Sebastian Vettel reduced Lewis Hamilton’s championship lead to 17 points after sealing a commanding victory in Belgium.
Ferrari’s Vettel passed pole-sitter Hamilton on the opening lap of the Spa-Francorchamps race before taking the chequered flag 11 seconds clear of his rival.
Unlike in the wet of qualifying 24 hours earlier, Hamilton’s Mercedes was no match for Vettel, with Red Bull driver Max Verstappen completing the podium places.
Fernando Alonso was sent airborne over the Sauber of Charles Leclerc after Nico Hulkenberg crashed into the back of the Spaniard’s McLaren at the opening bend.
But all three drivers walked away from the terrifying crash with Alonso suggesting the halo, the cockpit protection device controversially introduced this season, may have avoided serious injury to Leclerc.
Following back-to-back victories for Hamilton before the summer break, Vettel needed to stop the rot on Formula One’s return to action here in the Ardennes forest.
On Saturday, Hamilton took advantage of a rain shower in qualifying to secure the front slot on the grid, but Vettel won the race by moving past his rival in the opening exchanges.
Hamilton held off Vettel at La Source but then he was unable to stop the Ferrari car from sailing past him on the ensuing Kemmel Straight.
Vettel came under pressure from Hamilton at the right-handed Les Combes but the Ferrari man held the racing line to retain the lead. The safety car was then deployed following the chaotic start behind the leaders.
Hulkenberg missed his braking point for La Source, and in a plume of tyre smoke careered into the back of Alonso’s McLaren. The force of the impact sent Alonso into the air and over the top of Leclerc’s Sauber.
The front of Alonso’s car then hit Leclerc’s halo. The three-pronged halo which sits above the driver’s head became mandatory this year, and Alonso said it did its job.
“I flew over his [Leclerc] car and the halo was a very good thing to have today,” the 37-year-old said. “Looking at the replay I think it helped him.”
The race resumed at the end of lap four but Ferrari’s superiority in the dry paid dividends as Vettel romped to a timely win with the Italian team’s home race in Monza just a week away.
“Lewis pushed me quite far to the left at the first corner, but I knew my chance would be up the hill and I climbed it well,” said Vettel as he explained his start.
“My timing was crucial and I managed it perfectly. As soon as I was ahead I was quite relieved. After the safety car, I had a good re-start and a very good exit so after that it was a very smooth race. A great weekend.”
Hamilton added: “Congratulations to Seb. I did everything I could in the race. He drove past me like I wasn’t there on the straight.
“They [Ferrari] have got a few trick things going on in the car so we have got to keep pushing to see if we can catch up.”
Verstappen started seventh but finished third after cruising past the Force India cars of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon and Romain Grosjean’s Haas in the early stages.
Valtteri Bottas moved up 13 places to fourth despite suffering front wing damage after hitting Sergey Sirotkin’s Williams on the first lap. Perez and Ocon finished fifth and sixth for the Force India team.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen both retired with car damage after the Australian hit the Ferrari on the opening lap.
That is all from me today
But I will be back next week for the Italian Grand Prix, where Ferrari will again be favourites.
It was not the most exciting grand prix today but there were at least a few talking points and with retirements for Ricciardo and Raikkonen it allowed Haas and Force India to pick up some valuable points.
At the front, though, it was Sebastian Vettel’s day. Just like his Red Bull days (well, almost like his RB days, when he would have been on pole) once he got in the lead he didn’t look like giving it up. Mercedes and Hamilton had no answer.
The worry for the Silver Arrows is that it may happen again. They struggled with blistering for both cars today and that is also a problem. Ferrari have had the quickest car for some time now – they just haven’t really made it pay as much as they should have.
Is Vettel now the favourite for the title? Probably not but he will be feeling fairly happy with things after today. A win that he desperately needed. Thanks for joining me. Stay tuned for more reaction and analysis on these pages later today and tomorrow.
A poor weekend for Renault, who lost a lot of ground to Haas in Belgium
They are now just six points ahead of them and could well lose more points in Monza. The Renault engine is not known for its power…
Hulkenberg and Leclerc talk about that first corner incident
It was caused by Hulkenberg crashing into the back of Alonso at a fair speed.
