The Belgian Grand Prix Sunday at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps began well for Haas F1 Team, but a red-flag period scuttled the team’s strategy, leaving drivers Esteban Gutiérrez and Romain Grosjean 12th and 13th, respectively.
Grosjean got a great jump in the 44-lap race around the 7.004-kilometer (4.352-mile), 19-turn circuit. After starting 11th he avoided the chaos of the first turn of the opening lap by diving low through La Source to climb to fifth. He was passed by Force India’s Sergio Perez on lap four but quickly settled into sixth place. Gutiérrez also took advantage of the lap-one contretemps, where four cars were eliminated outright, and advanced from 18th to ninth.
When the safety car was deployed on lap six for Kevin Magnussen’s massive shunt at the top of Eau Rouge, Grosjean seized the opportunity to pit, swapping the Pirelli P Zero Yellow soft tires he started the race for a new set of Yellow softs. Gutiérrez pitted a lap later, emulating the strategy of his teammate. Following the pit stops, Grosjean was 10th and Gutiérrez was 13th, as a handful of drivers opted not to pit.
But as repair work on the wall where Magnussen hit became more involved, the red flag was displayed, and this circumstance compromised the team’s strategy.
The red-flag stoppage allowed the drivers who didn’t pit a free pit stop, as they were able to change tires on pit lane. This was incredibly advantageous for them, as no track position was lost. The positions they gained by staying out prior to the red flag were kept and the positions Grosjean and Gutiérrez picked up on the racetrack were greatly marginalized.
Nonetheless, 34 laps remained once the red flag was lifted, which meant plenty of opportunity remained. Proving this point was Grosjean’s lap-12 pass of Jolyon Palmer’s Renault for ninth. And on lap 16, Gutiérrez caught Palmer to pick up 12th. On the same lap, however, Scuderia Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel caught Grosjean to take ninth, and on lap 17, Williams’ Felipe Massa took over 10th. This put Grosjean and Gutiérrez 11th and 12th, respectively, at the start of lap 18.
As an energy-recovery system issue affected Grosjean’s speed, Gutiérrez was able to leapfrog his teammate for 11th on lap 18. While Gutiérrez looked ahead to 10th-place Daniil Kvyat of Toro Rosso, Grosjean was forced to look in his mirrors and defend his position, notably against Scuderia Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, who eventually passed Grosjean on the Kemmel Straight for 12th.
At the race’s halfway mark, Gutiérrez was 11th and Grosjean was 12th. Gutiérrez pitted for a new set of Pirelli P Zero White medium tires on lap 22 and Grosjean followed on lap 23, also opting for White mediums.
With pit stops having cycled through by lap 26, Gutiérrez was 13th and Grosjean was 15th.
Gutiérrez caught Kvyat on lap 27 to grab 12th. Gutiérrez and Grosjean each picked up a spot on lap 28 when Red Bull’s Max Verstappen pitted, with Gutiérrez climbing to 11th and Grosjean rising to 14th. But Verstappen’s speed was impressive, and he took back 14th from Grosjean on lap 29. As Verstappen drove up through the field, others came back toward Grosjean. Palmer was one of them, allowing Grosjean to jettison him for 14th on lap 32. Kvyatt was next in the crosshairs, with Grosjean passing him for 13th on lap 37. Verstappen, meanwhile, continued his charge, passing Gutiérrez for 11th, also on lap 37.
With seven laps remaining, Gutiérrez and Grosjean were running 12th and 13th, respectively, with a five-second margin between them. As the laps wound down, Grosjean was able to cut into Gutiérrez’s advantage, but time ran out and the checkered flag waved, leaving the duo 12th and 13th.
Thirteen rounds into the 21-race Formula One schedule, Haas F1 Team remains eighth in the constructor standings with 28 points. However, seventh-place now belongs to Toro Rosso, as McLaren jumped ahead of them thanks to Fernando Alonso’s seventh-place finish. The gap between Haas F1 Team and Toro Rosso is 17 points. Haas F1 Team kept its 22-point advantage over ninth-place Renault, as neither Magnussen nor Palmer finished in the points.
Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg won the Belgian Grand Prix by a whopping 14.113 seconds over Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo. The victory tightened the championship point standings, as Rosberg was able to slice 10 points from the lead held by his teammate, Lewis Hamilton. The gap between the two is now just nine points. The victory was Rosberg’s 20th in Formula One, his sixth of the season and his first at Spa.
Eight races remain on the 2016 Formula One schedule, with the next event coming in one week with the Italian Grand Prix at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza.