Lewis Hamilton started from 21st on the grid as a result of power unit penalties, with Toto Wolff expecting a difficult race for the championship leader as Mercedes had struggled with its tyres throughout the weekend.
However, a chaotic opening lap and fortunate red flag period helped promote Hamilton to fifth after the opening ten laps, with the triple world champion going on to finish third.
Asked if he was surprised Hamilton was as high as fifth when the race was restarted on lap 10, race-winner Nico Rosberg admits the final result I surprised him.
“[P5 after the red flag] I didn’t see,” Rosberg said. “I just saw the result at the end and I saw that Daniel was behind me and HAM was in P3 and I was like ‘What?! Seriously?’ But I didn’t know until after the race where he was.”
Despite his surprise, Rosberg insists he does not feel disappointed that he is leaving Belgium having only taken ten points out of Hamilton’s championship lead.
“That’s not what I’m focusing on. I came to the Belgium Grand Prix wanting to win it and the opposition was unusually close this weekend. Not eventually in the race, but up until then they were very close, but it worked out with a perfect weekend for me and Lewis did a great job to finish third.”
Hamilton’s 60-place grid penalty was mainly a result of taking three new power units, leaving him with more available than Rosberg is due to have this season, but the German does not see it as an advantage for his team-mate.
“I don’t think about it in that way, but I’m aware of it yes. But he had the big disadvantage today, so I don’t think about it in that way and I’m just focusing on my thing and that’s it. I don’t think it will make a big difference after this.”
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We reflect on an action packed Belgian Grand Prix and the five major talking points from the race.
Which moments stood out for you and who do you think will end up victorious in the two championships?
HAMILTON KEEPS DAMAGE TO A MINIMUM
After storming from the back of the pack to third place, Hamilton jumped on his private jet and headed to London. He spent the evening playing with his dogs Roscoe and Coco in Regent’s Park before heading out to dinner with his mother Carmen Lockhart. The 31-year-old was sporting a broad grin, and who could blame him? Hamilton has long feared the engine penalties – which have been looming over him since the opening rounds of the season – would derail his bid to win a third consecutive title. But after losing only 10 points to Rosberg following a superb recovery drive, the Englishman still remains in charge of his own destiny. Yet, after his brilliant showing at Spa, Hamilton admitted he was not anticipating such a strong result. “If you go into Christmas Day expecting stuff, at some stage you are going to be disappointed that you got shoelaces instead of a car,” said Hamilton. “That is how I am.”
BITTERSWEET DAY FOR ROSBERG
Not for the first time in his career, Hamilton’s heroics left Rosberg in the shade – despite sealing his sixth victory of the season. The German attempted to remain upbeat after the race, taking a behind-the-scenes podium selfie with Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo while joking that he could not believe Hamilton had finished third. “I saw ‘HAM’ in P3 and I was like, ‘What?’ ‘Seriously?’,” Rosberg said. A brave face perhaps, but the German will know that Hamilton’s grid penalty was his golden opportunity to take a hefty chunk out of his rival’s title lead. Reducing the deficit by just 10 points will be considered somewhat of a failure.
MAGNUSSEN’S FORTUNATE ESCAPE
Kevin Magnussen expects to take part in this week’s Italian GP despite a harrowing crash in Belgium. The Danish
driver lost control of his Renault through Eau Rouge at 180mph before crashing into a tyre wall. Mercifully, he emerged with only a cut to his ankle. Renault team principal Fred Vasseur said: “I have the feeling he had huge wheelspin on the kerb, but let’s see about the reasons. We have to take time to analyse exactly what has happened.”
FRUSTRATION FOR BUTTON
Jenson Button will want to forget what could be his final appearance in an F1 car in Belgium. The 2009 world champion, who is fighting for his future in the sport, was punted out of the race in the opening exchanges by the Manor of Pascal Wehrlein. “We looked really good for points, so it’s disappointing,” said Button, who started from ninth. “Pascal made contact with me at Turn Five. There was a lot of damage.”
Verstappen has come in for criticism from Kimi Raikkonen for his defensive driving at Spa-Francorchamps, with the Finn saying he will cause “a massive accident” at some stage. Mercedes boss Toto Wolff was also concerned by Verstappen’s driving, saying “it’s refreshing but it’s dangerous”, but Horner feels the Dutchman was on the right side of the robust.
“I’m surprised that Toto’s commenting on something that’s got nothing to do with him, but I think it was firm, it was on the edge, he got away with it today, the Stewards were happy with it,” Horner said. “So if there were to be an issue or a conflict of any rules I’m sure Danny Sullivan’s an experienced guy, he would have called them up or Charlie Whiting would have reported it to the Stewards.
“There was no action from the Stewards, when he looked back at it, it was on the edge, and obviously he got away with it today. I’m sure he’ll have a look at it and learn for future races.”
Asked if he is concerned there are too many occasions Verstappen is on the edge, Horner replied: “With all of these things, what goes around comes around.
“So the drivers tend to sort these things out on the circuit, Max has pushed the limit today, he’s been right on the limit, the referee’s happy with it. So no further comments from us.
“I’m sure it was right on the edge, I’m sure he’ll have a look at it and learn from it, but it was right on the limit.”
When asked if he had spoken to Verstappen following the race, Horner joked: “Yeah I told him not to tell anyone where he’s staying in Monza because I’m sure there’s some angry Italians.
“As I say, if there was a major issue with it, the Stewards would have pulled him up. We’ve seen that before, he was on the limit, he’s young, all the seriously ambitious and gifted drivers have that streak within them.
“I remember Sebastian getting criticised here a few years ago, there’s been a few other drivers as history’s demonstrated that have shown that fighting spirit, and I think that’s why it’s part of that fighting spirit which is why there’s been such a big crowd here.”