No, no problem. It’s just to incredible to find out how sensitive these cars are how much grip and load you lose with cars in front of you. I instantly locked up the front wheels and slid into Fernando. Probably a misjudgment on my side, a bit too keen.
We have to go the stewards at 5.30 and lay it all out.
The halo probably helped today but it’s very unfortunate. I think our potential of the race today is big. Our pace was strong and I was in a good place. Definitely the place was strong. I don’t know if it’s a problem [with Hulkenberg’s car] or if it’s a mistake from himself. It was probably a little bit too much.
Updated constructor standings
- Mercedes – 375
- Ferrari – 360
- Red Bull – 238
- Renault – 82
- Haas – 76
- McLaren – 52
- Toro Rosso – 30
- Sauber – 19
- Force India* – 18
- Williams – 4
*The current Force India are technically a new entity and started from zero points as of this grand prix. Whether the old Force India entry should be included in the overall table is up for debate. The official F1 website have not updated their standings and other sources include both Force India teams…so it’s a little confusing, I guess.
“We were swallowed up on the straight” – Mercedes boss Toto Wolff
He says they have to stay humble. They were not the quickest car.
We are lacking traction and really just not where we should be on the slow speed. That’s not good at all, we were blistering the tyres. I do not see many positives from today.
Really they have been behind Ferrari for a little while now but Vettel’s errors and Hamilton’s skill have kept them ahead. They may need some more of that if they are to take a lead into the latter stages of the season. Lots of work for them to do. The only positive was increasing the gap to Ferrari in the title.
Vettel celebrates on top of his victorious prancing horse
This was definitely a victory he needed. Ferrari had the fastest car in Germany and Hungary but he could only take 18 points from those two races as Hamilton won them both. With the most power sensitive circuit next up at Monza that plays into the hands of Ferrari as well. A win there and the Hamilton’s lead would be down to 10 points at worst.
Updated driver standings – top six
- Hamilton – 231
- Vettel – 214
- Raikkonen – 146
- Bottas – 144
- Verstappen – 120
- Ricciardo – 118
Bottas closing up on Raikkonen and Verstappen overtaking Ricciardo for the first time this season, I think.
Ah the familiar combination of the German/Italian national anthems
Mercedes take some points out of Ferrari there. Force India move above Williams into ninth place after just one race (as a new entity in F1).
The top 10, by the way…
I called a points finish for Sauber and Marcus Ericsson did not disappoint me. Well done, another points finish for the Swede after so long without one before 2018.
It’s all very tense in the cool down room
As it often is. Well, it seems tense but I am sure they’re quite tired. Vettel asks Hamilton about his tyres and gets a short answer.
Vettel gave his team some Billy Ocean on the radio after his victory
Red Light Spells Danger. Nice.
Max Verstappen on his third place
The crowd are mad for him here.
I mean, especially after the first 10 or 12 laps initially it was a bit chaotic and I had to get past a few cars. Very happy to be on the podium here. You know before we have been a bit unlucky. I am very happy with today.
Lewis Hamilton reacts to second place
We did everything we could. I did everything I could. He drove past me like I wasn’t even there on the straight. I think I probably could have [passed him at the restart] but he would have just sailed past me on the straight. They have got a few trick things going on in the car. We’ve just got to keep working.
Vettel reacts to his 52nd career victory
Well, yeah. More wins than Alain, I think…woah. First lap I had a great start and I’m not sure Lewis saw me. I knew my chance would be later on up the hill. I think I timed it well. Timing is crucial and I managed that perfectly. As soon as I was ahead I was quite relieved. Then with the Safety Car it was the other way around. I had a good restart. After that it was a very smooth race. Lewis push hard, especially in the first stint but second stint we could turn everything down.
I could see he wasn’t really pushing any more the last 15 laps so I could relax a little bit more. Now obviously looking forward to next week.
A deserved victory
Mercedes did not have an answer to Ferrari and that will be a worry.
Vettel is rightly delighted after his troubles in recent rounds.
SEBASTIAN VETTEL WINS THE 2018 BELGIAN GRAND PRIX!
