Belgian Grand Prix – Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel has taken victory at Spa-Francorchamps. He held off Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton to win after a first lap crash wiped out several runners.
Heading into Turn 1 on the opening lap, Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg appeared to lose control of his car under braking. With his front brakes locked up, he slammed into the back of Fernando Alonso’s McLaren, which pushed the Spaniard into the back of Charles Leclerc’s Sauber. Flying over the Sauber, all three cars were out on the spot. The contact also damaged Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull Racing rear wing, and punctured Kimi Raikkonen’s right rear tyre.
Hamilton, who had held off Vettel through Turn 1, was passed down the Kemmel Straight as Vettel capitalised on a strong headwind to slipstream past his championship rival. Having completed the pass, the Safety Car was immediately deployed and racing neutralised.
The order, under Safety Car, was Vettel, Hamilton, Perez, Ocon, Verstappen, Grosjean, Magnussen, Gasly, Ericsson, Sirotkin, while Ricciardo & Raikkonen were right at the back after pitstops to repair damage. Raikkonen retired shortly after, with Ferrari saying the damage was too much to continue. Ricciardo kept going on track in what effectively was a testing session before opting to retire the car.
Throughout the first stint, Vettel slowly inched away from Hamilton to open up a four second lead. While Hamilton closed up a little through the sole pitstops after using the undercut, Vettel’s pace in the second half of the race on the Soft tyre was immense. Just 1.5 seconds clear of Hamilton immediately after the pitstops at half distance, Vettel’s eventual winning margin was over eleven seconds.
Max Verstappen disptached both Force Indias before the pitstops to move up to P3. He had a lonely race from there and more than thirty seconds clear of Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas. The Merc driver, who started from the back, came in under the Safety Car to change his Softs for SuperSofts and ran what effectively became a one stop strategy from there as he pitted for fresh SuperSofts again towards the end. This allowed him to come back strongly and pass the two Force Indias on track to claim P4, ahead of Sergio Perez & Esteban Ocon.
Romain Grosjean & Kevin Magnussen had another strong race for Haas, with a double points finish again with P7 & P8 having ran a straightforward one stop strategy from SuperSoft to Soft tyres. Pierre Gasly finished P9 for Toro Rosso, with Marcus Ericsson claiming the final points position for Sauber in P10.
Renault, having lost one car on the first lap, weren’t able to get Carlos Sainz back up into the points as the Spanish driver had to settle for P11. Sergey Sirotkin was P12 for Williams, ahead of Lance Stroll. Brendon Hartley was P14 in the second Toro Rosso, while Stoffel Vandoorne was the last classified runner in P15 for McLaren.
The retirements were Daniel Ricciardo, Kimi Raikkonen, Charles Leclerc, Fernando Alonso & Nico Hulkenberg.
Vettel’s victory reduces his points deficit to 17 points behind Lewis Hamilton with eight races remaining.