Pierre Gasly, Toro Rosso, Spa-Francorchamps, 2018

2018 Belgian Grand Prix Star Performers

2018 Belgian Grand Prix

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Pierre Gasly, Max Verstappen and the Force India drivers were RaceFans’ stars of the Belgian Grand Prix weekend. Here’s why.


Pierre Gasly

Verstappen’s future team mate continued his strong qualifying form. In a Toro Rosso which was ill-equipped for Spa’s long straights he fell just short of Q3 and qualified 11th. Promoted to 10th thanks to Bottas’s engine penalty, Gasly dodged the lap one chaos to emerge in eighth. He stayed out longer than he preferred in the first stint under pressure from Ericsson.

However Ericsson lost time behind Brendon Hartley after pitting, which made the second stint much more comfortable for Gasly and he cruised to a solid points finish. His only mistake of the weekend? Spinning on his way out of the pits in final practice…

Max Verstappen

Red Bull knew Spa would be a struggle due to their power deficit on one of the most power sensitive tracks. Rain in Q3 could have been their opportunity, but Red Bull, expecting the rain to last longer, only fueled Verstappen for one flying lap, which meant he didn’t get to run when the track as at its driest.

Nonetheless Verstappen out-qualified Ricciardo and from there avoided the first corner carnage and passed Grosjean before the safety car was deployed. By lap 10 he was past both Force Indias, and though the rest of the race was a quiet one he was far enough up the road to finish ahead of the recovering Valtteri Bottas.

Esteban Ocon

Esteban Ocon, Force India, Spa-Francorchamps, 2018
Ocon did the business on a tough weekend for Force India
On a weekend which began with doubt over whether Force India would even race, Ocon delivered a superb third on the grid for the team in tricky conditions. The team gambled on starting a lap on slicks at the beginning of Q3, while the others pitted after their out laps, but the conditions were already too wet.

Their delayed switch to intermediates paid off in the end as their tyres were one lap fresher than their rivals’. The temptation to pull off a heroic four-wide pass on Hamilton, Vettel, and Perez at the start must have been huge, but Ocon wisely backed out at the last moment, though that cost him a place to Perez. Ocon’s strong performance was timely amid question marks over his future at Force India.

Sergio Perez

Both Force India drivers did their team proud last weekend. Although Perez was pipped by Ocon in qualifying, after a heart-stopping near-miss at Raidillon, he got ahead of his team mate in the race and finished there, as DRS meant he had no realistic chance of keeping Verstappen and Bottas behind.

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Nico Hulkenberg

Nico Hulkenberg, Renault, Spa-Francorchamps, 2018
Hulkenberg’s error was uncharacteristic and potentially dangerous
Nico Hulkenberg’s weekend was off to a bad start before it had really even started when he was forced to start from the back due to an engine change. However it was his own colossal – and uncharacteristic – mistake which ended his race early, along with that of four other drivers.

Heading into turn one he misjudged his braking point and punted Alonso over Leclerc. It set off a chain reaction that put Raikkonen and Ricciardo out too Hulkenberg readily accepted blame and was given a 10-place grid penalty for the Italian GP.

Stoffel Vandoorne

Last in all three practice sessions, plus qualifying and the race. It looked as though Stoffel Vandoorne had turned a corner when he reverted to an old chassis at the Hungaroring, but his home race was another struggle. It didn’t help matters that he suffered car problems throughout Friday and was pushed off at huge speed by Bottas during final practice.

In the race, McLaren gambled with their strategy and pitted Vandoorne for mediums during the early safety car. He was able to go to the end but he was so far off the pace of the rest of the field that he couldn’t make up any places.

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And the rest

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Spa-Francorchamps, 2018
Vettel demonstrated Ferrari’s superiority
Lewis Hamilton had the upper hand on Sebastian Vettel after a shower at the beginning of Q3 forced everyone on to intermediate tyres. It didn’t take Vettel long in the race to get by the Mercedes driver with the help of the slipstream and an upgraded Ferrari engine on the Kemmel Straight. He led every lap after that and came out just ahead of Hamilton thanks to a 2.2 second pit stop.