A flawless race from the German. He takes seven valuable points out of Lewis Hamilton’s championship lead! It was a fairly easy afternoon for him all in all.
Hamilton comes home in second and Max Verstappen drives well to third, in a race of his own.
Lap 40 of 44 – Vettel cruising, leading by 7.6s
What’s happening elsewhere? Not a lot. Bottas gets DRS down the Kemmel straight and goes past Perez into fourth. Ericsson now 13s ahead of Sainz for the final points position.
Lap 38 of 44 – Vettel extends his lead to seven seconds
Took nearly a whole second out of Hamilton on the last lap. Hamilton does not have the pace to trouble him right now. And laps are running out. Bottas nearly within DRS range of Perez…
Lap 37 of 44 – Bottas now within two seconds of Perez
Four tenths out of him on the last lap. Vettel untroubled at the front.
Lap 36 of 44 – Vettel leads by 5.5s
Where will the action be at the end? If any.
Mostly around Bottas and Perez I think. Magnussen has good pace behind Grosjean. But he’s six seconds behind.
“Could be games to be played at the end of the race”
Is what Bottas is told over his team radio. Not sure what that means. He will almost certainly pass Perez for P4 but will not have anywhere near enough time to get close to Verstappen.
Lap 34 of 44 – Vettel and Hamilton pretty much a stop ahead of Verstappen
Bottas is closing up on Perez in P4. Ericsson still running in the points but is eight or so seconds away from both Gasly ahead of him and Sainz behind him.
This is the afternoon Sebastian Vettel would have wanted…
Took the lead on the first lap. No drama. Took his stop and came out ahead and has built his lead steadily since then.
Ah, here’s a nice photo from lap one
When they were almost four abreast at the end of the straight…
Top 10 on lap 31
There’s not much going on here. Bottas hunting down Ocon and passing him and then the next Force India is Sergio Perez is going to be where the action is.
Lap 30 of 44 – Bottas moves past Grosjean for sixth
Hamilton puts in a time closer to Vettel but still loses a tenth. Gap roughly five seconds.
Ricciardo is going to retire from two laps down. No point him running any more here, to be honest. Hoping for another SC perhaps.
Lap 29 of 44 – Mercedes seem to be treating their tyres a little worse than Vettel
At least in terms of blistering. Hamilton loses another half a second to Vettel.
Bottas pits for the second time and puts softs on. He struggled with blistering and needed to change them.
Lap 27 of 44 – Hartley passes Ericsson for 10th
Good driving. He has yet to stop, so that’s going well for him.
Hamilton losing a bit more time to Vettel that lap, six tenths…no backmarkers in sight yet for the leaders.
Ericsson then gets back past Hartley at turn one…can he keep it there down the straight? Nope…Hartley gets back past at the end of it. Ding. Dong.
Midfield runners start to stop…
…where will it all shake out?
We’ll have to see. Hamilton now three seconds behind Vettel, who just set another fastest lap.
Running order on lap 24
Hamilton maybe lost a tenth or so behind Verstappen on his out lap…
…but I’m not sure it was enough for the lead. He got DRS in the first part of the next lap, though, which helped him so swings and roundabouts in a very short period of time.
Lap 23 of 44 – Vettel leads Hamilton by two seconds
He lost about two seconds after those stops. Maybe 1.5 actually. Still, track position is key. Hamilton needs to pump in the times to catch Vettel and that is exactly what he is doing…
Lap 22 of 44 – Vettel pits!
Another decent stop. Softs on as well.
This is going to be close but Vettel emerges ahead of Verstappen and Hamilton…
Hamilton soon dispatches Verstappen for second on the Kemmel straight and closes up on the rear of Vettel. The gap is just under two seconds at the moment but Hamilton has fresher and warmer tyres…
Lap 21 of 44 – Hamilton pits!
Soft tyres go on. Quick stop, nice one. Can he eat into Vettel’s lead with an undercut? Vettel was snaking around on exit of the corners as well…
HAM comes out in third behind Verstappen. Vettel will pit next time around…
Lap 19 of 44 – Vettel leads by 3.2 from Hamilton
A couple of tenths taken away from his lead that time around. Nobody within a second of anybody else at the moment. Field spread.
