2014 Belgian Grand Prix: Race Analysis

Ricciardo Wins As Hamilton And Rosberg Clash

The 2014 season took another twist yesterday and this particular knot is not about to come undone quickly at Mercedes, as Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton collided on lap two, in what was judged to be a racing incident at the time. However, after a rather heated meeting, allegations that Nico had deliberately caused the accident have opened up the proverbial can of worms and have morphed what looked to be a clumsy misjudgment into what could be one of Formula 1’s biggest controversies. Meanwhile, Daniel Ricciardo’s role in the race must not be overlooked, as he capitalised on the Mercedes clash and took another victory. As the fallout at Brackley begins, Ricciardo is fast becoming a championship contender.

“Absolutely Unacceptable”

Neither Toto Wolff nor Niki Lauda looked to hide away from the cameras at the end of the race and neither did they wish to conceal their emotions. Both blamed Nico Rosberg for the accident, with Toto declaring that the collision was “absolutely unacceptable.” I will not dissect the contact in this article, as I am sure that you will have seen it before reading this. After all, it was nothing more than a racing incident, albeit a costly one.
The events of yesterday evening are the most damning from a team perspective. A meeting was called at 4:45pm local time, where Lewis and Nico met with the team’s hierarchy to discuss the incident. It was after this meeting, that Lewis Hamilton highlighted the admission from Nico Rosberg that he had crashed into the Brit intentionally. “We just had a meeting about it and he basically said he did it on purpose,” Hamilton stated. Cue social media meltdown.
Hamilton continued, “you don’t have to just rely on me. Go and ask Toto [Wolff], Paddy [Lowe] and all those guys who are not happy with him as well.” While Rosberg’s analysis of the events of the meeting did not make any reference to Hamilton’s remarks, Mercedes bosses suggested that Lewis’ assessment was a “broadly accurate reflection” of events, but Toto Wolff deemed the comments suggesting that Nico had collided with Hamilton intentionally as “nonsense.” However, Toto did maintain that Nico “was out to prove a point,” and therefore, held his ground on the outside of Les Combes. It is a case of Nico not trying to make contact, but not trying to avoid contact either.
Obviously, this story is going to be in the news for weeks to come and will certainly influence the outcome of the championship this season. Let’s be honest, with the rivalry building and the tension growing, contact between the two was inevitable and even looked likely all the way back in April during the Bahrain Grand Prix. There is a train or thought suggesting that Hamilton’s aggressive defense of position during that race has influenced yesterday’s events, with Nico reluctant to back out of a potential move like he did in Bahrain and instead opting for contact. 

The Fallout Begins

Regardless of why the collision happened, neither driver is going to emerge from this debacle with their reputation in tact. Following Toto Wolff’s comments, Lewis now looks as though he has deliberately skewed Nico’s words to paint his rival in a bad light – Toto has not called the Brit a liar, but he has suggested that he has blown the content of the meeting out of proportion. Meanwhile, it is likely that Hamilton has leaked sensitive content from the meeting and backed his bosses into a corner, which again is detrimental to Lewis’ reputation. Unfortunately, it would not be the first time that Hamilton has acted irresponsibly, as leaking sensitive telemetry before the Belgian Grand Prix in 2012 was a blot on his copybook. Rosberg may have caused the accident, but Hamilton has certainly not helped his cause by immediately relaying the content of a private meeting to journalists and appearing to stretch the truth.
Meanwhile, Nico Rosberg’s reputation may also be beyond repair following the incident. Regardless of what disciplinary action the team or the FIA decide to take, he may now be seen as a driver who will risk the overall performance of the team for his own personal gain. This may have been a trait associated with Hamilton following the Hungarian Grand Prix, but not following an instruction and deliberately not avoiding contact are two very different things. Consequently, this championship campaign is likely to prove very damaging for both drivers and I fail to see how they can continue as teammates beyond this season.

Ricciardo For 2014 WDC?

Amongst all of the drama at Mercedes, Daniel Ricciardo’s exceptional performance has been somewhat overlooked. The Aussie claimed his third win of the season and this time, he hit the front early in the race and had to control the pace as oppose to stealing the win in the final laps.
It was a win which perhaps should have been Sebastian Vettel’s. The German nearly took the lead on the opening lap, but for out-breaking himself at Les Combes and dropping to P3. However, when Daniel cruised up to the back of Vettel, it was as though his very presence in the mirrors had a detrimental effect on Sebastian’s concentration, as the German ran wide at Pouhon and gifted Ricciardo the net lead, as Rosberg was forced to make an early stop due to his heavily damaged front wing. From this point forward, Ricciardo was in a league of his own and built up a considerable lead. When Rosberg began to close in during the closing stages, the Aussie maintained his composure on much older tyres and his consistent pace was enough to keep Nico at arms length.
This win was by far the most impressive so far. Ricciardo has now demonstrated that the can cope with being both the hunter and the hunted, which is a trait of all successful racing drivers. The manner in which he pulled away from Vettel whilst achieving optimal stint length was equally impressive. With the Mercedes duo facing tough times ahead, Daniel Ricciardo is beginning to become a true threat in the Drivers Championship. Toto Wolff highlighted an important point in regards to his dueling drivers; “It is one thing enjoying great races and letting race each other but another looking like a fool at the end of the season if you haven’t won anything.” Ricciardo could certainly mount a challenge to the Drivers title and if he could steal it this season, it would be one of the most remarkable stories in the history of sport.

Conclusions

Driver of the Day  
Valtteri Bottas
The Finn may have finished almost 30 seconds behind Daniel Ricciardo, but he performed very well once again in the Williams to claim yet another podium and continue his consistent run of form. His overtake around the outside of Sebastian Vettel at Les Combes demonstrated just how it can be done with expert precision and judgement – take note Nico Rosberg.

Race Result
1 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes
3 Valtteri Bottas Williams
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari
5 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull
Jenson Button McLaren
Fernando Alonso Ferrari
Sergio Perez Force India
Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso
10 Nico Hulkenberg Force India
11 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso
12 Kevin Magnussen McLaren *
13 Felipe Massa Williams
14 Adrian Sutil Sauber
15 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber
16 Max Chilton Marussia
17 Marcus Ericsson Caterham
18 Jules Bianchi Marussia
RET Romain Grosjean Lotus
RET Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
RET Pastor Maldonado Lotus
RET Andre Lotterer Caterham

* Kevin Magnussen was given a 20 second time penalty and two penalty points on his superlicence for forcing Fernando Alonso off the track on the Kemmel Straight.

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