Damage from the lap one crash ultimately forced Raikkonen and Ricciardo out. Leclerc and Alonso were also eliminated through no thought of their own got unlucky thanks to Hulkenberg. Both were helpless to avoid the collision when Alonso was sent airborne over Leclerc and they both were both lucky to escape unscathed, particularly the Sauber driver.

Bottas was a part of a separate turn one crash when he braked too late and rear-ended the Williams of Sirotkin. He was forced to stop for a new front wing but still recovered to fourth, and kept the position despite a penalty.

Grosjean had a clean weekend with no accidents and finished ahead of his team mate in qualifying and the race, though Magnussen was stronger in the second stint. Ericsson took advantage of several retirements to score his fourth points finish of the season. He was stuck behind Gasly for the first stint and had to fight his way past Hartley afterwards.

Carlos Sainz Jnr had a less than impressive qualifying as he failed to make it out of Q1. His strategy in the race didn’t help his recovery efforts. He started on the mediums which lacked so much pace that when he switched to the super-softs halfway through the race he couldn’t make up the time.

Both Williams drivers managed to avoid the chaos on the opening lap and also avoided most of the action for the rest of the race since the car simply lacked the pace to fight with the other teams.

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2018 Belgian Grand Prix

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Author information

Josh Holland
USA-based Josh joined the RaceFans team in 2018. Josh helps produce our Formula 1 race weekend coverage, assists with our social media activities and...

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54 comments on “2018 Belgian Grand Prix Star Performers”

  1. Somewhat related question (but wouldn’t know where to ask this elsewhere): the defensive move from Ocon on Verstappen at Spa. Where does this differ from the defensive move from Verstappen on Ricciardo at their Baku get together?

    1. Well Max didn’t do the move so nobody cares

      1. +1

    2. Ricciardo took two cars out, Verstappen did not. Everything else looked exactly the same to me.

      1. Ric could have done like Max did. Go left or go right. But he didn’t.

        1. but Ocon did!

    3. The rules are that you can change line once to defend and then change line again at the corner to take the racing line, which is what Ocon did. Verstappen changed line in Baku to cover the inside, then when Ricciardo went to the outside Verstappen changed lines to cover the racing line – all legal. The problem was when Riccardo then went to the inside at the corner Max then illegally cut back to the inside leaving Ricciardo nowhere to go and a collision was the result.
      At Spa, once Ocon had moved back to the racing line he didn’t have any right to move to protect the inside before the corner when Max changed line to the inside. The rules gave Ocon no choice but to allow Verstappen the inside line, and Estaban followed the rules. Massive difference to Max in Baku.

      1. Exactly..I think those who see the Baku incident and spa in the same manner are watching formula 1 without knowing the rules,also Verstappen would have been penalized for that if he could have survived the crash and got some points in Baku.. Exactly how Vettel was penalized for the move on riccardio in Mexico 2016

        1. Show me the rule.
          (Vettel was penalized for moving under braking, an official rule that only lasted a couple of months, and was scrapped after the Vettel incident. Ironically enough, the rule was introduced after complaints from Vettel and other drivers in response to Verstappen’s defensive manoeuvres. Yet he was never penalized because he actually knows how to properly drive a car. See Baku-Spa)

      2. Max was on the inside, made a little move to the right and went back to the inside line. Even less movement from max than from Ocon, the only difference being: Max didn’t screw up his overtake, used his brain and passed easily where daniel made a stupid move and took them both out. That’s the only difference. And if you disagree: Please refer to the article in the rulebook that states Max move was illegal.

        1. That’s not the only difference.

          Baku: Verstappen is on the inside line, with Ricciardo in his slipstream with DRS. Ricciardo moves right and Verstappen moves right to cover him. Ricciardo then switches to his left and Verstappen moves left -> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36YFQTFzZwU

          Spa: Ocon is on the racing line, with Verstappen in his slipstream with DRS. Once they’re approaching the braking point, Ocon moves to cover the inside before Verstappen has moved. Once they reach the braking zone, Ocon goes back to the racing line and then Verstappen dives on the inside line and goes past him. -> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OszFizr0zUY (starting at 3:02)

          In Baku, Verstappen’s movements were a response to Ricciardo’s movements: they were blocking movements. In Spa, Ocon’s movements were plain old defensive driving. I honestly cannot understand why you think there are no differences between both maneuvers.