Lap 18 of 44 – Bottas passes Gasly at the end of the Kemmel straight
Up into P8. Magnussen next for him.
Hamilton and Vettel: the gap is steady at 3.5s.
We’ll be into the pit window area shortly. Critical time!
Lap 17 of 44 – Bottas up to ninth
Sails past Ericsson. Ericsson is told to use Bottas to try and pass Gasly. Not sure that he’s got the pace to do it.
Lap 15 of 44 – Hamilton gets on it with the fastest lap of the race
Verstappen falling back a bit. Ericsson claws back some time from Gasly.
Lap 14 of 44
Vettel’s lead stabilises slightly. 3.8s. Could be an interesting fight between both Force India and both Haas cars. Ericsson showing decent pace here in P9, keeping in touch with Gasly. Problem with him is Bottas is right behind him…
An important point: A good day for Bottas to take points away from Ricciardo and Raikkonen for third in the championship.
Lap 13 of 44 – The top 10
Hamilton’s engineer keeps him informed about Verstappen behind.
OUT: Raikkonen, Lelcerc, Alonso, Hulkenberg.
Lap 12 of 44 – Vettel leads
Vettel looks, dare I say it, comfortable. 3.5 should be enough for an undercut or overcut sort of situation. Ricciardo at the back and two laps down, by the way.
Lap 11 of 44 – Another fastest lap for Vettel
A 1.48.4 to increase the gap to Hamilton still. Bottas hunts down Sirotkin for the final points position of the day. With Ferrari having only one car left in the race it’s important for Mercedes to take advantage here.
Lap 10 of 44 – Vettel leads by 3.5s from Hamilton
Verstappen gets past Perez and is now up into third. He disappears from sight quite quickly…
Whatever problem he has, probably with the floor, has not got any better. He’ll pull in at the end of lap nine.
Meanwhile Bottas breezes past Carlos Sainz for P12. Lance Stroll up next.
Lap 8 of 44 – Bottas goes through Eau Rouge flat…
…and past Brendon Hartley. Kimi Raikkonen appears to be stopping again. Not sure why…
Lap 7 of 44 – Verstappen passes Ocon going into Kemmel!
He jinks to the outside and then goes back to the inside through Ocon with just enough space to do so. The crowd roar their Dutch lion on! Next up is a podium place and Sergio Perez.
Lap 6 of 44 – Vettel leads by 1.7s from Hamilton
Sirotkin passed Ericsson for P9 but then was re-passed by the Swede. Charles Leclerc walks back to the pitlane. Sauber’s hopes rest on Ericsson, who is AGAIN passed by Sirotkin!
Verstappen hunting down Ocon. He’s within a second…
Lap 5 of 44 – RACE RESTARTS
It’s Hamilton’s turn to get a tow! He has a look into the braking zone of the final chicane and Vettel gets a small lead as he gets a poor exit!
Can Hamilton get the tow now on the first part of the lap now? No, he seems to be too far away. He is. Perez and Ocon hold position, just about. Bottas making some moves at the back of the pack, up to 14th.
Lap 3 of 44 – Vettel leads under Safety Car
Bottas had a broken front wing from the back of the grid, smashing into the back of a Williams under braking. Sirotkin, I think it was.
Ricciardo is back out! That was a quick repair! Not sure where Raikkonen picked up the puncture, think it was a Red Bull but not sure when…
SC in this lap!
A closer look at the mess the crash made of Alonso’s car
Bottas pits and goes onto fresh softs. Vandoorne has pitted for mediums, hoping to not stop again. Raikkonen down in 14th after that stop, ahead of only Vandoorne. Ricciardo told to sit tight in the pits whilst they repair his rear wing. Or try to…
Lap 2 of 44 – Vettel leads under the safety car
A Williams in the points!
Hulkenberg smashed right into the back of Fernando Alonso there
Sending him flying. He barely slowed down on the brakes there at all. Leclerc was ahead of both of them and got his rear wing removed as part of that all. Big crash. Reminiscent of the Grosjean one a few years back.
