The first of a third triple-header, the Belgian GP gave us an insight of what we can expect at the upcoming high-speed tracks, with some surprising performances up and down the field.
One of the only grand prix to run on its originally planned date this season, the race at Spa promised much but after first lap drama the field settled into a pretty rigid running order, with a few exceptions.
There weren’t too many standout performances – either positively or negatively – compared to previous rounds, but we’ve cobbled together our winners and losers from the Belgian Grand Prix.
Winner – Renault
A really strong showing from the French outfit, the team has faced so much adversity over the last few years but showed what they’re capable of in Spa.
Had things fallen a little differently Daniel Ricciardo could’ve been on the podium but for the team to finish fourth and fifth, on genuine pace, is a massive statement of intent.
It will have been especially sweet for Cyril Abiteboul to see Esteban Ocon to overtake Alex Albon on the last too, given their troubles with Red Bull.
And perhaps the best news is they can expect more of the same at Monza, the team seem confident of a repeat performance.
Loser – Carlos Sainz
DNS are like London buses: you wait three years for one and then two come along in the space of four races. After Nico Hulkenberg was unable to make the start of the British Grand Prix – the same race Jolyon Palmer missed out on in 2017 – Sainz had an exhaust problem on the way to the grid and had to return to the garage.
McLaren were unable to sort out the problem and he was resigned to watching from the pitwall, a huge blow after he had a strong performance in Barcelona and had backed that up by qualifying seventh at Spa.
It did give us a brilliant moment on television though, with the director cutting to Sainz watching with his head in hands straight after the two Ferraris made contact – a look at what the Spaniard is looking forward to when he goes to Maranello next year.
Winner – Halo
The second time in three years at Spa that the halo showed its worth, after Antonio Giovinazzi hit the wall and lost a tyre, it bounced across the track and took out George Russell’s front left, leaving both drivers out of the race.
It could’ve been so much worse though, the tyre only needed to be a foot higher to come into contact with the cockpit of Russell’s car and it was clear post-race that driver, team and fans were all appreciative of the protection the halo provided.
Loser – Valtteri Bottas
Personally, it seems a bit harsh to slam Bottas for not being willing to go side-by-side with his teammate through Eau Rouge on the opening lap -in the end he was forced to back off the throttle on the exit of La Source after Hamilton got slightly out of shape.
It could’ve very easily ended in tears or worse – as the paddock spent the whole weekend contemplating the events of last year’s weekend at Spa – but he’s come in for heavy criticism for it so that’s why he appears here.
He said he’s frustrated by Hamilton’s qualifying consistency over this season, but it’s his inability to take the fight to Hamilton on Sundays that’s most frustrating to fans, and it feels like bar exceptional events his title tilt is over.
Valtteri Bottas start onboard-
You can see Hamilton slowing down before Eau Rouge so he can maintain the advantage on the Kemmel straight. He done the same against Vettel in 2017.#F1 #BelgianGP #LH44 #VB77 pic.twitter.com/yPHGCCTSmQ
— Ben (@BenF1__) August 30, 2020
Winner – Pierre Gasly
The Frenchman really animated an otherwise dull race, running the alternate strategy and making several stunning overtakes, the pick of which was a move on Sergio Perez through Eau Rouge early on, getting through despite the Mexican aggressively squeezing him.
He’s really outdriving the AlphaTauri at the moment – alongside Franz Tost and co. running a sound operation on race weekends – and it says much for his season that he’s still in the conversation for a Red Bull seat despite his calamitous stint there last year.
Also a word for Kvyat – he finished just outside the points in the race but outqualified Gasly for the first time this season.
Loser – Ferrari
A torrid weekend for Ferrari. They were lucky to get out of Q1 – and if they had the driver of some of the other teams they’re battling it’s doubtful they would have.
Slow from Friday through to Sunday, in the race it quickly became a familiar sight to see the red cars helpless on the Kemmel straight as the lower order blasted past them, and to top it all off they hit each other, it’s a team in complete disarray. It’s hard to know whether to envy Charles Leclerc staying on, or Vettel for getting out at the end of this year.
And they’ve got more difficult races coming up too unless they can sort out their issues quickly.
Winner – Alex Albon
Another member of the Red Bull stable, Albon put together a tidy weekend to finish sixth, which is a step in the right direction if not where he will ultimately want to be in the Red Bull.
He qualified fifth, which was probably the best they could’ve hoped for given Renault and Ricciardo’s pace, and wasn’t done any favours by the strategy in the race.
However, he still defended admirably from Ocon on the final lap, with braking impossibly late into Les Coombes to deny the Frenchman.
The challenge now will be for him to turn this into a springboard to make further progress in the upcoming rounds, rather than return to the status quo of having to pull big recovery drives out of the bag.
Loser – Red Bull strategy
Normally two elements so closely linked wouldn’t get separate mentions, but Red Bull’s strategy on Alex Albon over the last few races has been infuriating.
This week they were the only team to fit the medium tyres during the safety, and it ended up costing Albon fifth place at least, as he was unable to hold on at the end from Ocon.
The Thai driver’s not been able to get a clean weekend under his belt yet for a variety of reasons and is definitely under pressure at Red Bull, but we all need to see him run on a standard strategy to get a good idea of where his pace is.
This weekend would’ve been the perfect chance to do that as he qualified fifth, but yet again we’re leaving a track with more questions than answers.
Loser – Racing Point
Ninth and tenth won’t have been what the team had in mind for this weekend, and they actually lost positions from their grid slots despite Sainz pulling out ahead of them.
The team themselves were surprised at their position in the running order, and they’ll just have to hope it was an anomolous result. Ferrari’s floundering saved a lot of blushes at Racing Point, as otherwise more of a spotlight would’ve been on the pink panthers.
They don’t seem to be making up positions in the race – Perez’s charge through the field in the Styrian GP aside – so once the ridiculous ‘party mode’ ban comes in from Monza onwards they could slip to the back of the midfield.
Renault’s brilliant running this weekend only compounds their problems.
One ray of light was Renault’s decision to withdraw their protest at Racing Point’s punishment for running illegally designed brake ducts, but at the moment their legal problems are matched by the size of their defficiencies on track
Winner – Yuki Tsunoda
Tsunoda’s inclusion is perhaps a sign of how many drivers had middling performances on Sunday afternoon but it was a big weekend for the 20-year old.
Franz Tost went on record as saying he’d be a candidate for a 2021 AlphaTauri seat provided he has a super licence, and he seems to be in pole position to take the seat.
He currently has 21 points from F3, Euroformula Open and Japanese F4 so just needs to finish in the top five this season to make the 40-point tally.
It was also a successful weekend on-track as he rose to third in the Formula 2 standings. After taking pole position he made a decent getaway and was able to hold off Nikita Mazepin into the first corner, hugging the inside line.
Tsunoda looked to have the race under control before a botched pitstop from Carlin undid all his hard work and dropped him behind the Russian.
Tsunoda had to abort moves twice into Les Combes in the last five laps with the Mazepin defending very aggressively, but the Red Bull Junior had the last laugh as Mazepin suffered a five-second penalty to gift Tsunoda his first F2 feature race win.