Formula One Open Wheel

What We Learned from the Belgian Grand Prix 2017

The Big Picture:  If the drivers could vote, most would select either Spa-Francorchamps or Monza as their favorite course in the championship. As one of the inaugural races in modern Formula One, Spa is an important race for the series.

The Event:  A record crowd of 265,000 watched the race this year in person. Spa is contracted with Formula One through 2018. We see no reason the contract won’t be extended for many years to come by new owners Liberty Media.

In Our Last Episode:  Sebastian Vettel took his fourth win of the season at the Hungaroring with the two Finnish drivers, Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas filling out the podium.

Qualifying:  Lewis Hamilton took his 68th career pole, tying Michael Schumacher’s all-time series record, and setting a new track speed record in the process. Sebastian Vettel’s final lap was one of the best of his career.

Start:  We have mentioned this before, but Formula One is supposed to be the premier auto racing series in the world. But, if so, why can’t they get their 20 cars all through the first lap?

Race:  It was a tight race at the front between Hamilton and Vettel, with the Briton managing to stay in front due to qualifying better, strategy and determination. Behind these two, both Bottas and Raikkonen were out driven by Daniel Ricciardo on the restart on Lap 34 and ended up on the podium instead of the Finns. Elsewhere, the Force India drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez managed to crash together not once but twice!

Best Team:  This one is hard to call. No team had both drivers finish at the front. Hamilton was first, but Bottas came in fifth. Ouch. Vettel scored a second-place finish, while teammate Raikkonen had a fourth. So, we are going to say no one this week.

What We Will Remember:  It was Hamilton’s 200th Formula One start. He and three other drivers won their two hundredths races: Michael Schumacher (2004), Jenson Button (2011) and last year’s champion Nico Rosberg (2016). Hamilton notched his 58th victory, his fifth this season. Max Verstappen fared poorly this race as is becoming the norm. He’s now DNFed six times, all within the 12th Lap of the start. As a result, he has run fewer laps in 2017 than any of the 20 full-time racers.

Quote of the Weekend: “It’s amazing to come back into the season and start on the right foot. The Ferrari was very strong today and they put on a fantastic fight. We were both pushing every single lap and there was no room for error or mistake. The Safety Car was driving so slow that keeping tyre temperature was very difficult. On the restart, Sebastian got a good tow, it was very close. It is fun to be racing against another team and Sebastian at his best and the car at its best – that’s what racing is all about. I want to thank the team, I would not have been able to win today without them.” Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes driver and race victor

Runner-up Quote of the Weekend:  “If we had ended up ahead in qualifying, then we would have had a good pace to stay in front today! I was surprised how close I could follow through the whole race. So I am a bit angry at myself, because, when the race restarted after the safety car, I was probably too close to Lewis out of Turn 1. I tried to open the gap down Eau Rouge but it’s a difficult compromise. You see the cars coming behind and you know that you need to defend, instead of focusing on attacking. At the same time I know that down the straights we are not as quick as Mercedes. So, I am not entirely happy, but after all it’s been a great weekend for the team. We don’t need to be afraid of any circuit, I believe we have the best car in terms of package. There’s still something missing but the guys in Maranello are very motivated. I think we have done the biggest improvement and a big step forward. Now we turn the page on and move on to Monza: let’s see what happens there.” Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari driver and second place finisher

Schedule:  The circus goes to Monza next weekend for the Italian Grand Prix on September 3rd.

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By Lisa Davidson

Lisa Davidson is a graduate of the University of Arizona and spent her corporate career as a Controller. She is a lifelong writer who has been covering open wheel racing since 2000 and is the author of historical articles and co-author of one book She and her husband, photographer Jeff Davidson, have two daughters and make their home in Murrieta, CA.