Ricciardo has lost his rear wing! Where did that happen? Surely that is beyond repair…
Lights out for the 2018 Belgian GP!
Hamilton gets away the best into turn one and keeps the lead!
But there’s a BIG CRASH at turn one with Fernando Alonso sent flying into the air!
Vettel keeps the tow down the Kemmel straight and takes the lead, three abreast with Ocon going into the turn alongside Hamilton and Vettel! Oof.
SAFETY CAR deployed
Raikkonen gets a puncture!
Formation lap underway
The longest formation lap of the entire year. The longest lap of the entire year, obviously.
Everyone away safely and cleanly there. Should be a two horse (car) race today.
Everyone in the top 10 on used supersofts. Gasly on fresh softs. Everyone from 11th to 16th on fresh softs. Bottas on used softs. Hulkenberg on fresh softs, Sainz on fresh mediums and Vandoorne on, yes, you guessed it – fresh softs.
29C track temp out there
Sunny. Similar conditions to FP2 on Friday. We’ve waited a little while for racing to return and it’s nearly here. Nearly. Are you ready? Am I ready? I think I am.
Just seven minutes until lights out
Romain Grosjean is a picture of calm.
Meanwhile, at Force India…
Reminder that the Ferrari has been the quickest car all weekend here. Apart from in final qualifying yesterday…kind of similar to Hungary last time out. And we all know how that ended up.
Not a happy home GP for Stoffel
Last in all sessions and will start from dead last as well. He can only go in one direction, I suppose? Unless he doesn’t get off the grid…
Stating the obvious here but…
…the start will be crucial. Perhaps not so much the run down to the hairpin turn one as it’s quite short but the run through Eau Rouge/Raidillon, down the long Kemmel straight will be the crucial one. A tow in the slipstream of the car ahead is pretty useful there.
Bottas could run a counter strategy from the back and he has an outside chance of a podium from where he starts. To be fair, he could probably run with three wheels and be in with an outside chance of the top three…
The grid: how they will line up today
What can Bottas do from the back there? Will we see a surprise on the podium? Sauber looked quick all weekend but fell a bit short in Q2, neither driver improving their time from Q1. It wouldn’t surprise me to see one of them in there come the end of the race. The Ferrari engine is a useful bit of kit to have around here.
Just under 25 minutes to go.
Constructor standings after 12 rounds
- Mercedes – 345
- Ferrari – 335
- Red Bull – 223
- Renault – 82
- Haas – 66
- McLaren – 52
- Toro Rosso – 28
- Sauber – 18
- Williams – 4
- Racing Point Force India – 0*
*All points earned by the previous Force India team lost – Racing Point Force India to start anew in constructors’ standings on zero points.
The current driver standings, top 10, after 12 rounds
- Lewis Hamilton – 213
- Sebastian Vettel – 189
- Kimi Raikkonen – 146
- Valtteri Bottas – 132
- Daniel Ricciardo – 118
- Max Verstappen - 105
- Nico Hulkenberg – 52
- Kevin Magnussen – 45
- Fernando Alonso – 44
- Sergio Perez - 30
Strategy for the #BelgianGP, quickest option is a one-stopper: one stint on supersoft for 16 laps plus one stint on soft to the flag. If starting on soft, change after 28 laps then supersoft to the flag (1/3)
— Pirelli Motorsport (@pirellisport) August 25, 2018
If it’s warmer, or there’s some blistering on the supersoft, there are two possible alternative strategies: one-stopper: one stint on supersoft for 12 laps plus one stint on medium to the flag. Or: one stint on soft for 25 laps plus one stint on medium to the flag (2/3)
— Pirelli Motorsport (@pirellisport) August 25, 2018
A two-stopper (two stints on supersoft for 13 plus 13 laps, then soft to the flag) would be more than 15 seconds slower. #BelgianGP (3/3)
— Pirelli Motorsport (@pirellisport) August 25, 2018
A memorable race 20 years ago…but what a chaotic start it was
A post shared by FORMULA 1® (@f1) on Aug 24, 2018 at 3:49pm PDT
After all that, Damon Hill won the race for Jordan – their first ever F1 victory – ahead of team-mate Ralf Schumacher.
