Daniel Ricciardo handed Red Bull Racing the team's 50th Formula One Grand Prix victory on Sunday at Spa-Francorchamps but the win in the Shell Belgian Grand Prix was handed to him by the Mercedes team when Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton made contact on lap 2. For Ricciardo it was his third win in the last six races.
The lap 2 contact between the two championship contenders from Mercedes occurred when Rosberg tried to pass Hamilton with an outside move on a right-hand turn. Then next corner was a quick left-hand turn and Rosberg's right-front wing came into contact with the left-rear tire of Hamilton. Hamilton's tire came apart and he had to limp back to the pits while Rosberg would need to take extra time on his first pit stop to change his damaged wing.
In the end Rosberg's rally came up 3.3 seconds short of Ricciardo and it was Valtteri Bottas for Williams Martini Racing who earned his fourth podium in the last five races by finishing third.
The Shell Belgian Grand Prix began with Nico Rosberg on the pole but it was Lewis Hamilton who started alongside in second that got the good jump and took the lead into Turn 1. Sebastian Vettel was also able to slip past Rosberg into second. Vettel then challenged Hamilton for the lead later on lap 1 but went off track which allowed Rosberg back into second. Jules Bianchi had contact on lap 1 which cut a tire on his car and forced him to limp back to the pits.
But the contact everyone will talk about happened on lap 2 of 44 when Rosberg tried to go past Hamilton. Rosberg didn't bail out on his pass attempt in time and the two came into contact. Hamilton had to limp slowily back to the pits with his punctured left-rear tire.
Daniel Ricciardo started from fifth but was on the move and by lap 5 he took second from his Red Bull Racing teammate Sebastian Vettel. Ricciardo has now finished ahead of the four-time defending champion Vettel on 10 of 12 races.
Rosberg pitted form the lead on lap 8 and his crew changed his front wing which was affecting the performance of his car mightily. The stop was about 10 seconds in length compared to the normal three second stops. When he returned to the track debris off of one of the Sauber cars got stuck on his antenna which proved a distraction for a few laps.
Ricciardo then pitted from the lead on lap 11 and Bottas did the same on lap 12. Also on lap 12 Fernando Alonso pitted his Ferrari but also had to serve a five-second penalty due to his team working on the car on the grid after the allotted time. Alonso would come out in ninth.
After the pit stops Ricciardo had a 2.3 second lead over Kimi Raikkonen. Vettel, Rosberg, and Bottas were all within seven seconds of the lead as well. Bottas passed Rosberg for fourth on lap 17 and Rosberg dove to pit road on lap 19 and started turning fast laps on new tires.
Ricciardo pitted from the lead on lap 27 and came out two seconds ahead of Rosberg and the Red Bull driver reassumed the lead when Bottas pitted on lap 28. Ricciardo immediately began to stretch his lead slightly over Rosberg as he was now on the fresher rubber. Raikkonen was third, Vettel fourth, and Bottas fifth. On lap 31 Bottas passed Vettel for fourth.
Rosberg had fallen to nearly four seconds behind Ricciardo and Mercedes' strategists called Rosberg into pit one more time. He dropped over 20 seconds behind Ricciardo's lead with the lap 35 pit stop. On lap 36 Rosberg charged back past Bottas and Raikkonen and started chopping into Ricciardo's lead.
Meanwhile his teammate Lewis Hamilton retired his car from the race on lap 39 as he was way out of the points in 16th.
Bottas passed Raikkonen on lap 40 to take third. In the closing laps Rosberg continued to close on Ricciardo up front but a spirited battled raged for fifth. First it was between Alonso and McLaren's Kevin Magnussen as the rookie did everything to hold off the veteran. Then McLaren's Jenson Button and Vettel joined the battle and positions swapped. On lap 42 Magnussen defended his position down the straight between turns 4 and 5 and forced Alonso into the grass momentarily. Race stewards immediately announced they were investing the incident. Alonso would then make contact into the back of Vettel in Turn 1 on the final lap destroying his front wing.
Up front Rosberg trailed by 8.4 seconds with three to go and 6.2 with two to go. He had the lead down to 4.3 seconds with one lap to go but could only pull in one second on the final lap as Ricciardo earned his third career victory.
Rosberg took 18 points for finishing second. Valterri Bottas was third and Kimi Raikkonen had his best finish of 2014 in fourth for Ferrari. Sebastian Vettel came out of the battle to finish fifth with Kevin Magnussen sixth. But a 20-second penalty was handed to Magnussen for forcing Alonso off track which dropped him to 12th.
Jenson Button was awarded sixth, and Fernando Alonso seventh. Also scoring points at Spa were Sergio Perez for Force India in eighth, Daniil Kvyat for Toro Rosso in ninth, and Nico Hulkenberg of Force India was able to move into the points in tenth with Magnussen's penalty.
Out of the points were Jean-Eric Vergne for Toro Rosso in 11th, Kevin Magnussen in 12th, Felipe Massa for Williams in 13th, Adrian Sutil for Sauber in 14th, Esteban Gutierrez for Sauber in 15th, Max Chilton for Marussia in 16th, and Marcus Ericsson for Caterham in 17th. Out of the race at the end were the Marussia of Jules Bianchi, the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton, and the Lotus duo of Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado. Also Andre Lotterer had his F1 debut for Caterham come to an early end when the car shut off in the opening lap.
After 12 of 19 races Nico Rosberg now has 220 points and Lewis Hamilton has 191. That is a 29 point lead for Rosberg. Daniel Ricciardo is third with 156 points, Fernando Alonso is fourth with 121, Valtteri Bottas is fifth with 110, Sebastian Vettel is sixth with 98, Nico Hulkenberg is seventh with 70, Jenson Button is eighth with 68, Felipe Massa is ninth with 40, and Kimi Raikkonen is tenth with 39 points. Kevin Magnussen would have been ninth with 45 points but he is 11th with 37.
Mercedes holds a commanding lead in the constructor's standings with 411 points to Red Bull Racing's 254. Ferrari is third with 160, Williams is fourth with 150, McLaren is fifth with 105, and Force India is sixth with 103.
The next race is September 7th at Monza for the Italian Grand Prix.
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