Damage Limitation for Lewis This Weekend
It’s only Friday but already defending champion Lewis Hamilton is facing an awkward weekend in Belgium. No he hasn’t committed a crime and has Hercules Poirot chasing him, instead he has a 30-place grid penalty to cope with this weekend.
The massive grid penalty thankfully only applies to this weekend’s race. It’s been imposed afer Hamilton had to make engine changes to his Mercedes in both Friday’s practice sessions. There’s the possibillity he’ll face an even more severe penalty if a third new engine is fitted to his Mercedes.
Not surprisingly his reaction to the penalty is that this weekend “will be very hard.” Starting at the back of the grid means he’ll have to do one of those charges through the field and hope to get some points. He admits that won’t be so easy with Red Bull and Ferrari ahead of him. What’s his weekend all about? It’s simple as he told reporters, “It is about minimising the damage of taking the penalty.”
Luckily this penalty comes at a time when he has a healthy lead at the top of the table, not while he was chasing Nico Rosberg. Hamilton leads the title race by 19 points If Rosberg were to win this weekend then Lewis will need to finish at least sixth to come away from Belgium with more points than his team mate. If Rosberg can only manage second, then a top ten finish will see Hamilton still ahead of the field.
Rosberg reacted to the news by saying, “It will make the weekend less difficult for me but It is still a challenge because four weeks ago I finished behind two Red Bulls.” He still fears his team mate though adding, “there is no reason with a safety car or something why he can’t be right in the reckoning.”
It’s not just Lewis who has a grid penalty on Sunday. Fernando Alonso has a 35 place penalty after nightmares with his McLaren’s engine. It’s just a ten place penalty for Marcus Ericsson in his Sauber.
Friday’s practice sessions have certainly given Rosberg something to think about. First practice was no dent to his confidence as he finished fastest of all ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen. Mercedes were the only team though that used their super-soft tyre during this session.
Second practice saw the Red Bull cars fill the top two spots with Max Verstappen 0.2 seconds ahead of Daniel Ricciardo. Rosberg could only finish sixth with Hamilton down in 13th. However, Mercedes weren’t using their ultra-fast super-soft tyre saving that for Saturday’s qualifying, not that it matters much for Lewis of course. Rather than going for top spot, the two Mercedes were doing race preparation work.
It’s certainly going to make for an interesting weekend. Another engine change will lead to Hamilton being right at the back of the grid. Damage limitation here we come!! I’ll be back tomorrow with a report on qualifying, until then enjoy your racing.