          1. Lol, Verstappen’s move to the right a blocking move? You gotta be joking, there is atleast room for 2 cars left to pass him on the right side. (He literally moves only 70cm to the right) Opposed to Ocon’s moves; which leave no room whatsoever.
            But hey, since you persist: Show me the rule that deems Verstappen’s move illegal, and ocon’s move legal. I’ll bow my head in shame and agree with you.
            (And a fantasy, gentlemen’s agreement rule book isn’t valid.)
            The only big difference still being Verstappen not crashing on some proper, legal, defensive driving opposed to Ricciardo, crashing on some proper, legal, defensive driving.

          2. @Smurfler

            Verstappen didn’t crash because Ocon stayed on the racing line. Had he moved towards the inside line when Verstappen had already commited to that line, they would’ve crashed and it would’ve been Ocon’s fault.

            I’ve never said that either manouver was legal or illegal. I just pointed out the obvious differences since you said that the only difference is that one of them didn’t end with both cars crashing. Verstappen moves towards Ricciardo’s trajectory, Ocon doesn’t. If you can’t see that I’d suggest removing your orange-tinted glasses.

          3. @warheart
            The only difference is: Max kept his head cool, didn’t react to Ocon, bided his time and passed Ocon smoothly where as Daniel saw the tinniest of openings emerge, went for it like an idiot and wrecked both their race.
            Regarding illegal or not: I stand corrected, you didn’t say that any move was illegal but you called Max his moves blocking moves, and to block more than once is actually illegal. Hence I interpreted it as calling it illegal.
            But hey, none of this matters, because by using this little sentence “If you can’t see that I’d suggest removing your orange-tinted glasses.” you have discredited all your opinions and made me realize you have nothing meaningful to contribute to this discussion.

    4. Michael Brown (@)
      29th August 2018, 11:31

      You can make a second move as long as it isn’t to defend the corner. When a driver defends but gets passed, they usually make a second move back on to the racing line. This is allowed because it isn’t a second move to defend the corner.

    5. Thanks for all the answers. Seems there is no consensus. Both moves weren’t penalized so not illegal. Seems all that remains are different opinions based on favouritism

  2. Stars: Vettel, Bottas, RPFI, Gasly, and Ericsson.
    Strugglers: Vandoorne, and Hulkenberg.

    1. @jerejj
      Lol, Bottas? He spun when it rained in Q3, broke his frontwing before turn 1 and got really lucky when the safetycar was deployed; saving him the embarressment of being lapped before lap 4. The guy was way below par this weekend to be considered a star performer; everything he got was thanks to that mighty Mercedes and had nothing to do with him being a star performer.

      Stars: No one really, but a lot of very, very solid performances by everyone not a struggler.
      Strugglers: Bottas, Sainz, Hulkenberg, Vandoorne, Ricciardo, Hartley, Stroll.
      Unlucky: Kimi, Leclerc and Alonso.

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        28th August 2018, 21:21

        And I think you are being a bit unreasonable saying Botats was a struggler. Hamilton went far too wide and onto the grass at once stage in qualifying. And Perez nearly walloped the barrier at the fastest corner of the track. But it didn’t cost either of them or Bottas so it didn’t matter at all. What Bottas did in practice can hardly count as him struggling either. From the stewards verdict, it was a unintentional mistake that only got a reprimand. hardly the definition of struggling. He did made a mistake in the race worth a 5 second penalty, but after that, recovered with an excellent race after that with some very impressive overtakes. Due to his other mistakes though i couldn’t rate him as a star performer, but he did not have a poor weekend given how good the majority of his race was. And his front wing damage wasn’t actually bad enough to have forced him to to have a really slow lap. I think you are missing something here. Before the safety car was deployed, he was staying ahead of Vandoorne and still went at a very high speed round the fastest corner of the track. So it will have only been about 2 thirds of a lap with the safety car. Then he pitted. It may have helped him and saved him quite a few seconds in the pits, but he still won’t have been anywhere near a lap down without the safety car by lap 4.

