War. That was the residing feeling from the Belgian Grand Prix as teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg connected on lap one causing a puncture for Hamilton, front wing damage for Rosberg and handed a third win to the ever present Daniel Ricciardo.
The feeling around the paddock and amongst fans appeared to be that this was inevitable; a collision when fighting for the title in such a dominant car between two incredibly talented drivers appearing unavoidable.
Since the third race of the season in Bahrain the tension between the teammates appeared to be building at Qualifying in Monaco and an on-track fight in Hungary and finally that tension came to a head in the Belgium grand prix.
In Qualifying it was Rosberg who secured pole by a comfortable two tenths of a second but a fantastic start for Hamilton allowed him to take the lead of the race with an overtaking move around the outside of turn one.
Vettel then attempted to take Hamilton on the outside of La Combes, but ran wide off the track and along the sleeping policeman which allowed Rosberg to re-pass for second.
On the next lap Hamilton ran wide through Eau Rouge and Rosberg lined up alongside him before backing out of the move, tapping Lewis’s left rear tyre with his front wing end plate in the process and giving his teammate an instant puncture.
The contact damaged Hamilton’s floor as he dragged his three wheeled wagon back to the pits and came out at the back of the field where he stayed until his retirement on lap 40 to save his engine. Rosberg, meanwhile, had sustained damage to his front wing and decided to err on the side of caution and changed his front wing in his first pit stop.
Hamilton was on the racing line and Hamilton reported that apparently Rosberg had said after the race during a team briefing that he did not back out of the move to make a point to his teammate. He has been reprimanded by Mercedes with a fine after Toto Wolff stated that it was “unacceptable”. Rosberg’s action meant he was booed on the podium despite his assertion at the time that he had done nothing wrong and that the fans were wrong to boo without understanding the regulations. On the Friday after the race Rosberg issued a statement on his Facebook page apologising to his teammate to which Hamilton responded by releasing a statement saying both had done things that could be considered wrong.
Teammate battles seemed the issue of the day as Ricciardo started honing on Vettel in the sister Red Bull and on lap 9 he had passed for second place after Vettel ran wide into Pouhon. Despite Vettel pitting earlier Ricciardo managed to stay ahead of his teammate and ultimately Rosberg to take his third race win of the season and his career.
Rosberg’s day went from bad to worse as on lap 16 the Mercedes powered Williams of Bottas glided past him on the Kemmel straight to take fourth place and a later pass on Jenson Button was deemed illegal by the stewards as he had run off track limits. However, he quickly showcased his pace by steaming past Alonso for third place on lap 26 and began chasing after Valtteri Bottas’ Williams and leader Ricciardo.
After the second round of pit stops on lap 36 Rosberg came out just front of Bottas allowing Valtteri to showcase his speed and skill with a move around the outside coming into the chicane. However, he did not hold onto third for long as Rosberg made a daring move around the inside of Bottas going into Blanchimont .
Rosberg then quickly despatched a struggling Kimi Raikkonen on older tyres for second place and then set about cutting into the one stopping Daniel Ricciardo’s 20 second lead by over three seconds a lap.
Meanwhile Fernando Alonso was fighting with Kevin Magnussen’s Mclaren for fifth place, Magnussen fantastically defended a move around the outside by Alonso and Alonso was pushed onto the grass, a move that Fernando and the stewards believed was too aggressive. After the race Kevin Magnussen was awarded a 20 second time penalty and fell from sixth to twelfth.
Despite the late charge from Rosberg Daniel Ricciardo held onto a three second gap and secured his third win of the season with Valtteri Bottas gaining a fantastic third for Williams. Rosberg extended his championship lead over Hamilton by 18 points but as was clear after the race the ramifications and price of those points was incredibly high.