Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari has narrowed the gap in the Formula One Drivers’ Championship, going from second place to a race win at the Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday. Vettel overtook Lewis Hamilton, the championship leader, on the very first lap of the race, and didn’t relinquish his lead once.
Vettel now has 214 points, while Hamilton has 231.
Hamilton raced a good race, but he was consistently behind Vettel and was no real threat to overtake him, save for a brief period following the first round of pit stops. Hamilton finished second, ahead of Max Verstappen of Red Bull in third for the final podium position.
Valtteri Bottas, Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate, started at the back of the grid due to a power unit change, but he had a strong race, and made his way through the pack as only a Mercedes can, eventually finishing in fourth after a late charge chasing down the Force India of Sergio Perez.
Prior to chasing Perez, Bottas was chasing Esteban Ocon after his pit stop, and he made that move relatively quickly. Bottas made the pass on Perrez on Lap 40, with just four to go. The Force India cars started third and fourth in the race, behind only Hamilton and Vettel.
After the first round of pit stops, Vettel lost two seconds of his lead on Hamilton, but after a few laps on the new tires, Vettel rebuilt his lead, while Verstappen was virtually running his own race in third. Valtteri Bottas, after starting at the back due to a power unit change, was quickly mixing it up with the top positions, and by the back half of the race, was in fifth between the two Force India cars of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon.
Hamilton was driving well at this point of the grand prix, but Vettel’s Ferrari was simply flying out in front.
At the start, Vettel made it past Hamilton with a brilliant move just before the safety car was introduced on the very first lap of the race, and he held the lead through the first round of pit stops, with Verstappen just behind those two after a few laps of chasing down the two Force India cars.
Around the very first turn of the race, Nico Hulkenberg hit the back of Fernando Alonso’s McLaren hard, sending him airborne over the top of the Sauber of Charles Leclerc, a massive incident where all came out okay, but had to retire from the race. Kimi Raikkonen was the next driver to retire, as he was involved in a Lap 1 incident that resulted in a puncture and, as we would later find, floor damage to his Ferrari.
Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull was also involved in the first lap fracas, and had to pit to his garage to replace a rear wing before rejoining the race down a lap, even after the safety car. Later, pictures surfaced showing the halo cockpit protection on Lecler’s car with serious damage done to it by Alonso’s car.
Ricciardo wound up retiring on Lap 31, when he was still a lap down. Red Bull left him out there just in case another safety car would surface, but would rather save as much of the engine as possible.
You can view the full finishing order from the race below, as well as the play-by-play from the live blog in reverse chronological order:
F1 2018 Belgian Grand Prix Finishing Order
|3||Max Verstappen||Red Bull|
|5||Sergio Pérez||Force India|
|6||Esteban Ocon||Force India|
|9||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso|
|11||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Renault|
|14||Brendon Hartley||Toro Rosso|
|16||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull|
Lap 44/44 - FINAL
There are no real close races at this point. Stroll trails Sirotkin by under two seconds, but that is the only gap of that length across the grid. Vettel has 9.5 seconds on Hamilton with two laps to go. Verstappen is 23 seconds back, then Bottas a further 33 seconds. The top 10 finishers are below:
Vettel, Hamilton, Verstappen, Bottas, Perez, Ocon, Grosjean, Magnussen, Gasly and Ericsson.
Bottas gets DRS assistance and takes advantage of Perez letting off the gas slightly to pass him down the long straight, taking fourth position, where he will remain barring any issues, as he is a full 30 seconds back of Verstappen in third. Nobody else is really under pressure as the end of the race approaches.
Perez’s team tells him that Bottas matched his pace on the previous lap. A lap later, and Bottas is 1.5 seconds back of Perez, with six laps to go. Hamilton is 6.1 seconds back of Vettel, well out of range. Verstappen still 24 seconds back of Hamilton.
As of Lap 35, only Vandoorne, Hartley, Stroll, Sirotkin and Sainz are out of the points, with five retirements. Ericsson in 10th is about 7 seconds up on Sainz. Bottas is 3.1 seconds back of Perez with eight laps remaining in the race. His team comes over the radio and tells him that he can catch Perez.
Bottas comes into the pits for the third and hopefully final time, and rejoins just behind the two Force India cars of Perez and Ocon. Ricciardo is told to box to retire the car — it seems Red Bull were keeping him out to see if another safety car would surface. Vettel, by Lap 33, is 5.1 seconds ahead of Hamilton, who is 24 seconds up of Verstappen, who is 26 seconds up on Perez. Bottas makes his way up and passes Ocon, and is now chasing down Perez. Bottas sets a purple lap, a fastest lap record in race conditions.
Hartley makes it past Ericsson. Hamilton is 4.7 seconds down of Vettel on Lap 29, with Verstappen 24 seconds back and Bottas 14 seconds back of him. Perez, Ocon, Grosjean, Magnussen, Gasly, and Ericsson make up the rest of the Top 10, with Ericsson just passing Hartley back.
Sainz and Grosjean are the next drivers to pit, followed by Stroll. Grosjean rejoins in 10th, while Sainz is in 14th, ahead of Stroll. Ricciardo is still down a lap. Hamilton drops to 2.1 seconds back of Vettel, unable to get into DRS range. Perez is instructed to get everything he can out of his supersoft tired. Vettel sets a fastest lap of the race, as PErz comes into the pits. He’ll rejoin the race in fifth, ahead of Magnussen, who leads Ocon, Ericsson, Grosjean and Hartley. Gasly pits and rejoins behind Hartley. Magnussen still needs a pit. Verstappen is also coming in for a pit stop, and he should rejoin in third, running his own race, well ahead of Bottas in fourth.
