Vettel controls Spa to take Belgian GP victory

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Belgium, Circuit De Spa-Francorchampsbe

Sebastian Vettel had won the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, leading the race after gaining the lead in the first lap. After getting passed after 3 corners, Hamilton ran the entire race in second place while Max Verstappen completed the podium for Red Bull Racing.

Following the complicated conditions of qualifying, the weather for the race was more straight forward, with cloudy, but clear conditions, perfectly suitable for a proper Grand Prix.

As the lights went out, Hamilton had a solid start, but had to go left to defend first place from Vettel, who seemed to have an even better getaway. Ocon and Perez stayed behind, followed by Verstappen, Grosjean and Magnussen.

Meanwhile, Ricciardo got involved in an accident that saw him lose his rear wing and bump into the right rear tyre of Raikkonen. The latter had a puncture, forcing him into the pits with a change to medium tyres. Ricciardo on the other hand pitted as well, but mechanics needed some time before his car was repaired. Ricciardo came back out on track 2 laps down on the leader.

Totally seperate, Bottas ran into the back of a Williams as he was surprised by the latter braking early for Turn 1.

The major incident was however when Hulkenberg braked too late and ran into the back of Alonso. This pushed the McLaren driver onto the rear of Leclerc, sending him up into the air and badly damaging the McLaren car. This immediately caused a DNF for the three men involved, with a Safety Car coming on track for the next 4 laps.

Just before bringing the SC out on track, Vettel passed Hamilton for the lead on the Kemmel Straight with amazing ease, having enjoyed a much faster exit out of the Raidillon than Hamilton. Both Racing Point Force India cars even seemed to change the same position, but as they braked earlier, the retained third and fourth, albeing with Perez ahead of Ocon.

As soon as the race got restarted, Verstappen put on a challenge to Ocon and soon passed him to take fourth position. The Dutchman went on to pass Perez for third 3 laps later, much to the enjoyment of the numerous Dutch fans.

On lap 7, Raikkonen pitted to try to get DRS fixed, but was back in the pits just one lap later. This time, it was to retire from the race. The Finn initially asked his team to check the stats and the tyres, because "something is not right", before reporting "oh, but DRS is open on the straight and I didn't push it. No wonder I have no rear end. It's open all the time".

After Verstappen's moves, positions at the front settled, and gaps slowly increased. Hamilton remained relatively close to Vettel at 3.2s, running nearly identical laptimes. Verstappen was slower, and lost lap by lap, resulting in a 14s deficit on Hamilton by lap 18. Perez followed another 13s further down, with Ocon, Grosjean and Magnussen each a further 4s behind.

Bottas had improved to 8th while Gasly and Ericsson completed the top 10.

At the end of lap 20, Hamilton was the first to pit, changing his set of supersofts to yellow-marked soft tyres. Hamilton returned back out on track in third position, 1.8s down on Verstappen. The move was quickly replied by pitting Vettel as Hamilton was blisteringly quick on his new softs. In fact, when Vettel returned out on track, Hamiton chased Verstappen and then passed him on the Kemmel Straight, positioning himself into second again, this time just 1.7s down on the leading Ferrari.

What followed were a series of highly competitive laps, with differences very tiny until on lap 26, Hamilton suddenly lost a full second, followed by another 0.7s loss in the next lap. This increased the gap up to 3.8s, back to where they were before the stops. Radio messages revealed that blistering was causing Hamilton to lose some performance, an issue that seemed not to affect the Ferrari driver.

Meanwhile, others stopped too while Bottas had a long first stint until switching to softs 15 laps from the end. Pitting from fourth, he returned to the track 3s down on Ocon, and ahead of both Haas cars. Soon, that gap was closed, and on lap 32, the Finn passed Ocon to take 5th. This left him 6s down on Perez, a gap he tackled fiercely with some fastest laps and generally a stronger pace than the Racing Point Force India of Perez. On lap 40, Bottas breezed past the pink car of Perez to take 4th, positioning Mercedes for a solid result.

Vettel though was out of reach, and went on to victory with an advantage of around 10s over Hamilton.

Results

Pos.No.DriverCarLapsTimePts
15Sebastian VettelFerrari441:23:34.47625
244Lewis HamiltonMercedes AMG44+11.061s18
333Max VerstappenRed Bull Racing TAG Heuer44+31.372s15
477Valtteri BottasMercedes AMG44+63.605s12
511Sergio PerezForce India Mercedes44+71.023s10
631Esteban OconForce India Mercedes44+79.520s8
78Romain GrosjeanHaas Ferrari44+85.953s6
820Kevin MagnussenHaas Ferrari44+87.639s4
910Pierre GaslyScuderia Toro Rosso Honda44+105.892s2
109Marcus EricssonSauber Ferrari43+1 lap1
1155Carlos SainzRenault43+1 lap0
1235Sergey SirotkinWilliams Mercedes43+1 lap0
1318Lance StrollWilliams Mercedes43+1 lap0
1428Brendon HartleyScuderia Toro Rosso Honda43+1 lap0
152Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren Renault43+1 lap0
NC3Daniel RicciardoRed Bull Racing TAG Heuer28DNF0
NC7Kimi RäikkönenFerrari8DNF0
NC16Charles LeclercSauber Ferrari0DNF0
NC14Fernando AlonsoMcLaren Renault0DNF0
NC27Nico HulkenbergRenault0DNF0