Belgian Grand Prix 2016

30 Aug 2016

Image: SPA, BELGIUM – AUGUST 28: Mark Webber drinks champagne from the boot of Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Red Bull Racing on the podium during the Formula One Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on August 28, 2016 in Spa, Belgium (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)

Race 13 – 44 Laps – 7.004km per lap – 308.052km race distance – medium tyre wear

Belgian GP F1 Strategy Report Podcast – our host Michael Lamonato is joined by Craig Scarborough – F1 journalist.

Following a much-needed break, Formula 1 returned from its summer holidays refreshed and ready for the challenge of Spa-Francorchamps. It proved to be a pretty exciting Belgian Grand Prix, particularly in the first 15 laps.

Nico Rosberg proved unchallenged at the front of the field to win the race, with Daniel Ricciardo a strong second for Red Bull and Rosberg’s Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton recovering from 21st to third after engine change grid penalties.

The famous race track sparked a whole host of interesting talking points when it came to F1 strategy, here were the main headlines:

Varied first stint strategies

It’s rare we see all three Pirelli tyre compounds being used for the first stint, but drivers lined up on the grid on a wide range of choices. Fernando Alonso and Hamilton, starting from the back, went for the mediums.

Several top 10 drivers opted for the softs after making it through to Q3 on the mid-range compound – the tactics had already begun in qualifying! The soft compound was the most popular for the first stint at Spa, with only six starting on the super-softs. We looked set for a very interesting strategic race.

Early stops for many

Getting caught up in incidents on the first lap caused several drivers – including Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, Max Verstappen and Felipe Nasr – to stop early on for repairs and a fresh set of tyres. A few also pitted to retire (Jenson Button and Pascal Wehrlein).

The safety car came out after Kevin Magnussen’s huge crash at the top of Eau Rouge (which he escaped from with just a small cut to his left ankle) and this prompted some drivers to pit, but then the red flag came out for barrier repairs.

Under the regulations, drivers were able to change tyres under the red flag and six of them – including the top three finishers – decided to do so. This gave them a free pitstop, a huge advantage at Spa.

A disadvantage for some

But the red flag proved to be a disadvantage for those who had pitted under the safety car, as they had already lost track position. One example was Nico Hulkenberg, who had been running second, but fell behind Ricciardo to third with his early stop.

It’s one of those dangers with reacting to incidents. Teams who pitted under the safety car assumed the red flag wouldn’t be shown, expecting to gain time from it, but others might have predicted a red flag and stayed out, knowing they could change tyres and get a free stop.

SPA, BELGIUM - AUGUST 28: (EDITORS NOTE: Image was created using a variable planed lens.) The safety car drives ahead of Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP Daniel Ricciardo of Australia drives the Red Bull Racing Red Bull-TAG Heuer RB12 TAG Heuer during the Formula One Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on August 28, 2016 in Spa, Belgium (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
SPA, BELGIUM – AUGUST 28: (EDITORS NOTE: Image was created using a variable planed lens.) The safety car drives ahead of Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP Daniel Ricciardo of Australia drives the Red Bull Racing Red Bull-TAG Heuer RB12 TAG Heuer during the Formula One Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on August 28, 2016 in Spa, Belgium (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

Changing things up

The race went from a clear three-stop strategy with a range of options to a simple medium/soft or soft/medium run to the flag. Most drivers went for the softs for the stint after the red flag and conclude the Belgian GP on the mediums.

Daniil Kvyat and Jolyon Palmer went for the super-softs for a final aggressive stint but they failed to make the most of it and gain positions. The super-softs suffered more in the warmer conditions but the softs worked well and even the mediums were competitive, while lasting a long time too.

It was unusual to see all three compounds getting used so much, usually the hardest of the three is largely ignored throughout the weekend but with smaller differences in the compounds and slightly cooler conditions compared to qualifying meant we didn’t see as much degradation and wear as many expected.

Three-stops don’t pay off

Hamilton’s race to third was largely helped by the early mayhem. At the safety car period he was running in fifth place. Mercedes put him on a more aggressive three-stop strategy, like Red Bull did with Max Verstappen, but while Hamilton had the pace to make progress and gain two more spots to take the podium, it didn’t work quite so well with Verstappen and he finished down in 12th.

Tricky tyre pressures

During the very warm free practice sessions on Friday, some drivers complained at the tyre pressures being too high. Romain Grosjean claimed his tyres were giving up mid-corner and there was a lack of grip. There was also high degradation and wear due to the high temperatures.

Pirelli opted to keep the tyre pressures and it didn’t seem to be too much of an issue during the race, which took place in slightly cooler and cloudier conditions. But given the number of drivers complaining after Friday practice (Felipe Massa even called it a “joke”), it makes you wonder whether the pressures should’ve been tweaked for Saturday and Sunday.