Lewis Hamilton condemns money over merit decision by Force India to make billionaire owner’s son new driver
Lewis Hamilton has condemned Force India’s imminent move to replace Esteban Ocon with Lance Stroll, the son of the team’s billionaire owner, as a case of money over merit.
Describing the situation as an indictment of modern Formula One, the defending champion said: “The best drivers need to be in the best cars. You can’t let somebody who has got more money leapfrog a better driver. It shouldn’t happen.”
35 minutes or so to go now…
An awful lot has happened since the chequered flag fell at the Hungaroring
…most of it has been in the driver market. The key points:
- Daniel Ricciardo announced a move to Renault from Red Bull in 2019
- Current Toro Rosso driver Pierre Gasly will replace him
- Fernando Alonso announced that he would not race in F1 in 2019
- Fellow Spaniard Carlos Sainz will replace him at McLaren
- Force India have been bought out by a consortium led by Lance Stroll’s billionaire father Lawrence
There is still a fair bit to be resolved. Who will join Sainz at McLaren? Will Ocon leave Force India for Lance Stroll? Who will be driving for Williams in 2019? Is Vandoorne destined for Sauber?
The fantastic Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, your track for today’s race
It’s a beauty. A classic if ever there was one.
Oliver Brown: Lance Stroll’s promotion shows that the driver merry-go-round is not a meritocracy
On matters of meritocracy, Formula One likes to talk a good game. Ross Brawn, desperate for F1 to cement its status as the pinnacle of motorsport, said this year: “As you move down the field, people are getting drives as much for commercial reasons as for their ability.”
There is more than one candidate who fits that description: Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson, heavily backed by Swedish corporate money, took 84 races to reach 11 points, the same total as team-mate Charles Leclerc has managed in eight. And now comes Lance Stroll, who stands poised to join Force India in a matter of days, purely because the team happens to be part-owned by his father.
It would be a shame – no, a travesty – if Esteban Ocon is ditched for Stroll either this season or next. Especially this season. There seems to be a good chance it could happen in the next few races. But we will see…
Plenty of Max Verstappen fans out there in Belgium
The young Dutchman has a Belgian mother and was in fact born in Belgium. He has a pretty big following everywhere in Europe, to be fair.
Hamilton takes pole at a damp Spa-Francorchamps
And welcome to our coverage of the 2018 Belgian Grand Prix from the glorious Ardennes location of Spa-Francorchamps. And it’s a lot more glorious than it was at the end of qualifying yesterday, when rain fell and provided us with a fantastic and thrilling climax to Saturday’s action.
Lewis Hamilton – once more – was the driver who managed to master the conditions the best, as he did in Hungary two weeks ago. His time was around 0.7s quicker than his title rival Sebastian Vettel. The Ferrari driver currently trails Hamilton by 24 points in the championship with nine rounds remaining, so he will want to start to eat into that lead today, ideally. The Ferrari was probably just about the quickest car around here in the dry but not by much. Again the weather played an important part. It is likely to be dry today, however.
The second row, however, is much more interesting. Both Force India drivers, Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez will line up third and fourth after putting in very good laps in the wet. It nearly turned out so differently for them both as they were on dry tyres at the start of Q3 when they shouldn’t have been. It was a risk worth taking and but it nearly ended in tears as Perez narrowly missed sliding into the barriers at the top of Raidillon. It’s great news for the team after all their struggles in recent weeks.
Kimi Raikkonen in the other Ferrari could have been in with a chance of pole but a fuel issue (i.e. there not being enough in his tank) stopped him from running for a second flying lap and he ended up down in sixth. Valtteri Bottas qualified in tenth but he will start from somewhere on the last two rows after an engine change.
Carlos Sainz, Nico Hulkenberg and home man Stoffel Vandoorne will also start down there after engine changes as well. In what exact order I am not sure, but I will let you know once it is confirmed. The Red Bulls seemed to struggle yesterday and even more so in the rain, most likely because of the low drag settings they have been running here this weekend. They will line up in seventh (Verstappen) and eighth (Ricciardo) today.
I’ll be with you for the next few hours of build-up, live updates and reaction. Could be a good one!
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