Updated: Feb 28
Written by Byron Hale, edited by Harshi Vashee
Round 16 of the Formula 1 championship has just drawn to a close and what a thrilling race it was! After it rained overnight we were presented with a wet start which opened the race up to various different strategies with no clear strategy to do. Bottas would start from P1 following Hamilton’s grid penalty. He would not be the only driver with a grid penalty as Ricciardo and Sainz would take penalties which led to them lining up 20th and 19th respectively.
As the formation lap got underway, it was clear that the intermediates were the way to go as plenty of spray came off of the cars as they got to grips with the condition on one of very few renaissance laps they were presented with. As Ricciardo lined up at the back of the grid, the flag Marshall waved the flag with the start sequence beginning shortly. A good start for Bottas would see him maintain 1st in the race as he had the best start of any driver opening the grid allowing him to maintain the lead and keeping him out of the chaos that was ensuing behind.
As Perez approached turn 1, he looked to attempt a move on Pierre Gasly which led to Gasly being sandwiched, further leading to Alonso being sent into a spin bringing a brilliant P5 start tumbling down as he waited to rejoin the track safely. As Alonso attempted to get his race back on track, he went for a clumsy move on Mick Schumacher as he attempted to get ahead of the Haas car. After a little bit of contact, Alonso would get ahead however in his desperation, he would get a 5 Second Penalty as he was deemed at fault for the collision. Gasly would also get a 5 Second Penalty for his collision with Alonso as he was also deemed in the wrong for their tangle on Lap 1.
As the race settled down, Hamilton would make a crucial overtake, around the outside, on Lance Stroll. As he overtook the Canadian, he got up into P7 with him now having to hunt the McLaren of Lando Norris. Further back, Carlos Sainz was attempting to do an F1 2021 last to first challenge as he would climb from 19th to 11th within 9 laps; the Spaniard would show promising pace in his Scarlett red Ferrari following his Engine change as he continued to drive a solid race for his team. However when he pit, he would have a slow stop on lap 36 as he pit for a second set of intermediate tyres and was stationary for 9.8 seconds as Ferrari struggled to get to grips with the pit stop regulation changes that were introduced for Belgium.
On lap 36, Sebastian Vettel would go for a gamble as he went for the Medium compound tyres as he looked to take a gamble as the conditions improved; following multiple offs and losing plenty of time, the German reported that the track was not ready for the Mediums. He pit on lap 37 for a set of intermediates conforming to the strategy adopted by most drivers. After pitting early, Ricciardo was set to score points as he looked to have good pace on the new intermediates however as the race progressed, the intermediates deteriorated leading him to fall to P13 Come the flag.
One driver who had no tyre concerns was Esteban Ocon who unlike his teammate, did not pit in the race as he went 58 laps on the intermediates making this one of very few occasions where a driver is classified with 0 pit stops as the race was wet he was not required to pit for a different set of tyres. The efforts of Ocon would be rewarded as he would score Alpine a point in the race making it Alpine’s 15th consecutive points finish!
A difference of strategy for Mercedes led to Hamilton pitting and losing his impressive 3rd place in the race. Hamilton would not appreciate pitting as he lost multiple places and was left susceptible to Gasly and Norris. The Brit had reached the challenging window on the tyres where they were overheating as they had not yet grained in for optimal efficiency on the track. Hamilton would make his frustrations clear as he stated his dislike for the strategy leaving him 5th with 8 laps to go with 20 seconds to clear if this strategy was going to work. As you can imagine, the strategy did not work and he crossed the flag in a disappointing 5th place behind Leclerc who had a strong race.
Red Bull would appear to break the white livery curse which originated from Hockenheim 2019 where Mercedes had one of their worst races to date. Red Bull would have a near flawless race as Max would finish a resounding P2, which is a good result given his championship rival was 5th which allows him to gain 8 points on rival Hamilton and re-claim the championship lead for the second time in the 2021 season.
Sergio Perez would also show some solid pace as he would finish P3 in the race which is a good result from Red Bull as the net a total of 33 points across the weekend. Mercedes would score 35 points which means Red bull do lose marginal Ground on Mercedes as they just lose out across the weekend in the constructors.