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Class of the Field
Adam Barton

A Formula One fan since he was six, back while Häkkinen and Schumacher were having many an epic battle, Adam has seen a great deal. From German domination (twice), to British determination (once) and a Spanish invasion. A near compulsive fan who one day hopes to write about the sport for a living, outside of F1 Adam also authors his own blog One Guy's Opinion.

Grosjean enjoys a day at the Spa - Frenchman secures key Haas milestone


F1 got back into action with a lazy Sunday afternoon drive through the Ardennes forest. There were a few flash points, largely triggered by friendly fire as the Force India drivers took turns in trying to “kill” each other. Their incompetence will lead to a completely different team dynamic and opportunities for points for more midfield runners.

Grosjean brakes Haas record

Romain Grosjean, Haas F1 Team: Started 11th, Finished 7th

Grosjean helps Haas surpass their 2016 points total
Credit: Haas F1 Team

Haas seem to be either the most underachieving team or the most overachieving team of the season. That level of inconsistency has led to some stunning results and some catastrophic disappointments as Haas put together their difficult second album but the Belgian GP was a clear sign of improvement. Grosjean’s seventh place meant that they have now surpassed their points total from 2016 (a 21-race season) after just 12 races of this season, having been stuck on the same tally of points since Austria.

Part of Haas progression has been down to having two drivers capable of points, however drives like Grosjean’s in Belgium are a clear example of the progression of the team. The American team tend to be right on the outskirts of Q3, which proved the case again at Spa, with the pair finishing 12th and 13th in Q2, though Grosjean was nearly three tenths faster on the deciding laps.

Drives like Grosjean’s in Belgium are a clear example of the progression of the team

Come Sunday, Grosjean lost out to his teammate off the line dropping back to twelfth, having benefitted from Palmer’s gearbox penalty. Grosjean would repass the Dane on lap 4 before Haas were one of the first two teams to pull the trigger on the pitstops, with Magnussen in on lap 9 and Grosjean on lap 10. The strategy worked as it jumped Grosjean ahead of Alonso and into the points. That became ninth when Sainz finally made his stop. Then came the drama, Force India wanted to try the undercut to stay ahead of Grosjean and pitted both drivers before Pérez edged Ocon into the old pit wall, allowing Grosjean to pit from seventh under the Safety Car, relatively unchallenged ahead of Magnussen.

At the restart, Grosjean was in search of a better result. Unchallenged by Massa behind, Grosjean set after Hülkenberg’s sixth place but was unable to make a move, holding on to the German to finish three seconds behind. The only disappointment for Haas was Magnussen’s restart, as he outbraked himself into the Bus Stop from ninth, dropping to last and nearly taking out Grosjean in the process. In the end, Haas will be happy with a ninth points finish, four more than the entire 2016 season.

Opportunistic Ricciardo earns podium

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing: Started 6th, Finished 3rd

Ricciardo potentially faced a lonely race
Credit: Getty Images / Red Bull

While the Aussie has been found wanting at times for one lap pace, there’s no doubt that his control and consistency is propping up Red Bull in the Constructors’ championship. Without Ricciardo’s points, the Austrian outfit could easily be in a dogfight with Force India for third in the championship.

Instead, Ricciardo secured third on the podium, his sixth of the season to Verstappen’s one. After Verstappen’s early retirement, Ricciardo potentially faced a lonely race, but he was just about able to keep Kimi Räikkönen’s Ferrari in view during the first stint. Then the race started coming to the Aussie. Räikkönen received a stop-go penalty, giving Ricciardo a chance to fight for fourth.

In fact, once the Finn had served his penalty, Ricciardo’s pace was good as the gap remained stable at around half a minute. That was wiped out by the Force India-triggered safety car, leaving Ricciardo with defensive work to do. However, he wasn’t done fighting for a podium, the Aussie got a great restart and picked up Bottas’ tow. He moved left as Bottas defended the inside. The Renault power didn’t let him down as he was able to hold the line. The move was complicated as Räikkönen got involved too, moving to the inside late and making it three wide in a move that resembled Häkkinen vs. Schumacher. This time, Ricciardo made the outside line work in a stunning move to progress to third as he went full honey badger. With the move done, the Red Bull had just enough pace in the corners and power on the straights to secure third place and further improve his reputation.

Hülkenberg best of the rest – easily

Nico Hülkenberg, Renault F1 Team: Started 7th, Finished 6th

While Hülkenberg was put thoroughly in the shade by Palmer in Spa, when the chips were down, the German came alive. As Palmer’s rotten luck continued with a gearbox problem in Q2, leaving him stranded in fifteenth on the grid, Hülkenberg matched his Q2 time, which was enough to beat the Force Indias as the Silverstone squad struggled for pace in Q3.

Hülkenberg eked out a gap to score best of the rest in sixth
Credit: Renault Sport F1

After a brief duel with Alonso, Hülkenberg was again left struggling to match the Red Bulls ahead

From seventh on the grid, it seemed as though Hülkenberg would be looking backwards during the race without the pace to challenge those ahead. That appeared even more likely as a poor start left him needing a desperate lunge into La Source to fend off the Force Indias. As the pink panthers got a little too close for comfort exiting the corner, Hülkenberg was able to take seventh into Eau Rouge. After a brief duel with Alonso, including a great move into the Bus Stop, Hülkenberg was again left struggling to match the Red Bulls ahead. He jumped up to sixth with Verstappen’s retirement, as he started building a five second gap to the duelling Force Indias. Hulk’s race became more interesting with Räikkönen’s penalty. Once served, Hulkenberg was able to hold off Raikkonen for eight laps before Räikkönen got back past on lap 25.

Force India made a desperate attempt to get back on terms by using the undercut which then went rather pear-shaped. Renault could then make a pitstop with the pressure off and a 16 second gap to Grosjean. After the restart, Hülkenberg eked out a gap to secure best of the rest in sixth, to consolidate 10th in the championship and further tighten up the gap between Renault in eight and Williams in fifth to just 11 points.