Conclusions From The Belgian GP

Date published: August 23 2015 - Editor

Seb's tyre tirade, the 'nut job' cracks it, Paul Hembery's uncanny resemblance to David Brent and more in the Conclusions from the Belgian Grand Prix.

Seb's Tyre Tirade
For all the talk about starting procedures and a more stringent ban on radio messages, it was Pirelli's rubber that stole the post-race headlines.

In an acerbic interview with the BBC, Sebastian Vettel condemned Pirelli for the right-rear tyre failure his Ferrari suffered on the penultimate lap and demanded answers from the Italian tyre maker.

Vettel's reaction is understandable as he missed out on a podium following a fine recovery drive from eighth on the grid, but analysts and fans are divided in their interpretation of the incident.

Ferrari are under fire for attempting to run 28 laps on one set of tyres on a one-stop strategy when the rest of the field stopped twice. The Scuderia strategists knew, the argument goes, that a one-stop race was a high-risk, high-reward approach; akin to a gambler staking all his winning on one hand.

However, Ferrari and many F1 aficionados feel disillusioned that a team cannot run 28 laps on one set of mediums. Moreover, they rail against the pitstop strategy uniformity imposed upon the sport through a single tyre supplier.

When asked if Pirelli had advised teams against running a certain number of laps, Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery replied ambiguously: "It was not something I knew about."

Nonetheless, Hembery argued that the failure happened because Vettel's tyre was at "the end of wear life" after 28 laps, even though he admitted that the data suggested that 40 laps would be viable.

Such imprecision is a safety concern because, as Vettel said, "if it happened 200 metres earlier, I'm not standing here now, I'd be stuck in Eau Rouge." (The German used more florid language elsewhere.)

Given the high-velocity nature of Monza, expect this debate to simmer in the coming days and weeks.

The 'Nut Job' Cracks It
Romain Grosjean, in true Gallic spirit, is an enigmatic figure who has struggled to balance his raw speed and technique with a reckless streak, especially earlier in his career. His lowest ebb came at Spa in 2012, when he caused a catastrophic accident at the first corner and received a race ban in consequence.

Although without Vettel's retirement Grosjean would have claimed fourth, few in the paddock would begrudge him his first podium since 2013 – a result that underscores how much he has progressed as a racer.

Ahead of the Belgian race Grosjean hinted that he had held talks with Ferrari before the Italian manufacturer confirmed Kimi Raikkonen for the 2016 seasons. The Lotus man added that he believes he has another six-seven years left in F1 and is hopeful that he will get the chance in better machinery.

While the champagne tasted sweet, Grosjean will have enjoyed in equal measure coming out on top in his early-race battle with Valtteri Bottas, the driver most strongly linked with Raikkonen's Ferrari seat.

What About Bottas?
The 25-year-old Finn has a well-deserved reputation as one of the best young racers in the field; a man whose talent bodes badly for the futures of the likes of Grosjean (29) and Nico Hulkenberg (29).

Although Bottas is tipped to win races and compete for championships, he has not quite had the measure of team-mate Felipe Massa, which suggests to some observers that he is not quite ready to transition to a title-contender outfit.

Bottas certainly seemed to lack pace in the early phase of the race, but again Williams let him down as they did at the British Grand Prix when the team ordered the Finn to hold station behind Massa.

And so Bottas finds himself in a feedback loop in which critics accuse him of failing to collect the expected results at Williams and of not deserving a 'promotion' unless he gets results, except that so long as he is at Williams he is unlikely to achieve the expected results.

While Bottas remains committed to Williams publicly, internally he must be wondering what he needs to do for the team to give him the break he needs.

In Belgium a pitstop fiasco cost the Finn as Williams fitted a medium tyre on the right rear and softs on the three other wheels, the result of which was a drive-through penalty.

What would Vettel have given for a hard tyre on his right-rear side?

But Don't Do 'A Perez'
For all the talk about young drivers set for bigger 'things' at big teams, Sergio Perez is a walking cautionary tale of what can happen if those 'things' happen too soon. The Mexican took the fight to Lewis Hamilton on Lap 1 after a flying start and fully deserved to collect fifth place for Force India.

Yet his poor stint at McLaren is a wound that is unlikely to heal. And Perez's performances for Force India are doing nothing to help team-mate Hulkenberg's marketing.

Lest We Forget The Mercs
The ease with which he won makes it easy to forget just how masterly that British bloke in the silver car with the beautiful rear wing performed. The title is far from Lewis Hamilton's though, as one non-finish for him coupled with a win for Nico Rosberg would result in a mere three-point gap.

Hamilton has built up a 67-point buffer over Vettel and after Monza Ferrari might well contemplate syphoning extra resources to their 2016 challenger.

Dani The Mani
Daniil Kvyat executed some fine overtaking moves as he stormed to a fourth-place finish. After beating team-mate Daniel Ricciardo to second in Hungary, the young Russian has finally found some momentum.

Indeed, with this newfound form and his team-mate's DNF at Spa, Kvyat is now ahead of Ricciardo in the standings.

Other Observations
* Max Verstappen claimed eighth for Toro Rosso but was only a handful of seconds adrift Perez at the chequered flag. The youngster's brave pass on Felipe Nasr on the outside of Blanchimont on lap 11 was the move of the race.

* Marcus Ericsson pipped Nasr to the line to claim the final point, a much-needed result for the Swede, who remains nine points behind his team-mate in the battle at Sauber.

* In his post-race interview, Paul Hembery bore an uncanny resemblance to David Brent, while some of his comments had a hint of The Office about them, too.

Richard F Rose