Happy Renault, Sad Ferrari - F1 2020 Season Review: Belgium
Renault will be happy with that performance!
Ah, Spa; an absolute classic of a race track that sees drivers take their cars to the limits all weekend long. The world-famous race track based in Belgium sees the top Formula racers in the world driving with their foot the floor for the majority of the lap, reaching speeds of almost 210mph. We're back, and what an interesting race that was, let's take a look at the race, as well as yesterday's fascinating qualifying session...
Yesterday's qualifying saw the Ferraris as the losers of the session, with Leclerc starting in P13, one spot ahead of his four-time world champion teammate and once again not making it into Q3. George Russell had once again made it into Q2, putting his Williams into fifteenth place; while Q1 saw the standard results, with the two Haas cars, two Alfa Romeos and Nicolas Latifi not making it into the next session.
But, it was Lewis Hamilton that was the absolute winner of qualifying, taking pole position by over half a second to teammate Valtteri Bottas. The Briton would dedicate his pole position to Chadwick Boseman, who sadly died a couple of days ago after a battle with cancer. Hamilton would say a lovely message on the team radio, and tribute the Black Panther actor as he climbed out of his car.
Meanwhile, the rest of the field saw Max Verstappen slot into third place, less than one-hundredth of a second behind the Finn, and ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, who finally unlocked the true pace of his 2020 Renault.
Alexander Albon would start behind Daniel Ricciardo, and split the second Renault of Esteban Ocon, who also had a great qualifying to start in P6. Carlos Sainz would start in P7, ahead of Perez and Stroll in eighth and nineth; with Lando Norris rounding off the top 10.
Now that we are all caught up with qualifying, let's take a look at the race!
Carlos Sainz would be the victim of a pre-race drama, as the Spaniard would have an engine issue on his outlap from the garage to the grid that caused his exhaust to fail. Sadly, the bad luck of the McLaren driver would continue as he had to sit out of the race.
As the five red lights created the usual anticipation, they were released quite early today as the Mercedes launch their black-themed W11s towards Turn 1. Daniel Ricciardo seemed to get a better launch off the line than Max Verstappen, who may have been caught out by how rapidly the five lights went out. Ricciardo tried to go around the outside of the Red Bull at Turn 1, but was unable to make the move stick. Valtteri Bottas got a much better exit out of Turn 1 than Hamilton and quickly caught up before having to back out as he ran out of space at Eau Rouge. This gave Max Verstappen the opportunity he needed to get the slipstream, but it was Daniel Ricciardo that pulled alongside Verstappen after making use of the double slipstream to attempt an overtake for third place.
Ricciardo put his Renault down the inside of Verstappen, who went wide and over the kerb, before pushing Daniel off track at Turn 6, with the Australian returning the favour at Turn 7 and having a look into the Turn 8 hairpin of Bruxelles. Charles Leclerc also made a decent start after the quick lights out, overtaking a handful of cars in the first sector.
Lap 2 saw a brave overtake by Pierre Gasly on Sergio Perez, after the Frenchman made the switchback move on the Racing Point driver and drew alongside as they headed towards Eau Rouge. Perez squeezed Gasly in a somewhat dangerous move, almost recreating the incident between himself and Ocon in 2017 at the exact same corner. Gasly didn't back off, though, as he soared his way past the Mexican at the tricky Raidillon corner. Norris would then try to take advantage of Perez's loss of momentum as they head up the Kemmel Straight, but the Racing Point was still in the DRS of Pierre Gasly and he tried to make a move. Perez would eventually back out as they reached Turn 5, and Lando Norris would lock his front-right tyre as they entered the corner.
The race soon settle down, with Norris and Kvyat overtaking Charles Leclerc on Lap six and seven. A big crash would soon arrive in the middle sector of the circuit, between Antonio Giovinazzi and George Russell after the Italian lost control of his Alfa Romeo at the exit of Turn 12, and rebounding back onto the track. George Russell (who was behind Giovinazzi at the time) swerved to the right of the track to avoid the damaged Alfa Romeo; but, a rear wheel had come off the Alfa, breaking Russell's front right suspension and sending him into the wall. Thankfully, both drivers were okay!
The Safety Car was deployed due to the high amount of debris on the track, and the majority of the field pitted. The top six had already passed the pitlane when the Safety Car was deployed, meaning they had to drive another lap before coming into their pit boxes. Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc would come into the Hard tyres, as well as the majority of the field. A lap later, both the Mercedes and Renault teams would double stack their cars, with Bottas and Verstapping have a near-miss in the pitlane, and Esteban Ocon getting jumped by Alex Albon.
