F1 – Belgian GP – Race
Bonjour, MiniDrivers! Race day in Spa Francorchamps has finally come around, an exciting event even without the prospect of rain from half of the race laps onwards. The start is one of the key elements to look out for, as twenty cars speed to the bottleneck that is La Source and the rapid succession of full throttle sections, which sometimes ends up. The spectacle would be slightly cut short due to Carlos Sainz not being able to start, having spotted some smoke coming out of his car and it ending up being an exhaust problem that wasn’t fixable in the small amount of time they had before kick-off.
The contrast in tyres between the Silver Arrows plus Verstappen, on mediums, and the rest of the top ten, in softs, made it so that Ricciardo would need to try one of his risky divebombs in order not to get stuck behind with the quicker tyres. His desire, however, was not fruitful even after managing to be side to side with Verstappen. Leclerc did make up a few places in a very clean start from the whole grid, slotting himself comfortably into the point-bearing places, but soon losing some of those positions and holding tightly to tenth just until Norris easily overtook him. Nevertheless, the most surprising driver wasn’t any of them, but rather Gasly, who, in his Alpha Tauri fitted with the white-rimmed hard tyres, had made his way up to eight, passing drivers left and right.
The predicted safety car came out around lap ten, after an incident involving Giovinazzi and Russell, prompting a massive migration to boxes to pit for hards for everyone, but not Albon. Used to being used as a guinea pig, Albon accepted the medium tyres he was given without complaint. Gasly, already on hards, didn’t need to but saw the advantage he had made a bet on disappear, while Pérez not stopping rose a few more eyebrows, as he had softs on. The restart was as clean as the beginning of the race was and Ricciardo began the hunt to get back to his former fourth place, which took him just a handful of laps. The race settled down as Gasly’s tyres were looked at by teams as if they were hawks, trying to gauge how long they would last.
Albon, despite the fact that he was on mediums and Ricciardo was on hards, wasn’t able to lower the gap below three seconds, as Gasly’s engineer informed him that he didn’t think the rest of the field would be able to make it home on the white tyres just as his driver got rid of them. With less than fifteen laps to go, problems with tyres started to be reported while Gasly was slowly but steadily climbing back up into the points. Bottas’ left leg was getting numb and he let his team know, but Verstappen couldn’t really take advantage of the Finn’s problems due to his own with vibrations in the car.
Dark clouds were consistently shown on camera, although none were close enough to be deemed a risk of rain over the circuit. Ocon and Norris, closely following Albon, provided the entertainment for the last laps with a fight for fifth, as well as Ricciardo, who was taking off seconds off Verstappen each lap that passed, although it was not going to be enough to reach his former teammate by around three seconds, but it was to score the fastest lap of the race. Despite all kinds of complaints about vibrations and used up tyres, no one making them stopped a second time.
No rain fell on a circuit that needed it to get away from the Mercedes and Verstappen dominance shown this season and provide a more exciting result for spectators. Racing Point, having started the season as the best of the midfield, seems to have deflated and passed the baton to Renault, whose drivers have exceeded all expectations, and finished fourth and fifth as Ricciardo showed his great skills on used tyres. Meanwhile, Ferrari have disappointed yet again, specially after a great start by Leclerc, but who couldn’t do anything to fight his own car in a track that requires great speed. Gasly’s bet only paid off a little and Raikkonen was, maybe not surprisingly, the best car powered by a Ferrari engine. The first of the newest triple header is over with a bigger gap for Hamilton in the championship and almost a resurgence for Ricciardo, finishing barely three seconds off Verstappen’s Red Bull with a great management of his very used tyres.