To paraphrase Sir Edric, the race was a feast for the eyes and a famine for the purse.
Ericsson started from the pit lane, but Alonso and Hamilton elected to start from the back of the grid, on medium tyres. Verstappen was on the supersoft (as were those behind Ricciardo, even in the top 10, contrary to my belief), but Ricciardo, Rosberg and the Ferraris started on the soft.
Vettel got a good start and Ricciardo a poor one (Rosberg cruising off the line and easily retaining the lead). The German turned in, cutting across his team mate, who had nowhere to go because Verstappen was tight on the inside, forcing a Raikkonen-Verstappen collision. This effectively ended the hopes of all three men as far as the podium went.
Hulkenberg, meanwhile, had had a super start and was running either just ahead or just behind Ricciardo (they were 2nd and 3rd here, though I can’t recall the order). Wehrlein, sadly, rammed into Button’s rear, which was painful for both chaps and meant a double retirement. Shame, as Manor and McLaren had both looked relatively good here.
As if that weren’t enough excitement, a few laps (maybe 8) in Magnussen lost the rear at the top of Eau Rouge, spun around and slammed into the barrier. This gave him a limp and the race a VSC, then an actual safety car, then a red flag due to the damage done to the barrier.
Upon returning to the pits cars that hadn’t already stopped were relatively advantaged by the free tyre change available to everyone (weirdly not undertaken by Verstappen). This had the net effect of Rosberg, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Alonso and Hamilton being the top five.
After that, whilst there was much on-track passing it was mostly straightforward DRS nonsense after Eau Rouge with the natural order reasserting itself to considerable extent. Worthy of mention was another close Verstappen-Raikkonen contest, and the Finn was rightly angered by the transgressions of the Dutchman [unpunished, I believe], making a late move at high speed. Not as bad as Hungary, for my money, but borderline for a penalty.
Rosberg enjoyed his first win since Azerbaijan. Ricciardo got a solid 2nd, although I do believe Red Bull and Ferrari had good pace and my tip had bad luck rather than bad judgement. Hamilton got 3rd, which is very good considering his starting position but did require much luck in various cars removing themselves from podium contention.
Hulkenberg’s wait for a first podium goes on, but he did get an impressive 4th, ahead of Perez. Vettel eventually rose to 6th, but his driving was poor today, most notably with the first corner mistake that buggered numerous drivers (including himself) but also locking up and losing [temporarily] a recently acquire place back to Massa.
Alonso slid down the order but will probably be pleased with 7th. The McLaren was still outclassed on the straight but tasty in the twisty bits, so it may be looking good come Singapore.
Bottas was 8th, Massa in 10th. So-so for Williams in itself but they lost a chunk of points to Constructors’ rival Force India.
Raikkonen was 9th. He drove pretty well after his race was ruined at the first corner, and Verstappen came 11th.
As well as those already mentioned, Sainz retired after a tyre came to pieces and ended up destroying his rear wing, and Ericsson retired too (reliability, I think).
So, much drama, misfortune for the bet, and a lovely day for Force India. Hamilton will also be pleased to have lost fewer points, relative to Rosberg, than seemed likely at the start.
Both Red Bull and Mercedes have the same integers for each driver. On a less coincidental note, the gap is now 9 points in Hamilton’s favour. Due to the F1 rules being written by a bureaucratic jester, Hamilton actually has more free engines than Rosberg now. However, only Rosberg will have the opportunity to freely take the rumoured Japanese Grand Prix engine upgrade. The Briton is in the best place, I think. Since Spain (when they collided and ended a strong run for Rosberg) it’s been a strong trend of improvement for Hamilton.
Red Bull 274
Force India 103
Toro Rosso 45
Red Bull have tightened their grip on 2nd. Ferrari should’ve got a stack more points (perhaps 50) earlier in the year but lost out due to bad reliability. I think that will be how the top 3 finish. Force India overtake Williams for 4th. Right now, it does look like that will be how the end up as well. Great for Force India, and perhaps indicative of both a great pair of drivers and a very solid team.
Also worth noting McLaren have passed Toro Rosso. A significant morale (and helpful financial) boost for a team that really should be at the sharp end. With Kvyat off the boil, and Williams far off, McLaren’s realistic hope must be to retain 6th.
Must admit to being a little irked by a bet that seemed pretty good but misfortune (or fortune) can strike at any time, and I have benefited earlier in the year from an improbable lap 1 crash, so can’t complain too much.
The next race is Italy, in just a week.