Vettel victory puts pressure on Hamilton
Sebastian Vettel won the Belgian Grand Prix for Ferrari yesterday, beating his world championship rival Lewis Hamilton into second place. The German proved to have the quicker car at Spa and put it to good use with a clinical piece of driving to which Hamilton and Mercedes had no answer.
Having taken the lead from Hamilton on the opening lap, Vettel went on to open a gap, exploiting the remarkable pace Ferrari could bring to this power-hungry circuit. The front runners got away cleanly but Nico Hülkenberg shunted Fernando Alonso going into La Source, sending the Spaniard airborne and ending both their races. The safety car was deployed but, crucially, Vettel had already made his move. The German slipstreamed Hamilton and passed him on the Kemmel Straight and had it done going through Les Combes. The overtake was executed perfectly and there was nothing Hamilton could do, while the two Force Indias made it four abreast on the approach to the corner. Racing resumed at the end of lap four but Hamilton went after Vettel too soon, locked up and was not close enough to try to retake the lead on the run to Les Combes. Vettel was able to eke out a lead of 3.2 seconds by lap 11.
By lap 17 Hamilton began turning in quick laps, bringing the deficit down and reporting that he felt confident in the grip from his supersoft tyres. But Mercedes opted to pit him first, coming in for the soft tyres on lap 22. Vettel closed off the move pitting a lap later for the same rubber and emerged in front of Verstappen and Hamilton. The British driver passed the Dutchman on the Kemmel Straight and set off after Vettel again, now 1.9 seconds back.
But Vettel was in control out front and knew he had the pace and it quickly became clear Hamilton could not challenge. The gap was 4.9 seconds by lap 29. The move on the opening lap had proved decisive, as had Ferrari’s superior pace. Vettel took the flag with an 11 second lead over his rival, the first blow of a fightback from which Vettel can take great heart.
(44 Laps): 1 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 1hr 26mins 50.253secs, 2 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1:27:01.314, 3 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1:27:21.625, 4 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes GP 1:27:53.858, 5 Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India 1:28:01.276, 6 Esteban Ocon (Fra) Force India 1:28:09.773, 7 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas F1 1:28:16.206, 8 Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas F1 1:28:17.892, 9 Pierre Gasly (Fra) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:28:36.145, 10 Marcus Ericsson (Swe) Sauber-Ferrari at 1 Lap, 11 Carlos Sainz (Spa) Renault at 1 Lap, 12 Sergey Sirotkin (Rus) Williams at 1 Lap, 13 Lance Stroll (Can) Williams at 1 Lap, 14 Brendon Hartley (Nzl) Scuderia Toro Rosso at 1 Lap, 15 Stoffel Vandoorne (Bel) McLaren at 1 Lap Not Classified: 16 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull 28 Laps completed, 17 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 8 Laps completed, 18 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Sauber-Ferrari 0 Laps completed, 19 Fernando Alonso (Spa) McLaren 0 Laps completed, 20 Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Renault 0 Laps completed Fastest Lap: Valtteri Bottas 1min 46.286secs on Lap 32 1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 231pts, 2 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 214, 3 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 146, 4 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes GP 144, 5 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 120, 6 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull 118, 7 Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Renault 52, 8 Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas F1 49, 9 Fernando Alonso (Spa) McLaren 44, 10 Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India 40, 11 Esteban Ocon (Fra) Force India 37, 12 Carlos Sainz (Spa) Renault 30, 13 Pierre Gasly (Fra) Scuderia Toro Rosso 28, 14 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas F1 27, 15 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Sauber-Ferrari13,16StoffelVandoorne(Bel) McLaren 8, 17 Marcus Ericsson (Swe) Sauber-Ferrari 6, 18 Lance Stroll (Can) Williams 4, 19 Brendon Hartley (Nzl) Scuderia Toro Rosso 2, 20 Sergey Sirotkin (Rus) Williams 0 1 Mercedes GP 375pts, 2 Ferrari 360, 3 Red Bull 238, 4 Renault 82, 5 Haas F1 76, 6 McLaren 52, 7 Scuderia Toro Rosso 30, 8 Sauber-Ferrari 19, 9 Force India 18, 10 Williams 4