Romain Grosjean enjoyed the pace of his Lotus and made repeated moves through Les Combes, as he did to perfection in taking third place from Pérez on lap 19, he was often lapping the quickest outside the two leaders and finished in a well-deserved third place, his first podium since the US Grand Prix in 2013. “It is a long run to Turn Five with great opportunities to overtake and we have a new starting system”.
The responsibility was being placed back in the hands of drivers – as opposed to the boffins sitting on the pit wall – and the premise was that it would lead to unpredictable starts and more dynamic racing.
And it was a tale of contrasting fortunes for the men who occupied the front row.
Speaking on the podium after the race, Hamilton expressed his delight and heaped praise on the Mercedes team for providing him with the dominant W06 Hybrid vehicle. Rosberg, in contrast, slumped to fifth.
Hamilton will leave Belgium in a much happier mood than he did in 2014 as he failed to finish last year’s race after the two Mercedes cars made contact on lap two with the Brit forced to retire later in the race.
Daniel Ricciardo, victor here last season, was up to third in his Red Bull. The Williams of Valtteri Bottas was ahead of Rosberg, but it did not last for long.
Asked to explain the turnaround in the balance of power at Mercedes in qualifying this year, Rosberg added: “Some, a small part of it, l can explain because l am trying to be stronger on Sundays and it is always a bit of a compromise”.
Hamilton then laid down the gauntlet to his rivals at the sharp end of the pack with a number of impressive laps. More in keeping with tradition, rain is forecast for Sunday.
Ricciardo was the first of the leading pack to pit at the end of lap six. The decision gave him an advantage against those who had stopped under the VSC and in the final few laps he carved his way through the order to finish fourth.
He had a point, but it did not matter. The different tyre compounds are defined by yellow, for option, and white for the prime.
Retaining the comical theme, Jenson Button suggested that McLaren had “forgotten to connect the batteries”.
“At the moment it’s a lot different to past year, obviously at this point”.
Behind Grosjean, Daniil Kvyat was fourth for Red Bull, Perez fifth and Felipe Massa sixth for Williams.
Sweden’s Marcus Ericsson took the final point for Sauber. The reigning Formula 1 world champion was clearly having a soothing 2nd ahead of the stress of this current weekend’s Belgian fixture, which comes after the four-week summer time break for divers & their teams.
“I completely messed up the start, which was very annoying”, said Rosberg, who left the circuit soon after the race to return to Monaco where his wife Vivian is expecting their first child.
Rosberg said Hamilton deserved his sixth win of the season.
“It’s definitely too early for that [title talk] but, as I said coming into this weekend, I wanted to get those pole positions and translate them into wins, and hopefully today’s the beginning of that”, he said.