Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc took his first F1 win in Belgian GP from Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas at Spa-Francorchamps.
After the F1 field paid their respects to F2 driver Anthoine Hubert, the Belgian GP started at Spa-Francorchamps with pole-sitter and Ferrari’s Leclerc keeping the lead as Sebastian Vettel briefly lost to Mercedes.
The German quickly came back on them at Kemmel Straight to retake second with Lewis Hamilton ahead of Valtteri Bottas and McLaren’s Lando Norris in fifth as the best of the rest after few incidents.
Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen and Alfa Romeo Racing’s Kimi Raikkonen made contact at La Source when both made the right turn at the same time with Verstappen probably trying for an opportunistic move.
It ended the Dutchman’s race after another wack going into Eau Rouge, which resulted in a safety car as Raikkonen was forced for a double stop to not only change tyres but also get his front wing and few other parts.
Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg had to take avoiding action, while teammate Daniel Ricciardo was hit by Racing Point’s Lance Stroll, which forced the Australian to pit early and change his strategy.
The safety car was called in but it stayed for another lap due to the retirement of McLaren’s Carlos Sainz, who had already stalled on the grid and did it twice to eventually retire on his birthday.
On re-start, it was Leclerc leading Vettel with Hamilton and Bottas behind as Norris headed the two Haas drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen in sixth and seventh – all having a clear first lap.
The Top 10 had Racing Point’s Sergio Perez in eighth, Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly ninth and Stroll 10th. There was little movement at the front but the midfield had Perez, Gasly and Stroll clearing Magnussen.
The scrap between Gasly and Magnussen was quite close at the exit of Kemmel Straight as the Dane went off track but rejoined unscathed. Outside the Top 10, Red Bull’s Alexander Albon started to make ground.
He moved closer to the Top 10 in the recover drive. At the front, Ferrari brought Vettel early for a stop on Lap 16 with Leclerc, Hamilton and Bottas pitting only on Lap 21, Lap 22 and Lap 23 respectively.
Vettel did get ahead of Leclerc in the pit game but Ferrari asked the German to make way for the Monegasque, with Vettel then coming under pressure from a quicker Hamilton and also Bottas.
The German knew that his tyres won’t see the end as Hamilton amde it an easy work in the end but before Bottas would pass him, Ferrari called him Vettel in as he dropped to fourth as they switched to Plan B.
Norris, meanwhile, led the best of the rest as Perez stationed himself in sixth. The rest of the points places changed hands several times as the Haas drivers dropped out along with Gasly also losing out at point.
It was Albon making the moves as the Thai racer moved up to seventh with Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat coming along. It looked liked Renault’s Ricciardo would stay inside the Top 10 but the Australian started to lose out.
An alternative strategy worked superbly for Alfa Romeo Racing’s Antonio Giovinazzi as the Italian fought his way up inside the points, leaving Gasly to fight out with Ricciardo, Hulkenberg and Stroll for the last point.
At the front, meanwhile, Leclerc started to come under pressure once Hamilton passed Vettel in second. The British racer was in a touching distance of Leclerc but he held on in the end by 0.981s to Hamilton.
He registered his first F1 career win in Belgian GP – which he dedicated to Hubert – as Ferrari took its their first of 2019 F1 season. It was double podium for Mercedes with Hamilton in second and Bottas third.
Vettel was fourth with the fastest lap but there was mayhem behind with ninth placed Alfa Romeo’s Giovinazzi crashing on the final lap along with fifth placed McLaren’s Norris retiring on the main straight.
Giovinazzi lost the car in mid-corner as Norris had a suspected engine failure in a heartbreak. This helped Red Bull’s Albon to finish fifth after a bold move on Perez on the Kemmel Straight, going on the grass.
The move was put under investigation though with Perez in sixth ahead of Toro Rosso’s Kvyat as Renault’s Hulkenberg gained three places to eighth, with Toro Rosso’s Gasly and Racing Point’s Stroll rounding the Top 10.
Despite not finishing the Belgian GP, Norris was classified in 11th as he was on the lead lap before retiring. He was followed by the two Haas racers with Magnussen ahead of Grosjean in 12th and 13th.
Renault’s Ricciardo was a lowly 14th from Williams’ George Russell, Alfa Romeo’s Raikkonen and Williams’ Robert Kubica. Even though Giovinazzi retired, he was classified 18th. DNF: Sainz and Verstappen.