Spa -Francorchamps formula one races have brought several surprises at the first places on the grid. Teams that normally have been at the middle or even at the last places, are unusual protagonists in the first drawers. The rain, and one of the circuits that rewards guys with guts, makes the unexpected possible.
One of the unforeseen events in this circuit at the beginning of Q3 was the intermittent mild rain that appeared in two sectors. A grease tarmac left, fit for wearing intermediate rubber.
Kimi Raikkonnen, whose reputation as the king of Spa has had everybody in expectation, watching his fearless performances dominating the first qualifying sessions. Surprised by an absurdity from a surrealistic circumstance after entering to fit intermediates, he lost the opportunity of defending his kingdom. The Ferrari team failed to calculate the fuel left for finishing the session. Unbelievable. Sometimes these things make me doubt if there was a favoritism for Vettel.
Lewis makes another magic result, snatching pole position from Vettel at the last seconds. In the same lap, with no time left , the pink Cinderella’s that just got out from an uncertain survival at the sport, attempt to steal the magic pole of Hamilton and Vettel´s dominant car performances, taking third and fourth position in the grid. Stunning cohesion of a team, including two drivers with an ambition to show everyone that they can be the best.
Ocon in fourth and Perez fifth.
Behind them Grosjean in the Haas, with all the Ferrari specification backing his performance. Then, the king of Spa, shadowed by what may be inside politics at Ferrari. At his tail, the two ambitious and powerful drivers inside a slick car with not enough power: Verstappen and Ricciardo.
Then the pack.
The Haas of Magnussen, the two Toro Rossos and the Saubers. Then Alonso, that always squeezes the very few good things of the McLaren, and after him, the Williams. Subsequently, Valtteri Bottas in his Mercedes roaring like a monster ready to eat everyone. Immediately after, both Renaults with a very poor performance. Then, at the last position in the grid, Stoffel Vandorne, eating all the painful reality of McLaren.
The lights turn red. Expectation at the grandstand. The machines roar like a pack of lions, tigers and panthers ready to be liberated from a cage. The red lights are off, the madness begins. All the power, all the senses at their best. Adrenalin injects in stunning doses. And at the first corner, dust, pieces of carbon fiber flying, and six hundred kilos of McLaren in the air strike a tiny but resistant tube protecting the very young French promise: Charles Leclerc.
A disaster switched on a chain reaction unleashed by the Hulkenberg's Renault hitting Alonso’s McLaren with the impulse of the crash, flying and landing over Leclerc’s Halo. Ricciardo received an impact from behind and crashed into Raikkonnen. Bottas hit one of the Williams.
The persecution after Hamilton is spectacular: Vettel, the two pink panthers, Ocon and Perez left sparks and dust after taking Eau Rouge and Radillon, all of them really fast. Then, as they jump head up the hill, Vettel attacks Hamilton. He is at his side and then, the very fast pink panthers in the straight, form a third and a fourth lane at the side of Vettel and Hamilton. It is a scary moment at 330 kph. With breaking aggressiveness, Vettel gets the best of it. Behind him, Hamilton, and after him, Perez surprises Ocon’s ambitions and snatches from him the third position.
Madness, skills, and adrenalin relax immediately after the announce of the safety car.
Kimi Raikkonnen´s Ferrari is harmed, a tire is destroyed and the rear wing damaged. The red Ferrari goes directly to the pits. Daniel Ricciardo goes too. Front damage and the rear wing destroyed. Then Ricciardo´s Red Bull entries into the garage, the car is in bad shape.
Bernd Mayländer drives the Mercedes safety car. It could be seen as the camera made an open take that the car is going fast. At the same time the racing cars looked like they slowed down, easily approaching the safety car. It is strange. Time is relative.
