Belgian Grand Prix: Race Recap

Event:  Belgian Grand Prix (Round 12 of 20)

Date:  Sunday, Aug. 27

Location:  Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps

Layout:  7.004-kilometer (4.352-mile), 19-turn circuit

Weather:  Partly cloudy

Air Temps:  22.2-24.5 degrees Celsius (72-76.1 degrees Fahrenheit)

Track Temps:  29.5-37.4 degrees Celsius (85.1-99.3 degrees Fahrenheit)

Race Winner:  Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes

Haas F1 Team:  

●  Romain Grosjean – Started 11th, Finished 7th (Running, completed 44/44 laps)

●  Kevin Magnussen – Started 12th, Finished 15th (Running, completed 44/44 laps)

Haas F1 Team nabbed a strong, point-paying result Sunday at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps with driver Romain Grosjean finishing seventh in the Belgian Grand Prix. Teammate Kevin Magnussen was poised to join Grosjean in the top-10 until running wide at the chicane in the final corner on lap 33, dropping from ninth to 17th. Magnussen rallied in the waning laps to finish 15th.

The point-paying performance was crucial for the second-year Haas F1 Team, as the tight midfield became increasingly tighter after Belgium. Haas F1 Team remains seventh in the constructors standings, but gained on sixth-place Toro Rosso even while ceding ground to eighth-place Renault.

Nico Hulkenberg was able to keep his Renault one spot ahead of Grosjean to finish sixth. Haas F1 Team came into Belgium with a three-point margin over Renault, but the American squad leaves with only a one-point lead. Toro Rosso, however, was 10 points ahead of Haas F1 Team before the Belgium Grand Prix, but the six points earned by Grosjean slashed the deficit in half, for Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr. earned a single point by finishing 10th. Fifth-place Williams, meanwhile, saw its gap to Haas F1 Team cut from 16 points to just 10 as neither of its drivers finished in the points.

Haas F1 Team’s point tally currently stands at 35, easily surpassing the 29-point total earned in its inaugural season.

After the checkered flag dropped on the 50th Belgian Grand Prix to be held at Spa, Grosjean radioed to say, “I gave it all I had.” The four spots he gained after starting 11th were very well earned. Grosjean had to make his way past his equally strong teammate after Magnussen inched ahead of him going into turn one of the 7.004-kilometer (4.352-mile), 19-turn track. As Magnussen battled the Force India of Sergio Perez, Grosjean was wheel-to-wheel with Hulkenberg. After completing lap one, Magnussen was 10th and Grosjean was 12th.

Grosjean was able to get his spot back from Magnussen on lap four before cracking the top-10 two laps later with a powerful drive past the McLaren of Fernando Alonso on the long straight leading into turn five.

When Max Verstappen’s day ended on lap eight after his Red Bull came to a halt in turn four, Grosjean rose to ninth and Magnussen climbed to 11th.

Magnussen and Grosjean both started the race on the Pirelli P Zero Purple ultrasoft tire, and while running in 11th on lap nine, Magnussen keyed his radio, saying “We need to get off this tire. We can get both cars in the points if we get off this tire.”

Haas F1 Team heeded the input, bringing Magnussen to the pits on lap 10 for a set of new Yellow softs. Grosjean followed on lap 11, with his VF-17 donning new softs as well. This dropped Grosjean to 13th and Magnussen to 14th.

Thanks to savvy driving augmented by the varying pit strategies employed by other teams, Grosjean was back in the top-10 by lap 14.

When ninth-place Sainz pitted his Toro Rosso on lap 19, Grosjean picked up the spot and Magnussen, who had scratched his way into 11th before Sainz headed to the pit lane, inherited 10th.

Then on lap 25, Perez pitted and served a five-second time penalty for cutting the corner in turn six to get past Grosjean earlier in the race. This brought Grosjean to eighth and Magnussen to ninth.

Seventh-place Esteban Ocon pitted his Force India on lap 27, allowing Grosjean to pick up seventh. Magnussen remained ninth.

A full-course caution came out on lap 30 when the two Force India drivers bounced off one another while racing down into turn two at Eau Rouge. Perez’s right-rear tire shredded after contact with the left-front wing of Ocon. Debris littered the racing surface, necessitating the safety car to pace field while officials cleaned the track.

Haas F1 Team took advantage of the opportunity, pitting both its drivers and swapping their race-worn Yellow soft tires for a brand-new set of Red supersofts. The duo returned to the race with their track position intact and poised for their second double-points finish. But just as the race was returning to green on lap 33, Magnussen ran wide at the final chicane that leads to the frontstraight. “I just locked up both tires with cold brakes, cold tires, into the last corner at the safety car restart,” said Magnussen afterward.

This dropped Magnussen to 17th and with nothing to lose, the team brought him back into the pits on lap 34 and outfitted him with a new set of Purple ultrasofts, the grippiest tires in Pirelli’s lineup. It allowed Magnussen to attack in the last 10 laps, which he did, picking up two positions to finish 15th when the checkered flag waved.

Grosjean held steady in seventh from the restart through to the finish, keeping Felipe Massa’s Williams at bay and Hulkenberg in his sights.

Winning the Belgian Grand Prix from the pole was three-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton. The Mercedes driver scored his 58th career Formula One victory, his fifth of the season and his third at Spa. Hamilton’s margin of victory was 2.358 seconds over Scuderia Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. The victory significantly boosted Hamilton’s championship effort as he cut seven points off the lead held by Vettel, who currently has only a seven-point advantage over Hamilton.

Grosjean now has 24 points and Magnussen has 11 points, with the duo 12th and 14th, respectively, in the championship driver standings.

Eight races remain in the 2017 FIA Formula One World Championship, with the next event coming Sept. 1-3 with the Italian Grand Prix at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza.

“It was a hell of a race. I’m pretty tired right now. We knew we could be somewhere close to the top-10, but we didn’t think we could be in there. After a few laps the car felt OK. I didn’t have a great start, but I pushed really hard. We had good degradation on the ultrasoft. We had planned for one stop. I saw Force India going for a two stop and I thought if they don’t open up too much of a gap, it should be good. The safety car came out, and then I tried really hard to get the Renault ahead of me, but it was just a little bit too fast. I’m very happy with the team, very proud. After FP1 I thought it was going to be tough, but we recovered very well. We just need to be more consistent in that tire window, the setup, and being there from the beginning of a weekend.”

“I just locked up both tires with cold brakes, cold tires, into the last corner at the safety-car restart. It was my bad and I’m really sorry for the team. It could’ve been a double-points finish for us this weekend. I just have to push harder next week to make up for it. Obviously, I’m at least happy that we scored points with Romain, but it’s hard to swallow right now. We’ll be there again next week. I think I would’ve had a good fight with (Felipe) Massa, for sure. I was faster than him on the stint before the safety car. I think we would’ve been fighting with him, but it didn’t happen and I’m really frustrated with that. I think we could’ve had a pretty easy double-points finish with both cars. I’m really annoyed. The car’s been working reasonably well this weekend. It’s a high-speed track and the next one we visit is as well. Hopefully, we can be strong again. It’s always frustrating when you miss out, and I think we did today.”  

“I think we’re pretty happy leaving here with six points. It’s a shame for Kevin having locked up at the restart, destroying the tires. But again, six points for us – we keep on getting points. We opened the second half of the season with points, so we hope to continue to score them. Both cars were performing well. I think we can be very happy with what we did.”

Round 13 of the 2017 FIA Formula One World Championship is the Italian Grand Prix at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza. Practice begins Sept. 1, qualifying takes place Sept. 2 and the race runs Sept. 3.