Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel overtook Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton to win 2018 Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix to start the second half of the season in style.
The start was chaotic at Spa-Francorchamps in a multi-car crash into Turn 1 while Hamilton initially led the way from Vettel and Racing Point Force India’s Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez in the Top 4.
Having started from the back, Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg made a seemingly huge error to miss his braking point and hit the back of McLaren’s Fernando Alonso into Turn 1. Alonso’s car flew over Sauber’s Charles Leclerc before coming to a halt in Turn 1’s run-off.
The Spaniard collected Leclerc’s rear wing in the process while replays showed he did the same with Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo. Alonso’s car also hit the Monegasque’s Halo as well with visible marks on it.
The subsequent hit from Alonso pushed Riccardo into Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen who suffered a right rear puncture. Further back, there was contact for Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas as well when he hit at the back of one of the Williams car.
Both the Finn had to pit as the safety car was pulled out. But by then, Vettel had cleared Hamilton on the Kemmel Straight to take the lead of the race when they along with the Force India cars went four abreast on the straight.
While Vettel got ahead of Hamilton for the lead, Perez cleared Ocon in third with Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen in the Top 5. The race neautralised after the first lap dramas with Vettel keeping a good lead over Hamilton.
The pit stop brought Hamilton close to Vettel but the German always had the pace to bridge the gap to his title rival and win the grand prix where they looked strong pretty much in the practice sessions.
The victory has helped Vettel to bridge the gap to Hamilton to 17 points as they head into Ferrari’s home race in Monza next weekend. The podium was completed by Verstappen who cleared both Perez and Ocon early in the race.
The Dutchman did not have much pace to catch the Top 2 drivers then. Bottas, meanwhile, clawed his way into the points and despite having to do an extra stop after his Lap 1 hit, managed to finish fourth after also clearing the two Force India drivers.
For the now-new outfit, it was a dream result to start their journey with Perez finishing fifth from Ocon as they already go past Williams in the constructors’ championship to be ninth with 18 points – just behind Sauber on 19.
Haas’ Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen had a subdued outing to be seventh and eighth respectively as they closed in on Renault in the championship. Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly fended off early pressure from Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson to ninth.
The Swede initially lost his place to Williams’ Sergey Sirotkin but he took it back to challenge Gasly for track position but he was unable to take the place eventually. The Russian then lost a place to Renault’s Carlos Sainz to finish 12th.
The Spaniard had a difficult race early on but looked good towards the end. Behind Sirotkin, it was his teammate Lance Stroll in 13th who passed Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley and demote him to 14th. McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne was the last runner in 15th.
Despite the rear wing failure for Ricciardo in the Lap 1 incident, Red Bull managed to fix it up and send him out albeit two laps down on the leaders in the hope of another safety car but as it never came, the Australian was called in to retire the car towards the end.
Ricciardo joined Alonso, Hulkenberg and Leclerc in the DNF list which also had Raikkonen as the Finn’s Lap 1 puncture caused more troubles to his car. The team pitted him to check for the cause and sent him out but were forced to then call him again to retire.