The Safety Car period would end on Lap 14, and Lewis Hamilton did his trademark strategy of suddenly planting the throttle and pulling away from Valtteri Bottas in second place. Max Verstappen tried to apply pressure to Bottas without success; and we would also see Pierre Gasly in fourth place along with Perez in fifth after the pair didn't pit during the Safety Car period.
Lewis Hamilton would report a loss of power on Lap 16, to which his engineer would respond "Nothing to worry about, Lewis; just some engine management." Kimi Raikkonen would overtake Sebastian Vettel on Lap 16, a move that nobody would have expected to have seen at the end of 2019 when Ferrari were in much better form; and Sergio Perz would start to lose places in the following laps as his Soft tyres slowly started to wear away.
Alex Albon would make a great move around the outside of a struggling Sergio Perez at the final chicane on Lap 17, promoting the Thai driver to sixth place. Leclerc tries to make a move on Vettel at the Turn 5 right-hander on Lap 20, and the pair bump wheels and forces Leclerc - who was around the outside - onto the escape road. This was a fair move as Vettel was ahead, and entitled to the racing line.
Ricciardo and Albon would overtake Pierre Gasly on Lap 21 and 24 respectively, before Gasly decided to pit and rejoined in last place. The Frenchman would battle through the field for the rest of the race, and finish in a fantastic eighth place, saying "I hope Anthoine enjoyed that one as much as I did", referring to the tragic death of his close friend Anthoine Hubert at the Formula 2 Belgian Grand Prix Sprint Race last year. Gasly was also awarded a thoroughly deserved 'driver of the day' award.
Clouds started to form around the Spa Francorchamps circuit on Lap 25, causing the track temperatures to drop. Charles Leclerc would pit on the same lap and have another slow stop in order for Ferrari to refill an air tank, which appeared to be leaking.
Esteban Ocon made his way past Pierre Gasly on the Kemmel Straight to retake sixth place, and put the top six in the same order in which they qualified. Vettel was not happy with his tyres on Lap 28, and would complain to his team on the radio. Ferrari opted to keep him on the same set of Hard tyres for the rest of the race, and he was passed by Perez and Gasly on Lap 29 and 32.
Raikkonen, who was in a points position at this point, lost his chances of scoring some points after being overtaken by Perez and Gasly on Lap 33 and Lap 34. The Finn would finish P12, which was a good finish for the Alfa Romeo team, despite the fact that they didn't score points.
Lando Norris would overtake Lance Stroll, who seemed to have lost pace along with his teammate in the second stint. Racing Point were rather confused as to why they dropped off the pace in the second stint, much like they did at Silverstone a few weeks ago. Lando Norris would also be informed by his engineer on Lap 37 that the stewards had given him a warning for abusing track limits at Turn 9, one of the only corners on the track that the FIA were strict about this year.
On Lap 40, a three-way fight for P5 would initiate between Alexander Albon, who seemed to be struggling with his tyres; along with Esteban Ocon and Lando Norris. The Renault seemed to be set up to gain a lot of time on the Red Bull in the first and third sectors, while dropping back a bit in the middle sector.
Daniel Ricciardo was already a long way up the road at this point, and it took multiple attempts by Ocon to make a move on Albon, before finally going around the outside of the 24 year old at Turn 5 on Lap 44, the final lap! Lando Norris would not be able to make a move on Albon, but made an excellent recovery to finish in P7 after a disappointing qualifying.
Lewis Hamilton would cross the line at the end of Lap 44 (in car number forty-four) to take his 89th victory, putting him two behind equalling the great Michael Schumacher. Valtteri Bottas, who celebrated his 31st birthday on Friday crossed the line in second place, followed by Max Verstappen in third. Daniel Ricciardo would finish an excellent fourth and took the fastest lap on the final lap, ahead of teammate Esteban Ocon in P5. I'm sure Renault are incredibly happy with that result!
Alexander Albon finished in P6, one place down from where he started after some struggles with tyre-wear in his second stint, ahead of Lando Norris in seventh, driver-of-the-day Pierre Gasly in eighth, Lance Stroll in 9th and Perez in 10th. It is also worth noting that Vettel ended up beating Leclerc, taking 13th place, one place ahead of his young teammate. A bitterly disappointing weekend for Ferrari.
Overall, I would rate the 2020 Belgian Grand Prix a six out of ten. While it wasn't as exciting as some of the other races we have seen this season due to the Mercedes dominance, it was great to see some midfield battles, and a great result for the Renaults, as well as an emotional Pierre Gasly!
F1 2020 Season Review will be back next weekend for the Italian Grand Prix, where hopefully Ferrari can try and find some straight-line speed on a track very similar to Spa Francorchamps, with long straights and some twisty sections of track. In the meantime, you can find the results below:
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