able to control the race from there and the last couple of laps weren't too stressful.” Vettel said.
2. Fernando Alonso - Ferrari - 18 Points
The Spaniard had a brilliant start after starting in ninth place, making up a few places on the opening lap. He then had the pace to take second place and held onto it, grabbing a spot on the podium and 18 points.
Alonso commented after the race that he didn’t think he’d have been able to win even if he’d started on pole. “I think that even if I’d started from pole I would still have finished second, because Vettel was quicker”
He went on to praise the car and the team by saying they have made a step forward but still have work to do. “The car worked well in all conditions, with a full fuel load at first and then with a lighter one at the end and, on top of that, the extra speed we had on the straight meant I could overtake without taking too many laps to do so.”
3. Lewis Hamilton - Mercedes - 15 Points
Another excellent qualifying session for Hamilton saw him pick up his fourth pole position in a row, but was unable to convert it to a win.
The Brit said he was caught out by Vettel’s move on him coming out of Eau Rouge but was powerless to retain his position.
“Seb just caught me on the run out of Eau Rouge and there wasn't really much I could do to defend: I moved once, like we are allowed to, but then I just had to watch him glide by.”
He went onto say that he was unable to hold on to both Vettel and Button but said it was a ‘great’ result for the team. Looking ahead Hamilton feels they will not be so competitive in Monza either but “will be more competitive in Singapore again”
4. Nico Rosberg - Mercedes - 12 Points
The German had a good start and was able to make up a position on the opening lap. Rosberg spent most of the race trying to keep Red Bull’s Mark Webber behind him.
While the second stint on the medium tyres didn’t work out as planned, the third stint on hard tyres worked well enabling him to keep Webber behind him and finished in fourth place, picking up 12 points for the team.
“Fourth place was a reasonable result for me today, and it's great that we achieved a strong points finish for the team with Lewis' third place as well.” Rosberg said.
5. Mark Webber - Red Bull Racing - 10 Points
Going into the race the team were worried about Webber’s clutch due to two poor practice starts. Despite the team's best efforts the Australian slipped back on the start and lost a couple of positions on the opening lap.
Webber then spent most of the race trying to pass Rosberg as he didn’t have the speed to clear him.
“He was strong in sector one and we didn't have the top speed to clear him,” Webber said.
6. Jenson Button - McLaren-Mercedes - 8 Points
Following the Belgian Grand Prix Button said it was a ‘decent race’ after finishing in sixth place and picking up eight much needed points for the team.
He felt the team had made some progress and should be pleased with themselves, “In terms of performance there’s been a small but definite improvement, so we should be pleased with the progress we’ve made.”.
His points finish means the team have finally passed Force India in the constructor’s championship and are now in fifth place.
7. Felipe Massa - Ferrari - 6 Points
The Belgian Grand Prix was a tricky one for Felipe Massa who had to drop back a few places exiting the first corner to avoid an incident with Romain Grosjean.
Massa then suffered steering wheel and KERS issues and to make things worse, had trouble communicating with the team. Once his issues had finally been resolved he had to wait until the final stint on the hard tyres until the car was more competitive again to gain positions back.
“I definitely can’t be pleased with seventh place, because today, our car deserved better, but the fact we’re more competitive than at the last few races makes me think we are working in the right direction and so we can hope to make progress throughout the second half of the season” Massa said.
8. Romain Grosjean - Lotus-Renault - 4 Points
The Frenchman lost a couple of positions on the opening lap dropping back from seventh to ninth, and lost out again when pushed wide by Sergio Perez going into Les Combes.
He opted for a one-stop strategy and fared better on the second and final stint, on the hard tyres, where Grosjean felt he had much more grip.
Despite finishing in eighth place, he was happy to finish this years Belgian Grand prix without an incident “It is good to finish the race without any mistakes, even if eighth place isn’t what we were hoping for this weekend”.
9. Adrian Sutil - Force India - 2 Points
Not the best start for Sutil in Spa who was down in 13th on the second lap after starting in 12th place, though the German was able to recover and moved into the top 10 to finish in ninth place.
Sutil is looking towards the next race and is determined to gain some points back in Italy and continue their battle with McLaren for fifth in the constructor’s championship.
“We are still in a close fight with McLaren so it was important to get back in the points today after a couple of tough races” Sutil said.
10. Daniel Ricciardo - Toro Rosso - 1 Point
Changing weather in qualifying on Saturday meant Daniel Ricciardo began the race back in 19th place. The Australian, who is hotly tipped to replace Webber at Red Bull, fought his way through to grid to finish just inside the points.
Ricciardo felt the medium tyres really aided his race as he was able to put in qualifying lap times.
“With the last set of tyres I was knocking out maybe ten or so qualifying laps and managed to pick off some cars in front to bring home that crucial point.” He said.
11. Sergio Perez - McLaren
The Mexican’s race was hampered after he received a drive through penalty for forcing Grosjean off track going into Les Combes.
From then onwards Perez found it hard to regain position and ultimately finished just shy of the points.
Perez spoke about the incident and explained that he understands and accepts the penalty; “I got ahead of him, and took the corner, but I now understand where the penalty came from, even if I’m naturally disappointed for myself and for the team.”.
After the race McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh suggested Perez is being watched carefully following a number of incidents earlier this year, which attracted negative comments from other drivers.
12. Jean-Eric Vergne - Toro Rosso
As with his teammate Ricciardo, Jean-Eric Vergne was also caught out by the changing weather during qualifying and began from 18th place.
