On the weekend he equalled Michael Schumacher on 68 pole positions, Lewis Hamilton staved off pressure from championship rival Sebastian Vettel to win the Belgian Grand Prix on his 200th race in Formula One at Spa-Francorchamps. Daniel Ricciardo, the only Red Bull car to finish the race took the final podium spot as his teammate Max Verstappen suffered an early retirement due to ignition failure, much to the disappointment of thousands of Dutch fans in the Grandstand.
Kimi Raikkonen, despite being slapped with a 10-seconds stop-and-go penalty for ignoring double yellow flags in the Verstappen halt, brought his Ferrari home in fourth ahead of fellow Finn Valtteri Bottas who lost out of a podium place after a safety restart later in the race. Nico Hulkenberg took sixth for Renault ahead of Romain Grosjean in the Haas. Felipe Massa, who started P16 on the grid brought his Williams home in 8th.
Force India made the headlines once again with a murky battle between their two drivers 15 laps to the end of the race. Esteban Ocon who was more the victim, survived to see the chequered flag in 9th place whiles teammate Sergio Perez had to retire. Carlos Sainz picked the last point at stake for Toro Rosso.
The main fight was between the protagonist in front, both drivers getting a decent start into, Hamilton doing more to manage his pace and limiting Vettel’s a chance of an overtake.
Filing through Eau Rouge in the opening lap, the Force India’s had their first tango when Perez squeezed Ocon into the wall, the he latter coming through with no damage to his pink VJM10. Their second contact on lap 30 resulted in Perez having his right rear tyre coming off and Ocon’s front wing badly damaged, dirtying the track with debris.
A lot of teams took advantage of the Safety Car to make their second stop for new tyres. Mercedes went for a second stint on softs while the Ferrari’s chose the purple ultrasofts. The race looked to have played into the hands of the Maranello-based team with Vettel aiming to get jump ahead of the Silver Arrow in front by virtue of him being on the fastest rubber.
Two laps into the restart, Hamilton showed his denfensive qualities and erased the chance of the German passing. Behind the duo, Ricciardo and Raikkonen both also on the purple rubber overtook the second Mercedes of Bottas for P3 and P4 respectively.
Williams’ Lance Stroll finished P11 ahead of Daniil Kvyat and Renault’s Jolyon Palmer. Stoffel Vandoorne starting from the back of the grid in his home race finished P14 for McLaren, Haas’ Kevin Magnussen in P15 and Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson the last to cross the finish line. Pascal Wehrlein and Fernando Alonso were the two other retirees at Spa.
Vettel’s lead in the drivers championship is now down to seven points as we head to Monza for the final European race next week. Mercedes lead the constructors with 392 points to Ferrari’s 348.