The summer break is over – Formula 1 is back! Hurrah!
While Mercedes did once again surge into an insurmountable lead and win comfortably, all sorts of nonsense went on behind the Silver Arrows duo – and Charlie Eustice has picked out his favourite bits.
Here’s our top 5 for the Belgian GP.
The summer break might only have been three weeks long, but for those with carbon fibre in their veins it can often feel like several months. It was great, then, to see everyone’s favourite motor racing Venezuelan (sorry, Johnny Cecotto Jr.) remind us how a Formula 1 weekend is supposed to go, by totally stuffing it into the wall, less than an hour into FP1.
Amazingly, he almost saved it, steering into the skid and slowing the car down massively, but at the crucial moment, decided to steer right, into the barrier.
We’ve missed you, Pastor.
Since joining Force India in 2014, Sergio Perez’s name has rarely come up in Silly Season. A team and a driver both a handful of years into their careers, showing flashes of brilliance and improvement. Why would he move – it’s a perfect fit, right?
Well, Checo may well have put himself back on the driver market radar thanks to a blinding weekend in Belgium. He simply shone in qualifying, taking third in Q1, fourth in Q2, and setting the fifth-best time in Q3, which was upgraded to fourth once more after Romain Grosjean got a grid penalty.
While his team mate (you know, that widely-revered German one that went and won Le Mans earlier this year) couldn’t get out of Q2 and then had to retire before the race began, Perez mixed it with the top guys for the first time this season. He even had the audacity to challenge Lewis Hamilton for the lead on the first lap, after passing Nico Rosberg and Valterri Bottas at the start, and though he did eventually drop back, fifth is Force India’s best result since Canada last year. Good job, Checo.
By happy accident, our third-placed story of the weekend is about the third-placed man on Sunday! Or maybe we totally planned that. Either way, Romain Grosjean and Lotus’ return to the podium was probably the most positive story to come out of the weekend’s action.
It’s been a long wait, too – last time a black-and-gold car, or indeed the Frenchman, climbed on to the rostrum was the USGP of 2013, when he donned a comically large cowboy hat. No regional apparel on offer at Spa, but plenty of well-earned Champagne.
One of the most bizarre things that happened this weekend was the odd situation of Valtteri Bottas’ tyres. As you are probably aware, his rear right – or should that be rear wrong – tyre was a white side-walled medium tyre, whereas the other three wheels were shod in yellow soft rubber.
The mix-up was either a very convoluted way of promoting their titular sponsor Martini (Mixing cocktails? Get it? Never mind) or more likely a silly mistake that cost the Finn a better position. Rather than pit for a set of matching tyres, the team decided they’d lose less time by just staying on the mismatched slicks. Unfortunately, they incurred a drive-through penalty for this.
Enjoy it while you can, because it’s a rare mistake we’re unlikely to see very often.
Let’s make this clear straight away – something topping the Badgerometer doesn’t always mean it’s a good thing, but unpredictability is always something fans are eager for. The blowout shifted everyone up the order (including the aforementioned Grosjean) but also brought Pirelli under scrutiny, as it was the second high-speed blowout of the weekend (After Rosberg on Friday).
There are a few ways of looking at it really. You can side with Seb and blame the tyre makers, or maybe you think that 27 laps is just too long for a medium tyre to last. In 2013, Pirelli brought the two hardest compounds to Spa, the hard and medium tyres. Last year saw the same tyres as used in this year’s race, but nobody opted to pit just once. Maybe this one is just down to a medium tyre not being able to cope with so many high-speed turns.
Whatever you think, this issue is likely to rumble on as we approach the Italian Grand Prix in a couple of weeks.