Belgium Grand Prix Recap
Lewis Hamilton Dominates At Spa-Francorchamps
Lewis Hamilton put in a sublime performance to comfortably take victory in Belgium, finishing 8.4 seconds ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas in 2nd. After a fantastic qualifying yesterday from Hamilton to take pole position, there was no real threat from Bottas for the entirety of the 44 laps around Spa, the 6x World Champion building a 1.4s gap on the first lap alone. The only time the Finn could come closer was on lap 15 at the safety car restart, however after just 1 lap Hamilton had already extended his lead to over 1.2s. Tyre complaints towards the end of the Grand Prix sparked fears of a repeat of Silverstone, where last lap blow outs nearly cost Hamilton victory, but this did not materialise and in truth the Brit was in a league of his own. Hamilton’s fortunes in Spa had been mixed, in the 13 races he has started prior to today he had won 3 times, but had retired in 4. His win today has now opened up a 50 point gap to his teammate who sits in 3rd in the championship, who will be disappointed in his performances this year in a car that is head and shoulders above the competition. With 10 races of the season left, Bottas must beat his teammate next weekend if he is to stand any chance of taking the title.
Max Verstappen as usual found himself on the podium, this time in 3rd after finishing a further 7seconds behind Bottas. Vibrations from the tyres on lap 31 and with a gap of 16 seconds to 4th, the Red Bull team discussed bringing the Dutchman in for a second tyre change that would have required him to pull off some overtakes to regain his podium position, Verstappen instead choosing to drive through the issue and stick to the one stop strategy. This almost proved costly, with the Renault of Daniel Ricciardo showing immense pace at the end of the race, finishing only 3 seconds behind the Red Bull, and setting the fastest lap of the race in the process. Both Renaults carried the pace they showed in practice through to the race, with Ocon pulling off a last lap overtake on Albon to finish 5th and contribute to a much needed 23 point haul for the French team – the most they have ever secured in 1 race as a constructor. Whilst they currently maintain 6th in the constructors championship, they are now just 2 points behind Ferrari and only 9 behind McLaren in 3rd, and will fancy their chances of making up more ground next weekend at Monza where car set-up will be largely similar to this weekend.
McLaren were left to fight with only 1 car, an exhaust failure to Carlos Sainz car on his out lap to the grid forcing him to retire before the race had even begun. Despite this, they were able to put some breathing room to their nearest rivals Racing Point thanks to a superb drive from Lando Norris, who moved his car from 10th on the grid up to 7th, and was unfortunate that it was not higher after closing on the battle between Albon and Ocon ahead. Most importantly Norris was able to finish ahead of both cars of their nearest rivals, Racing Points, promoting himself to joint 5th in the championship in the process.
A huge crash from Antonio Giovinazzi on lap 10 sent his car rebounding back off the barriers and onto the track, a detached wheel colliding with the Williams of George Russell putting him out the race as well. The safety car was deployed, as it has been at each of the last 6 races here at Spa, which caused a flurry of activity in the pitlane, with Pierre Gasly (Alpha Tauri) and Sergio Perez (Racing Point) the only 2 cars not to come in for new tyres. 4th and 5th respectively at the safety car restart left Gasly in a much stronger position, as the only driver who started the race on the Hard tyre compound meant he could go much further in to the race, and with the pace of everyone behind proving to be very evenly matched the Perez did indeed find himself in last place following his pit stop 5 laps later, before battling back to 9th ahead of his teammate Lance Stroll in 10th – a disappointing weekend for a team who have shown the pace to be fighting for podiums this year.
Lap 27 saw Gasly finally make his pit stop from 7th place, rejoining in 16th, and he produced some great overtakes to take himself back to 8th at the chequered flag. After qualifying in 12th, and behind his teammate for the 1st time this season, the Frenchman put in another fantastic performance and I name him my Driver of the Day.
Ferraris woes this season continued, both cars finishing outside the points on legitimate pace in 13th and 14th position, and most embarrassingly behind their engine customer Alfa Romeo, who saw Kimi Raikkonen move up from 16th in qualifying to 12th in the race. After winning this race for the last 2 years in a row, the fall from grace has been spectacular, and they were the only team to post a lap time slower in Free Practice 2 than this time last year, a whopping 1.317 seconds slower – for comparison the Haas were the next worse team with a time 0.286seconds QUICKER than last year. The Scuderia must act fast if they are to have any hope of saving themselves from what could soon be considered one of their most disastrous seasons in recent years. Ferrari fans should brace themselves for more of the same next weekend at Monza, a track which famously favours a strong engine. With news that the mastermind behind Mercedes Turbo Hybrid engine, Andy Cowell, has left his position with the engine manufacturer, he must surely be considered a top target as Ferrari look to rebuild for the future.
With the first race of the triple-header complete, we move next to Italy for 2 races, Monza followed up by a first ever race at Mugello in what will be called the Tuscan Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton has now led 305 laps this season so far, significantly ahead of Bottas (91) and Verstappen (30), and will be looking to carry on this form as he continues to chase down and beat the records set by F1 legend Michel Schumacher. Meanwhile both Mercedes and Red Bull will be hoping their number 2 drivers in Bottas and Albon respectively can improve their on track performances – Bottas to regain 2nd in the championship, and Albon to help Verstappen take the Red Bull fight to Mercedes.
Winner: Lewis Hamilton
Fastest Lap: Daniel Ricciardo (1.47.483)
Driver of the Day: Pierre Gasly
Full Race Standings
Driver Team Time Pts
L. Hamilton Mercedes 1:24:08.761 25
V. Bottas Mercedes +8.448s 18
M. Verstappen Red Bull +15.455s 5
D. Ricciardo Renault +18.877s 13
E. Ocon Renault +40.650s 10
A. Albon Red Bull +42.712s 8
L. Norris McLaren +43.774s 6
P. Gasly AlphaTauri +47.371s 4
L. Stroll Racing Point +52.603s 2
S. Pérez Racing Point +53.179s 1
D. Kvyat AlphaTauri +70.200s 0
K. Räikkönen Alfa Romeo +71.504s 0
S. Vettel Ferrari +72.894s 0
C. Leclerc Ferrari +74.920s 0
R. Grosjean Haas +76.793s 0
N. Latifi Williams +77.795s 0
K. Magnussen Haas +85.540s 0
A. Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo DNF 0
G. Russell Williams DNF 0
C. Sainz Jr. McLaren DNS 0