Unlike his teammate though the Frenchman was unable to get into the points due to a slow puncture on the final stint.
Vergne summed up the weekend as one to forget but praised the car and the team for gaining speed; “A bit of a weekend to forget as it could have ended so much better, if we had not made a mistake in qualifying, but at least when things were going well it seems that our car has picked up some speed that was lacking just before the break”
13. Nico Hulkenberg - Sauber
A great start for the Sauber driver saw Nico Hulkenberg move up from 11th on the grid to eighth. The German was struggling with pace throughout the entire race and said the ‘car was difficult to drive’.
Hulkenberg went onto say that the car lacked balance throughout the entire weekend and that he was unable to manage tyres effectively as they started to go off quickly.
He summed up the race saying, “Overall, we were simply missing speed”.
14. Esteban Gutierrez - Sauber
The young Mexican had an impressive opening lap that saw him move up to 18 from 21st on the grid; he then spent his first stint, on the hard tyres, trying to work his way through traffic.
Gutierrez said that he found it easy to find the balance between attacking and managing his tyres; “ I found that balance pretty well. I just focused on being as quick as possible, trying to manage the tyres well and getting the most out of the car.”
Towards the end of the race the Sauber driver received a drive through penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage on Maldonado. Gutierrez said he respected the stewards decision but didn’t agree with the penalty enforced, “I totally respect the FIA ‘s decision to penalize me for overtaking Pastor, but I don’t agree with the penalty.”.
15. Valtteri Bottas - Williams
A fairly quiet race for the Finn who started 20th on the grid after being caught out by rapidly changing weather in Spa. Bottas made up five places throughout the race to finish 15th and blamed the lack of pace in sector two for their poor race pace.
“We were struggling for pace in sector two and this made it difficult to get close to the cars in front and once I had been overtaken it was very difficult to regain the place.” Bottas said.
Williams will be working hard between now and Monza to figure out why they lacked pace in Spa and what they can do it improve it before the Italian Grand Prix.
16. Giedo van der Garde - Caterham
A good call on tyre strategy on Saturday afternoon saw Giedo van der Garde sail through to Q2 during qualifying to start the race in 14th place.
The Dutchman took advantage of his qualifying position and while unable to hold the likes of the Toro Rosso’s and Williams’ behind him as expected, he turned his attention to pulling out a gap over both Marussia drivers.
Maldonado’s drive through penalty saw him return to the field behind van der Garde, who was able to fend him off to finish 16th ahead of the Venezuelan and both Marussia drivers.
“For what was effectively my first home F1 race I think we got the maximum for the car.” van der Garde said.
17. Pastor Maldonado - Williams
The Venezuelan had a great start off the line and was able to make up two positions on the opening lap but then found himself sliding back down the field on the second stint.
To make matters worse, Maldonado was caught up in an incident which resulted in him ending di Resta’s race as Maldonado tried to return to the pits after suffering damage to his car.
After the race he spoke about the incident saying; “It was a difficult situation because I was fighting hard with the Sauber and I didn’t see Di Resta on the outside as I turned toward the pit lane. I tried to brake to avoid the accident but it was too late.”
18. Jules Bianchi - Marussia
The Frenchman was another driver who made a good call on tyres on Saturday, allowing him through to Q2 to qualify in 15th place. Unfortunately Bianchi was unable to make the best of it and struggled with pace throughout the entire race.
“Our pace was not as good as we hoped for, which was a shame.” Bianchi said. While he may have finished second to last he is looking at the positives, “we did get a two-car finish and also we continue to hold position in the championship”.
19. Max Chilton - Marussia
Yet another driver who capitalized on the changing weather to qualify in 16th place on Saturday. Like his teammate though he was unable to make the most of it, saying that the dry weather made the race uneventful for him.
“A long race today, not just in terms of laps and lap distance, but more the fact that the dry conditions made the race quite uneventful for us.” Chilton said.
The Brit is now looking forward to Monza, hoping the team can make the best of the weekend.
DNF - Paul di Resta - Force India
A collision with Maldonado ended the Scots race on lap 28, which was a disappointment for di Resta who was running in the points and was happy with the cars speed.
“It’s a real shame because the speed was quite strong today and I think there was definitely a point or two up for grabs.” di Resta said.
DNF - Kimi Raikkonen - Lotus
Black dust was seen coming from Raikkonen’s brakes under braking, which were also seen glowing red. At the first pit stop the team removed a visor tear off from the brake cooling ducts, which they suspected may have been the cause of the issue.
The damage was already done and the Finn was forced to retire later in the race with a brake failure. This was his first retirement in 39 races, ended his 28 consecutive points scoring streak, and is impressively only the second time he has not scored points for the Enstone based team.
“We’ve finished a lot of races and had some good reliability; one day your luck has to run out and today was that day.” Raikkonen said.
DNF - Charles Pic - Caterham
A disappointing race for the Frenchman, which was over before it had really started. Pic got away well at the start, passing both Chilton and Bianchi and was beginning to catch teammate van der Garde.
On lap eight the call came to retire the car due to an oil leak and to prevent damaging their new engine. Despite this Pic remained upbeat, looking towards the Italian Grand Prix where he's sure they will bounce back.
"Racing’s sometimes like this – we had good pace on Friday and Saturday, the car felt well balanced and we’d made some progress." Pic said.