The race restarts. All of them take Eau Rouge and Radillon fiercely. The two titans in front begin to leave the pink panthers behind. As the cars go lighter, the Force India which advantage in power, begins to lose leadership. The slick Red Bull begins to get lighter, the aerodynamic genius of its design begins to perform. They have a tiny rear wing, effective. The DRS of Verstappen is on. The almost local kid is in his neighbourhood playground, near his home. He is confident. He approaches his old time rival, Esteban Ocon, and gets very close at him. He feints him on the left and attack him on the right. Ocon can’t do anything. The agile Red Bull passes him fast. The grandstand is mostly orange, standing and yelling, celebrating their naughty homeboy.
Now he will go after Sergio Perez. He knows that the Mexican is not easy to pass. It is not in his Mexican warrior blood to let somebody overtake him. Checo pressed the fast mode in his mind and put the extra power in there. Checo and Verstappen widen the distance from Ocon, and in the same straight where once the pink panthers menace to overtake the leaders, the Red Bull with DRS is very fast. The car brakes wonderfully. Perez is also smart. He knows that he doesn’t need to fight this battle, and the slick multicolour car overtakes him. The Dutch fans in orange celebrate it with joy.
While Verstappen was reaching Perez, Bottas in his Mercedes star shines like his logo. His car is powerful, light, and agile, and Bottas natural Finnish talent to drive in dangerous circuits made for guys with guts, fits him. He is in supernatural mode. He passes La Source turn, the down hill giving him even more power. The car is slick too. He puts the silver bullet near Brendon Hartley’s side, and then he passed him quickly at the inside of Eau Rouge like a bullet, with an impeccable trajectory, he goes to the left, and then to the outside to take Radillon, making it look easy. Like one day Kimi passed Schumacher just right there. They are Finns at Spa, they are different. Hakkinen as well has history here with Schumacher, in a double overtake, heart attack dynamics. Just where those moves took place, at that same spot, the long Kemmel straight, Bottas left just some dust on Sainz Renault. He passed him fast too. Three hundred and forty seven km/ph .
Bottas is on his own. Overtaking one car to another.
Sebastian Vettel is flying, he is the fastest guy in the track, and he is the leader.
Ricciardo is the last of the list, with one lap disadvantage.
Talking about Finns, Kimi’s car enters the pits. He has problems with the floor. He exits the pit lane, goes for a lap, and returns to the pits. That´s all for the king of Spa, it’s time for a new king. Maybe in one or two years a new king will occupy the throne.
Vettel comes in to change tires, and he just gets out in front of Verstappen and Hamilton. The silver bullet approaches the young Verstappen. Kemmel straight is a place to activate DRS, and the power of the Mercedes increases with the wind advantage. He easily overtakes the Red Bull. Verstappen knows that is not his battle.
Hamilton tries to reach Vettel’s Ferrari, but his Mercedes is not fast enough to get close to it.
Brendon Hartley and Marcus Erickson enjoy racing each other. Every time they take Kemmel straight, with the advantage of DRS, the one behind overtakes the one in front. They do that in several laps.
Ricciardo leaves the race in lap thirty-one.
Bottas takes a special attitude and he is confident, fast, and determined. He is well ahead of Ocon, and some more laps ahead of Perez. He is now in fourth place.
Ocon enters the pits.
The team calls Perez by radio. --Checo, use everything of the tire-- A code to tell him "this is the last lap with those tires".
The race is now comfortably normal. Everybody has a gap between each other.
But today an explosive beginning alerted us. Many cars were harmed or damaged. Others were destroyed completely, like Fernando Alonso’s McLaren, and Hulkenberg´s Renault.
Many spectacular crashes have happened at the start of a race. Like in 1998, 2012 and now, in 2018. Fernando Alonso had a main role in two of them.
The list of competitors that abandoned the race was as follows: Alonso, Hulkenberg, Leclerc, Raikkonnen, and Ricciardo.
The race reached lap forty-four. The checkered flag waved when Vettel crossed in front of it. He was the smartest driver. And with his car, he was the best and the fastest.
Full result of the Johnnie Walker Belgian Grand Prix.
Pos Driver Team Laps Gap
+ 1 Lap
+ 1 Lap
+ 1 Lap
+ 1 Lap
+ 1 Lap
+ 1 Lap
Fastest Lap: Bottas (Mercedes) 1:46.286 (Lap 32)