Daniel Ricciardo took a sensational third win of the season as a second-lap clash between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton saw the German finish second after he shipped front wing damage. Hamilton eventually retired after a puncture sustained in the collision dropped him to the back of the field.
Ricciardo, who had started fifth, then passed Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and team-mate Sebastian Vettel to claim the lead. Mercedes attempted a three-stop plan to give Rosberg a shot at passing the Australian in the closing stages on soft tyres but a flawless drive saw the Australian take the chequered flag with 3.3s seconds in hand to claim his second win in a row.
Behind the front two, Valtteri Bottas took his fourth podium finish of the year, ahead of Spa specialist Kimi Raikkonen, for whom fourth represents a best result of the season.
The final stages were characterised by thrilling battle for fifth-place as Kevin Magnussen, Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel went wheel-to-wheel through the final three laps.
It was Vetttel who came out on top, thanks to fresher tyres. Magnussen was sixth ahead of Button and Alonso, whose race had been hampered by an early penalty received when his crew had remained on the grid too long prior to the formation lap.
Before the start, the Ferrari driver’s car was still on jacks as the parade lap began and though he finally got going, members of his crew were still on the grid inside the 15-second cut-off point before the formation lap. It would later earn him a five-second stop-go penalty.
At the start Hamilton got the jump on a slow-starting Rosberg and stole into the lead on the run up to La Source. Vettel too made a good start and passed his fellow German around the outside. Vettel then attempted to overtake Hamilton into Les Combes but outbraked himself, ran wide and rejoined behind Rosberg.
The drama wasn’t over, however. On the following lap Rosberg attempted a pass on the outside of his team-mate at Les Combes, but as Hamilton held his line and Rosberg kept going the pair collided, the right side of Rosberg’s front wing clipping the rear left-tyre of Hamilton’s car.
The Briton immediately swerved off track with a puncture while Rosberg shipped heavy front-end damage. Hamilton limped back to the pits for a new wheel, but while Rosberg reported much damage he was told to stay out and see how matters developed.
Behind the front two, Ricciardo was on the move, passing Alonso at Les Combes. He was soon on Vettel’s tail and overtook his team-mate when the champion ran wide at Pouhon. The Australian then set off after Rosberg who appeared to be suffering badly due to the front wing damage. Ricciardo closed to within a second and Mercedes took the decision to pit the leader for a new wing and medium tyres. The Red Bull driver assumed the lead.
Valtteri Bottas too was making a move. The Finn passed Alonso for third on lap eight, overtaking the Ferrari under DRS on the Kemmel Straight.
Rosberg was soon in trouble again. On lap 10 he picked up some debris on the track while racing down the Kemmel Straight. The debris became entangled in the aerial on the nose cone of his car and fluttered dangerously around his steering wheel.
Alonso, meanwhile, was handed a five-second stop-go penalty by the stewards, which he elected to serve during the first round of stops.
That round of stops was completed by the end of lap 15. Ricciardo, on softs, still led, with Kimi Raikkonen now second ahead of Vettel. Rosberg, who took on medium tyres during his stop, was now fourth ahead of Bottas, Magnussen and Alonso. Hamilton was now 16th and some 16 seconds adrift of Sauber’s Adrian Sutil.
On lap 16 Rosberg attempted to pass Vettel for third place but ran wide under braking and the error allowed Bottas to close and eventually pass the Mercedes driver under DRS on the following lap as the pair raced down the long Kemmel Straight.
Rosberg then reported that he was getting significant vibration from the tyre he had lit up attempting the pass on Vettel and he was forced to pit again on lap 19, taking on more medium rubber. He rejoined in 11th place but was soon up to ninth behind Sergio Perez.
Raikkonen made his second stop from second place on lap 21, taking on medium tyres. Vettel took his set of mediums on lap 22 and rejoined in P8. Ricciardo pitted from the lead on lap 27, taking on medium tyres, which he would race to the flag. Bottas now assumed the lead, having stopped just once, ahead of Rosberg who had made two stops and carved his way through the pack.
Bottas pitted on the very next lap, which promoted Rosberg back to the lead he had lost on lap eight. The German, on 10-lap-old medium tyres, would need to stop again, though with Bottas rejoining in fifth and new third-place man Raikkonen also possibly requiring another stop, Rosberg was told he was a “safe second”.
On lap 31, Bottas passed Vettel for fourth place and seemed set to secure his podium place as both Vettel and third-placed Raikkonen looked set to take on fresh tyres, whereas Bottas was on a two-stop plan.
With 10 laps to go Rosberg and Vettel made their stops, with both taking on soft tyres, aimed at utilising the tyre’s better pace to see what they could achieve against the two-stoppers on ageing prime tyres.
Rosberg rejoined in fourth and quickly dismissed Bottas and Raikkonen, but now the German was 22 seconds down on Ricciardo. That was simply too big a gap to make up to the Australian and the Mercedes driver settled in the end for his safe second place.
Behind him Raikkonen defied expectation, the Finn attempting to cling on to third on the set on prime tyres he had taken on at the end of lap 21. It was a brave choice but ultimately one that failed as Bottas, breezed past the Ferrari on the Kemmel Straight four laps from home.
With Raikkonen secure in fourth, a furious battle developed for fifth. Magnussen held fifth but a train was building up behind him, featuring Alonso, Button and the hard-charging Vettel.
A titanic battle ensued, with at times, the drivers racing four abreast on the run to Les Combes. Vettel eventually made his better pace on newer tyres tell and he went on to claim fifth ahead of Magnussen, Button and Alonso. It wasn’t without a price though and Magnussen was placed under investigation after the race for his driving during the period. He was later handed a drive-through penalty and had 20 seconds added to his time, which dropped him to 12th in the classification.
The penalty meant Button would be classified sixth, with Alonso seventh ahead of Sergio Perez, Daniil Kvyat, while Nico Hulkenberg took the final point on offer.
At the front, Ricciardo took a calm and controlled third career win, to leave him on 156 points, just 35 behind championship contender Hamilton, who stays on 191 points. Rosberg, meanwhile, moves to 220 points and a healthy title lead as the championship heads towards Monza.
2014 Belgian Grand Prix – Race
1 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 44 Winner 5 25
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 44 +3.3 secs 1 18
3 Valtteri Bottas Williams 44 +28.0 secs 6 15
4 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 44 +36.8 secs 8 12
5 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing 44 +52.1 secs 3 10
6 Kevin Magnussen McLaren 44 +54.2 secs 7 8
7 Jenson Button McLaren 44 +54.5 secs 10 6
8 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 44 +61.1 secs 4 4
9 Sergio Perez Force India 44 +64.2 secs 13 2
10 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 44 +65.3 secs 11 1
11 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 44 +65.6 secs 18
12 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 44 +71.9 secs 12
13 Felipe Massa Williams 44 +75.9 secs 9
14 Adrian Sutil Sauber 44 +82.4 secs 14
15 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 44 +90.8 secs 20
16 Max Chilton Marussia 43 +1 Lap 19
17 Marcus Ericsson Caterham 43 +1 Lap 22
18 Jules Bianchi Marussia 39 +5 Laps 16
Ret Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 38 +6 Laps 2
Ret Romain Grosjean Lotus 33 +11 Laps 15
Ret Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1 +43 Laps 17
Ret Andre Lotterer Caterham 1 +43 Laps 21