Vet­tel vic­tory puts pres­sure on Hamil­ton

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Sports -

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

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