        1. I’m frankly not impressed with how good the majority of Bottas’s race was. How come he was slightly slower, on average, than Ricciardo who had the harder tire compound, a less powerful engine and a damaged car?
          (See the stats some 20 topics back)

          He should have been fast enough to threaten Verstappen. Instead he saw Verstappen widen the gap and was barely able to pass Perez.
          In that car he should have done better. A clear struggler for me.

        2. In my book, any driver who fails to set a time in his final qualifying session (not related to technical issues) and then ruins his front wing by his own mistake, forcing him to make an extra pitstop and losing atleast 40 seconds, is deemed a struggler. No matter how many safety cars and Merc horsepowers come to the rescue. To call him a star is beyond laughable to be honest.

          1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
            29th August 2018, 13:41

            Bottas had no need to set any time in qualifying in the last sssion did he? You can’t count that against him. If he needed to, he will have done another run. The idea of him being out will probably have been to give slipstream to Hamilton, But Bttas nearly spun rund and Hamilton went off that lap too. So Bttas went back to the pits as there was no need to continue.

            We can’t really conclude much of Bottas’s pace. It as up and down all the time indicating he sometimes won’t have been giving it full power. He was slowly approaching Perez, but then all of a sudden started catching by a second a lap. Mercedes were obviously only focussing on 4th place, so Botats had no need to go as fast as possible to impress the viewers. He was very fast when he needed to be. No way would I call him a star performer, but neither the opposite.

      2. Bottas and ricciardo strugglers? Ahah, how’s raikkonen unlucky but ricciardo struggler? You noticed he was keeping up with bottas who had a faster car all the way and that his only problem was being 2 laps down due to repairing the rear wing, right?

        Bottas might have made a small mistake at the start, but his recovery was great after that, and the spin in qualifying is irrelevant, he’d have started last regardless, he was there to try and give hamilton a slipstream.

        1. Ricciardo lacked speed all weekend, that’s why I deemed him a struggler.
          Kimi, on the other hand, was arguably the fastest this weekend but he got shafted by no mistake of his own.

    2. I’m a supporter of Bottas (just had drinks with some friends of his), but he was NOT a Star in Spa; closer to struggler than Star.

      PS I yesterday watched the race again (most was still as boring as the first time). I can now appreciate what Verstappen did when he was not in no man’s land. His overtake on Grosjean was at least as good as Vettel on Hamilton. And the overtakes on the Racing Point cars were stellar; especially the one on Ocon where DRS did not give him the pace/advantage and Verstappen opted to close DRS and overtaken on the inside (watch it again and again; great racing by both Verstappen and (defending) by Ocon).

    3. @jerejj I don’t agree on Bottas; I thought a reprimand for the prescribe incident with Vandoorne was lenient, given Gutierrez got a penalty for much the same thing two years ago.

      1. @keithcollantine I agree with you concerning the FP3 incident with Vandoorne that the reprimand was lenient given that similar incidents have previously tended to lead to a penalty.

  3. Stroll is the star performer for me. For my money, he’s done more than enough to warrant a promotion out of Williams.

  4. You know if Lewis had started second, took the lead on lap 1 and controlled the race from there, he would be a start in this blog. Just saying.

    1. STAR, edit button please.

    2. The French Grand Prix Star Performers called to say you are biased and wrong.

    3. LOL I guess if you want Vettel to be a star performer, you have to go to an Italian or German board. Personally I’m more of a everyone-but-Ferrari fan, so I don’t mind…

    4. How’s that old chestnut go? ‘If “ifs” and “buts” were candy and nuts, we’d all have a merry Christmas.’

      Vettel made a mistake last year, giving Hamilton slipstream too soon on Kemmel and letting him get back by. He said he studied that race intensely before this one, coming up with strategy to do it right this time. He didn’t get the typical lightning start he usually does this race, but when it came time for Eau Rouge/Raidillon and the pass, he couldn’t have timed it much better than he did, and Hamilton knew it (and said as much in post race interviews).