Hamilton is just behind Verstappen after his stop, with the soft compound tires to make it through to the end of the race. Vettel comes into the pits and has a strong pit stop. Hamilton and Verstappen round the main straight as Vettel exits the pit lane. Vettel makes it out ahead of Verstappen, but just barely. Hamilton passes Verstappen, and now he needs to get into DRS range! Vettel, though, is screaming around the track, absolutely pinning the pedal to the ground. Instead of 3.2 seconds, Vettel’s lead is now 1.9 seconds. Hamilton sets another purple lap.
This should be very interesting over the next few laps, with the supersoft tires aided by the safety car. They’re nearly at half distance with more than half the grid on those tires. Hamilton has some serious blistering on his tires, especially the rear left, which would be the problem tire on this track. Bottas makes it past Gasly for eighth, and is under a second behind the Haas of Magnussen. And Hamilton is pitting first, from second! He’s rejoining the race in third ahead of Perez, and it seems like Vettel is going to pit next.
Perez is more than 4 seconds clear of his teammate, Ocon, and HAmilton remains about 3.8 seconds behind Vettel. Ocon is nearly 4 seconds clear of Grosjean as we approach the first round of pit stops. Ericsson is the highest driver on the softs, in ninth, with everyone above him wearing the supersoft tires. Hamilton sets the fastest lap of the race. Ericsson is closing on Gasly in eighth, but Bottas is right behind him. A couple laps later, Hamilton is gaining on Vettel, with the gap nearing 3 seconds.
Bottas makes it past Stroll, and is chasing down Sirotkin for 10th, the final points position. By Lap 12, Hamilton trails Vettel by 3.7 seconds, with Verstappen a full 10 seconds back of Hamilton. Just a couple turns later, Bottas makes it past Sirotkin and now has 2.1 seconds to make up on Ericsson to move to ninth.
Raikkonen pulls into the garage after trying another lap and his race is done. Seems like there is some floor damge. Verstappen is 0.6 seconds back of Perez as they start Lap 10. Perez essentially lets Verstappen through — better than the alternative. Hamilton trails Vettel by 3.4 seconds by the end of that lap.
Ricciardo’s team gets his rear wing changed in the garage and he rejoins the race, down a lap, but that’s better than an early retirement. Verstappen is chasing Ocon closely and it seems like only a matter of time before he gets the pass. Vettel already two seconds ahead of Hamilton, and DRS is now enabled. Later in the lap, Verstappen made the move on Ocon to move into fourth place. Vettel is 2.5 seconds up on Hamilton at the end of Lap 7. Bottas makes it past Hartley, while Raikkonen pits again with car issues — he may have floor damage. He rejoins in 16th. Stewards announce no action on the first lap incident.
Hamilton nearly got the jump on Vettel upon the restart, but just barely fell short. Grosjean is right on the back of Verstappen, and Magnussen is right on Grosjean. Vettel is 1.1 seconds clear of Hamilton after a lap of racing. Perez is 1.5 seconds up of his teammate as of Lap 6.
After the incident, Vettel leads, ahead of Hamilton. Both Force India cars started well, with Ocon nearly taking the lead in the race. Valtteri Bottas pits from the back to get off his used tires. The safety car is out there for multiple laps. Max Verstappen is fifth as the track is prepared for a return to racing.
We have a major crash around the first turn, with Fernando Alonso’s car going airborne! He’s out of the race, as is NIco Hulkenberg of Renault. Kimi Raikkonen also lost at ire in the scuffle, and Hamilton lost out the top spot to Vettel before the safety car is deployed! Charles LeClerc was also involved in the incident, which started when Hulkenberg could not brake in time, running into the back of Alonso. Raikkonen limps all the way around to the pits to get new tires, while Daniel Ricciardo pulled in with a rear-wing issue. His day might be done.
Lewis Hamilton managed to get his Mercedes on pole for the Formula One Belgian Grand Prix, despite rain playing a major factor in qualifying on Saturday. Hamilton, the current leader in the Drivers’ Championship, starts one spot up on his biggest challenger, Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari.
Both of them will start ahead of a surprising pair: the Force India cars of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez.
The rain, combined with the Force India cars always performing well at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, allowed Force India to secure that second row, ahead of Romain Grosjean in the Ferrari-powered Haas and Vettel’s teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, in sixth.
The action on Sunday should be very interesting, especially with multiple reported seat changes potentially occurring this season. Everybody is looking to impress as they fight for a spot with current and new teams.
“For sure my future is not done,” Ocon said of his future in F1 after Saturday’s qualifying session. “I don’t know where I will race next year or what I will do. So as I said, the only thing I can do is to do well on track, to focus, do the same job as before, try to do the best. If you do a strong job in Formula 1 the team they can’t skip you, they need to have you. That’s what I’m trying to do.”
Ocon doesn’t have a guaranteed spot next year, and is expected to be replaced at Force India by Lance Stroll in the near future.
And, of course, we have the battle for the championship between Hamilton and Vettel, with the Constructors’ Championship coming down to Mercedes and Ferrari, with the former having just a 10-point lead.
Hamilton’s lead over Vettel is just 24 points, and there remain plenty of races left on the calendar.
Below is all you need to know to watch the race on Sunday.
How to watch the 2018 F1 Belgian Grand Prix
Date: Sunday, Aug. 26
Location: Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Stavelot
Time: 9 a.m. ET