Making it his third win in his debut season with Red Bull, Aussie driver Daniel Ricciardo held off a challenge late in the race from championship points leader Nico Rosberg of Mercedes to win the Belgian Grand Prix Sunday, August 24 at Spa-Francorchamps.
According to Formula 1, Ricciardo picked up 25 points for the win and posted a time of 1 hour 24.36.556 minutes with an average speed around the 4.352-mile circuit of 218.452 mph. Rosberg picked up 18 points with his second place finish on Sunday after a touch-up with teammate Hamilton early in the race left the latter racer's tire punctured requiring an early pit stop. Further mechanical problems sent Hamilton out of the race with no points.
Third place finisher was Valterri Bottas of Williams who picked up 15 driver points for his efforts. Bottas has stood on the podium in four of the last five contests of the 2014 Formula 1 season.
On the podium, right after his win, Ricciardo was asked what it was like to lead from the front rather than to climb to that position in a race, or assume the lead, as he had done in his first two wins. He responded, "Yeah, definitely a bit different. When you lead the race, I guess, for that long it’s more about composure, just looking at your lap times, just trying to be as consistent as possible and once I heard Rosberg came in for a third stop we knew he was going to be quick at the end, I just had to try to keep the lap times up and keep it clean."
In the FIA press conference following the race, Ricciardo was asked what he thought about the team's prospects from there on in the season. He replied, "I see good things, obviously good things ahead. If we can collect maximum points around here, y’know it gives us a bit more hope for the circuits that are going to come later in the season: Singapore, Suzuka, just a couple to mention. Obviously it’s great. We’re really motivated right now. It’s been a really good day for us on a track we didn’t expect to get maximum points from, so yeah, it’ll keep us smiling for a while. At the same time we’ll stay grounded. Monza we know will be tricky again but obviously the package we brought here was pretty racy, so, try and take something from here to Monza and then I think, as I said, Singapore and Suzuka will be pretty good for us."
The biggest controversy of the race was, of course, the contact between championship leaders Rosberg and Hamilton at lap two. Hamilton was ahead of Rosberg when the latter driver attempted a pass. Contact took place, leaving Hamilton's tire punctured and Rosberg's wing damaged.
Rosberg was asked about it in both the podium and FIA post-race interviews but maintained that he would need to review the video to make a call about what occurred. In the FIA interview, he said, "Well, I got a good run on Lewis and tried to go around the outside and yeah, we just touched in the end, unfortunately, so that hurt both of our races. From a team point of view of course that’s very disappointing. And yeah, that’s the way it is."
Pressed further about assigning blame to either driver Rosberg commented, "I myself, I don’t have an opinion yet because I haven’t seen it on the TV. All I know is that I was faster and I gave it a go. The inside was blocked so I gave it a go around the outside. Of course it is very, very disappointing from a team’s point of view."
As usually happens, hours after the race, rumors, accusations, and comments about the incident began to flood social media and the Internet. Was the bump intentional on Rosberg's part to gain an advantage over his teammate, or was it simply a 50/50 style of racing incident that happens frequently, leaving both parties with damage.
Rosberg was booed on the podium after the race; Rosberg said it was by some British fans in the crowd, but it was loud and noticeable enough for interviewer Eddie Jordan to ask for respect for Rosberg and all the drivers.
In the FIA press conference, Rosberg was also asked about a ribbon-shaped piece of debris that kicked up from the track and wrapped around an antenna on his car, right in his field of vision. He commented, "It was a big piece of... I don’t know what it was and it just got stuck right in front of me, it was flapping in front of my eyes which made it difficult and I couldn’t get rid of it either. I tried, because it was just stuck on the front but then after a while it came loose but it was really difficult to see at that time. Sometimes I couldn’t even see where I was going because it was in the wrong place so that was not good."
In a post-race interview in the paddock, Lewis Hamilton also gave somewhat guarded comments about the contact incident with Rosberg, though he maintained he was ahead of Rosberg and had the line. Pressed further by interviewer, NBC's Will Buxton in the paddock bullpen, Hamilton said Rosberg does not talk to him very much, which may or may not be revealing about the nature of the off-track relationship between the old friends and teammate competitors.
Valtteri Bottas had this to say about his third place finish on Sunday for the paddock-popular Williams team, "Yeah. It was, again, a really nice race, nice to be in it. Obviously yesterday the weather played a role in the qualifying and we knew that in the dry we would have better pace than in the wet, so we were really hopeful for today."
He continued, "I have to say that we are little bit surprised by the pace of Red Bull and Mercedes. They were quite a bit far away. Of course our race was a bit compromised after the poor start. I was quite a long time stuck behind some other cars and couldn’t really go at the pace we had. But yeah, had some good overtakes. We had good pitstops and good strategy by the team and that allowed us to come up a few places and again to the podium."
The second phase of the 2014 Formula 1 season is now underway after the summer break. At this stage, the top three championship points getters shape up like this: Drivers: Rosberg, 220; Hamilton, 191; Ricciardo, 156. Constructors: Mercedes, 411; Red Bull, 254; and Ferrari, 160.
Sunday's field, according to Formula 1, finished outside of the top 3 this way: 4th Raikkonen; 5th Vettel; 6th Button; 7th Alonso; 8th Perez; 9th Kvyat; 10th Hulkenberg; 11th Vergne; 12th Magnusen; 13th Massa; 14th Sutil; 15th Gutierrez; 16th Chilton; and 17th Ericsson. All others retired.
Formula 1 stays in Europe for the next race. Competition resumes at Monza with the Italian Grand Prix, September 7.