      I don’t think Hamilton struggled, but neither did he shine on Sunday (though he certainly did on Saturday in wild conditions, capitalizing on Ferrari’s confusion). Getting too close and locking at the bus stop on the restart is about all you can fault him. I don’t think it would have mattered. On the data, Wolff said the Ferrari could just keep pulling on the straight after their car reached top speed, and Ferrari’s better traction off the corners meant more top speed at the end of the straight.

      As an aside, Hamilton swerved toward Vettel massively to the left of the track at the start just like Vettel did to Verstappen at Singapore last year and no one has said a word about it being reckless. That’s because it wasn’t, and neither was Vettel’s move. What caused the disaster last year, ironically, was the preternaturally fast start Raikkonen got up the inside that squeezed Verstappen between them, something that Vettel could not have seen from his vantage point. Ferrari’s double pane mirrors this year might even be partially in response to that incident.

      1. I feel like you have missed what I was implying.

        1. looks like he has. but the post was very good nonetheless.

        2. Sorry @dusty, I did get a head of steam and went off on a tangent. No disrespect to your point.

    5. @dusty Yes, very likely

    6. @dusty Yes sir, you’re right This site is totally biased in its comments, in a very non-professional way. Regrettable.

  5. Vandoorne is struggeling massively, yet I’m still wondering how good he is. Mclaren has not given him the stability and reliability that he or any other driver for that matter needs.

    Mclaren is simply not the place to be for a rookie driver at the moment, or over the past 5 years really. Vandoorne would be wise to jump ship while he still has some credit to his namn thanks to his junior category results. Sauber would be a much better place for him to grow as a driver and earn a good reputation just as Perez and Magnussen have, after their Mclaren stint.

    1. It is somehow interesting to see that everything concerning the Belgian GP has disappeared from their website. The whole of Mac has failed once again and they know it.

      Leaving McL is the best Stoff can do, even a year out of F1 in the worst case in – say – Super Formula would do him good. I feel sorry for the guys at McL (formerly known as “the real big Mac”) who feel ashamed and embarrassed by the performance of the team.

      The drivers are both highly talented and hugely motivated, but if you have to fight an army with a kitchen knife, they reach the point where they just give up. Fernando decided to leave. Undersrandable!

    2. If Vandoorne is not Struggling, than Alonso must be Starring race after race. (even if just until turn 1).

  6. I’m just waiting for the tally :D so happy Grosjean is piecing ok weekends together now.

  7. Not sure how these “star” rankings work. Seems you need to beat your teammate, which is fair enough (even if they’ve been taken out at the first corner) but only have to finish where you should in the car you’re driving and not do anything special. I think then that we need Sirotken and Grosjean up there too, and wouldn’t argue if they were.

  8. Despite all, hulkenberg beat sainz in qualy with only one lap

    1. Surprised Sainz didn’t also make the strugglers list.

      1. Sainz capitalized what was in the mediocre Renault engine in a slow chassis.
        He did great.. but Renault dropped the ball ( again)

        1. Sainz also started on the hardest (wrong) tyre which compromised his race from the start.

  9. Ricciardo struggled all weekend, and the only reason he got caught up in the start crash was because he started so badly, had no reason to be down in about 12th at that point…

    1. Agreed, RIC is having a lot of off-days recently. The break did not do him any good it seems. Let’s hope Monza will bring some light at the end of the tunnel.

  10. I’m probably the only one here who believes Hulk is not F1 championship material.

  11. @danmar Hulk has his fair share of critics and doubters everywhere, nothing special about that. From the perspective of the saying that one’s results speak for themselves, Hulk hasn’t been that special.

  12. Gasly as a star performer? Who was left at the finish who he shouldn’t have finished ahead of?

Comments are closed.