Jack Leslie @JackLeslieF1

Longest Stints

Medium: Massa (22 laps)
Soft: Verstappen (17 laps)
Supersoft: Palmer (10 laps)

Most Stops

4 – Verstappen, Palmer

All the Data

Thanks to Pirelli Motorsport for the detailed infographics

9318_11-Belgian-Race1-4k-EN 9320_13-Belgian-Race2-4k-EN


Stints by Driver

SCSafety Car
Lap 2-3, Lap 6-10


RedAss-Black-top3. Ricciardo
Start P5
Used Soft 9 laps Pit 16:38.401
Soft 16 laps Pit 22.531
Medium 19 laps
Finished P2 (+3)


Stallion-Black-top5. Vettel
Start P4
Used Soft 1 laps Pit 22.403
Soft 8 laps Pit 16:38.511
Used Soft 14 laps Pit 22.762
Medium 21 laps
Finished P6 (-2)


Mercury-Black-top6. Rosberg
Start P1
Used Soft 9 laps Pit 16:36.150
Medium 17 laps Pit 22.596
Medium 18 laps
Finished P1 (+0)


Stallion-Black-top7. Raikkonen
Start P3
Used Soft 1 laps Pit 1:27.084
Used Supersoft 4 laps Pit 23.061
Soft 4 laps Pit 15:43.158
Used Soft 15 laps Pit 23.056
Medium 20 laps
Finished P9 (-6)


Hars-Black-top8. Grosjean
Start P11
Soft 6 laps Pit 23.705
Soft 3 laps Pit 16:39.366
Used Soft 14 laps Pit 23.107
Medium 21 laps
Finished P13 (-2)


Saucer-Black-top9. Ericsson
Start P20
Soft 3 laps
Retired L3 (DNF)


RageR-Black-top11. Perez
Start P6
Used Supersoft 6 laps Pit 23.783
Soft 3 laps Pit 16:40.284
Medium 15 laps Pit 22.652
Medium 20 laps
Finished P5 (+1)


Saucer-Black-top12. Nasr
Start P16
Soft 1 laps Pit 26.39
Medium 8 laps Pit 16:41.198
Soft 14 laps Pit 30.238
Used Medium 20 laps
Finished P17 (-1)


McLaren-Black-top14. Alonso
Start P22
Medium 9 laps Pit 16:38.234
Soft 14 laps Pit 22.451
Medium 21 laps
Finished P7 (+15)


Franks-Black-top19. Massa
Start P10
User Supersoft 2 laps Pit 22.484
Soft 7 laps Pit 16:40.664
Soft 13 laps Pit 22.515
Medium 22 laps
Finished P10 (+0)


Renboat-Black-top20. Magnussen
Start P12
Soft 5 laps
Retired L5 (DNF)
Hars-Black-top21. Guttierrez
Start P18
Soft 7 laps Pit 23.486
Soft 2 laps Pit 16:38.622
Used Soft 13 laps Pit 23.561
Medium 22 laps
Finished P12 (+6)


McLaren-Black-top22. Button
Start P9
Used Supersoft 1 laps
Retired L1 (DNF)


Burro-Black-top26. Kvyat
Start P19
Soft 9 laps Pit 16:40.466
Soft 12 laps Pit 23.359
Medium 14 laps Pit 23.363
Used Supersoft 9 laps
Finished P14 (+5)


RageR-Black-top27. Hulkenberg
Start P7
Used Supersoft 6 laps Pit 23.564
Soft 3 laps Pit 16:38.468
Used Soft 14 laps Pit 24.015
Medium 21 laps
Finished P4 (+3)


Renboat-Black-top30. Palmer
Start P13
Soft 6 laps Pit 22.698
Soft 3 laps Pit 16:40.234
Used Soft 13 laps Pit 23.333
Medium 12 laps Pit 22.578
Supersoft 10 laps
Finished P15 (-2)


RedAss-Black-top33. Verstappen
Start P2
Used Supersoft 1 laps Pit 31.235
Medium 8 laps Pit 16:38.546
Used Medium 7 laps Pit 23.231
Soft 12 laps Pit 22.727
Soft 16 laps
Finished P11 (-9)


Mercury-Black-top44. Hamilton
Start P21
Medium 9 laps Pit 16:40.478
Soft 12 laps Pit 24.343
Soft 11 laps Pit 22.432
Used Medium 12 laps
Finished P3 (+18)


Burro-Black-top55. Sainz
Start P14
1 laps
Retired L1 (DNF)


Franks-Black-top77. Bottas
Start P8
Used Supersoft 7 laps Pit 22.19
Soft 2 laps Pit 16:38.328
Soft 14 laps Pit 22.318
Used Medium 21 laps
Finished P8 (+0)


Manner-Black-top31. Ocon
Start P17
Soft 6 laps Pit 28.718
Medium 3 laps Pit 16:40.980
Used Medium 15 laps Pit 24.208
Used Medium 19 laps
Finished P16 (+1)


Manner-Black-top94. Wehrlein
Start P15
1 laps
Retired L1 (DNF)