Force India drivers Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez both produced brilliant performances to finish fourth and fifth in the F1 GP at Belgium on Sunday August 28, 2016. Their personal achievements aside, the two drivers enabled Force India to reach the peak of fourth place in the constructors’ championship leaderboard after they surpassed Williams at Spa-Francorchamps. Perez was fifth behind his teammate Hulkenberg, who lost the podium to none other than the reigning World Champion Lewis Hamilton. Germany’s Nico Rosberg recorded his first-ever victory at Spa and Australia’s Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo took the second spot. The Belgian GP was also marked for some drama accredited to Red Bull driver Max Verstappen, whose defensive tactics accounted for both Ferraris suffering in the race. While Sebastian Vettel went out of contention early in the race, Kimi Raikkonen had to labor with a damaged car. Verstappen himself finished a poor 11th as he took several unwanted pit-stops for one reason or another. For Rosberg, it was his sixth win of the 2016 season and he reduced Hamilton’s lead from 19 points to 9. As for the Brit, his efforts were truly amazing after he started from the back row for engine-replacement penalties. Even the Team Mercedes managers thought Hamilton couldn’t reach better than the eighth place. But the World Champion worked very impressively against all odds piled on him and managed a podium finish to ensure that his championship lead over Rosberg remained intact.
As the race began on Sunday, Max Verstappen of Red Bull had a poor start and he caused problems to Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen. Then in a dangerous move, Verstappen dived to the inside of Raikkonen resulting into the two Ferraris making contact. Vettel went into a spin and the race was instantly over for him. As for Raikkonen, another contact with Verstappen damaged the front wings of his Ferrari but he continued.
With Vettel gone early in the race, action behind Nico Rosberg intensified. The German didn’t have to worry about his Mercedes teammate Hamilton, who was far behind with the back bunch but Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg were hot on his tail. Others forming a challenge were Williams’ Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa and Haas driver Romain Grosjean. A little later, Pascal Wehrlein of Manor-Mercedes collided with McLaren’s Jenson Button, Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr had a tyre delamination, Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson suffered a gearbox failure and Kevin Magnussen crashed hard into the barriers after losing control of his Renault. Thus the race lost five more drivers by lap no.5.
Force India drivers benefitted from Verstappen’s entanglement with the Ferraris and the reduced density on the track. They maintained a solid pace and avoided undue risks. In fact, Hulkenberg had a great start and he was the only one chasing Rosberg early on but lost his place to Ricciardo. Perez kept a steady pace and didn’t lose his fifth place over long stretches. They missed the podium in the end but accumulated 22 points from the race for Force India compared to Williams’ 5. They finished fourth and fifth respectively and overtook Williams tally in the constructors’ standings. Though at 103 to Williams’ 101, Force India’s lead is slender but if Hulkenberg and Perez perform well in the remaining 8 races of the 2016 season, they can consolidate further.
While Nico Rosberg won the race comfortably with Daniel Ricciardo taking the second spot, the efforts made by Lewis Hamilton at Spa were exemplary. Beginning from the back row after penalties for engine replacement, the British driver battled through the traffic and kept leaving several drivers in his wake. Finally, he passed Hulkenberg to take the third place on the podium and managed to minimize serious damage to his world championship ambitions.
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