Belgian GP result HERE
- Second win in a row for Ricciardo
- Rosberg finishes second after hitting Hamilton
- Contact gives Hamilton puncture, eventually retiring to drop 29 points back in championship
Daniel Ricciardo took back-to-back victories by winning the Belgian Grand Prix as Lewis Hamilton retired following contact with Nico Rosberg early in the race.
Hamilton took the lead at the start with Rosberg attacking in to Les Combes on lap two. With the move not on around the outside, Rosberg tried to duck in behind his team-mate but clipped Hamilton's left rear tyre, giving Hamilton a puncture and damaging Rosberg's front wing.
With Hamilton dropping to the back of the pack, Ricciardo moved in to P2 ahead of team-mate Sebastian Vettel and then took advantage of Rosberg needing a new front wing to take a lead which he never relinquished despite late pressure from the championship leader.
Rosberg had appeared set for a comfortable second, but a late third stop for soft tyres allowed him to mount a charge in the final ten laps to try and put pressure on the lead Red Bull. However, Ricciardo had enough pace to maintain the lead and take his third victory of the season.
Hamilton's day ended six laps from the end when he finally retired from 16th place having repeatedly asked the team to call him in to save the engine. The puncture sustained in contact with Rosberg saw the tyre flailing as Hamilton returned to the pits, damaging the floor and restricting his pace so that he was unable to make any progress through the field.
Valtteri Bottas took the final podium place – with Rosberg booed on the podium post-race – after a late pass on Kimi Raikkonen who secured his best result of the season so far with fourth. Sebastian Vettel was fifth after overtaking Kevin Magnussen, Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso in the closing laps. Magnussen was sixth but some robust defending at Rivage against both Alonso and his own team-mate Button left him under investigation.
Sergio Perez and Daniil Kvyat completed the top ten, while it was a disappointing debut for Andre Lotterer as he retired his Caterham on the opening lap.
There was drama even before the start of the race as problems for Alonso saw Ferrari mechanics still on the grid working on his car as the field pulled away on the formation lap. Alonso managed to take his fourth slot on the grid but a five-second stop/go penalty taken at his first pit stop hurt his chances of progress.
The clash between the two Mercedes drivers brought the race alive on only the second lap, with Vettel having had the best start and attempted to take the lead on lap one. With the Red Bull running wide at Les Combes, Rosberg was able to regain second after a poor start and both Mercedes pulled away rapidly over the next lap before contact.
Ricciardo overtook Alonso and then Vettel when his team-mate made a mistake at Pouhon, going on to pressure Rosberg before taking the lead through the first pit stop phase. Raikkonen was the other driver to stop at the same time as Rosberg and clear air allowed him to move in to second place on the track at the end of the first stint.
Rosberg had fitted medium tyres but then had a bizarre problem when part of Hamilton's tyre carcass caught on the front of his car and was flying in his face for a number of laps. Having removed the debris, Rosberg's pace improved but impressive top speed from Red Bull allowed Vettel to keep him at bay and Bottas took advantage to pass the Mercedes as Ricciardo built up a substantial lead.
After the second stops, Rosberg was able to move through in to second place when Bottas pitted but Ricciardo pegged the gap at over three seconds and then edged away from the championship leader. As a result, Mercedes switched to a three-stop strategy and fitted softs for a short final stint.
With Hamilton retiring, Rosberg had to pass Bottas and Raikkonen on track but was comfortably the quickest car and did so with ease before closing a 20-second gap to less than four by the chequered flag. Bottas also dispatched Raikkonen using DRS with four laps to go but was never in contention for victory despite Rosberg's troubles.
Ricciardo calmly took victory but further back there was a big scrap for fifth place and Magnussen headed Alonso, Button and Vettel having already held off the Ferrari for a number of laps. Button appeared set to jump both in to Les Combes with three laps to go but Magnussen forced his team-mate wide at Rivage and both Alonso and Vettel were able to take advantage.
Alonso received similar treatment a lap later and Vettel – running on soft tyres after trying a similar strategy to Rosberg – moved in to sixth before passing Magnussen as well.
The result allows Rosberg to open up a 29-point lead over his team-mate in the championship, with Ricciardo now just 35 points behind Hamilton after back-to-back victories.