x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Paul di Resta's Belgian Grand Prix ends in more disappointment

Force India driver's race weekend proved as undulating as the ups and downs of Belgium's most famous track, reports Gary Meenaghan.

Paul di Resta's Force India car is helped off the track by marshals at Spa. Francois Lenoir / Reuters
Paul di Resta's Force India car is helped off the track by marshals at Spa. Francois Lenoir / Reuters

SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS // Paul di Resta's race weekend proved as undulating as the ups and downs of Belgium's most famous track. With its vertiginous climb towards the clouds at Eau Rouge and its dipping, winding turns around the Ardennes forest, Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps looked set to be the scene of the Scotsman's first pole position on Saturday, yet ended in a Sunday of disappointment for the Force India driver.

Di Resta came within one minute of starting Sunday's race from the front of the grid when, during qualifying, he benefited from a mid-session downpour to post the fastest lap time. However, as the track dried out in the dying seconds, four drivers eclipsed his time to relegate him to a fifth-place start.

After a poor getaway, he slipped further back to 10th, but recovered to climb to seventh before colliding with Pastor Maldonado while racing in a train of four cars that included teammate Adrian Sutil. The damage forced him to retire for the second time this season, while Sutil finished ninth to provide Force India their first points in three races.

"Pastor went in deep and missed the apex, so I tried to get the cutback and was going around the outside of him," Di Resta said of the incident, which occurred at the end of Lap 29. "He then decided to try and enter the pit lane, which was impossible given his track position. As a result, he hit me, which took the rear corner off my car. It's a real shame because the speed was quite strong and there was definitely a point or two up for grabs."

Kimi Raikkonen also suffered a premature end to his race after suffering brake failure and returning to the pits on Lap 25. It marked the Finn's first retirement in 38 races and the first time he has failed to finish in the points since last season's Chinese Grand Prix, 27 races ago.

"There were some brake issues at the beginning of the race, but we were managing them and it was going OK until we had to retire," the Lotus driver, who started from eighth on the grid, said. "We've finished a lot of races and had some good reliability. One day your luck has to run out and this was that day."

Eric Boullier, the Lotus team principal, said an investigation will be carried out to determine the reason for the failure, but added he already has an idea why it happened.

Raikkonen's championship challenge inevitably suffered as he fell to third in the drivers' standings behind Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso, who finished first and second in the race respectively.

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

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