Lewis Hamilton holds off Vettel to win Belgian Grand Prix

The summer break was officially over this weekend when Formula 1 headed to Spa for the Belgian Grand Prix. The high speed nature of Spa meant that the advantage was in Mercedes’ half of the field, and this proved to be true when Lewis Hamilton claimed the 68th pole position of his career on Saturday, equaling Michael Schumacher’s record. With Sebastian Vettel starting alongside Hamilton on the front row of the grid, the battle in Belgium looked set to be an entertaining one, with overtaking being relatively easy at the 7.04 km long circuit.

Lewis Hamilton holds off Vettel to win Belgian Grand Prix

When the lights went out, Hamilton had a strong start from pole, leading Vettel, Bottas, Verstappen and Ricciardo into turn 1. Heading up into Eau Rouge, Hamilton was out in front but the mid-field pack was tightly bunched up together. It was at this moment that the Force India pair of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon came to blows for the second time this season, banging wheels at high speed which could have resulted in a big accident with devastating consequences.

The big mover on the first lap of the race was McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, who leaped from tenth to seventh despite having a significant power deficit with his Honda power. He came under attack from Nico Hulkenberg to slip down to eighth but fought the German driver hard in the first sector on the second lap, slipstreaming the Renault to regain the position. The following lap however, Alonso slipped back down to eighth, and it was clear that he did not have the power to battle inside the top ten, being passed by Esteban Ocon, Sergio Perez and Romain Grosjean to drop outside of the points.

At the sharper end of the field Max Verstappen was having a good drive for Red Bull Racing at what is the closest thing that he has to a home race, running in fifth. On lap 9, the flying Dutchman ground to a halt on the Kemmel Straight, suffering from an engine failure which made him the second casualty of the race after Pascal Wehrlein retired earlier on lap 3.

When Renault, Williams and Haas called in Jolyon Palmer, Lance Stroll and Kevin Magnussen, the pit window opened on lap 9, and when Sebastian Vettel set the fastest lap of the race, it looked like Ferrari may be trying to perform the undercut strategy on Hamilton who was the car ahead. Mercedes made sure that this couldn’t happen, pitting Hamilton and Bottas on laps 12 and 13.

Ferrari then tried the overcut on Hamilton by pitting Vettel on lap 14. This failed however, and Vettel rejoined in third while Kimi Raikkonen took the lead. Raikkonen stayed out as Hamilton followed close behind, passing the Finn on the exit of Eau Rouge, meaning that the Italian team could not use Raikkonen to back Hamilton up into Vettel. Ferrari’s day became worse when Raikkonen was slapped with a ten-second stop-go penalty for ignoring yellow flags. After pitting on lap 15 and serving his penalty on lap 16, Raikkonen emerged in seventh.

Sergio Perez was also handed a time penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage when overtaking Romian Grosjean and Daniil Kvyat earlier in the race, serving it on lap 25.

After Fernando Alonso retired on lap 27, tensions flared up at Force India for the second time in the race. As Sergio Perez had a time penalty, the Silverstone-based team pitted the Mexican before Ocon. This gave him track position, however, as Ocon had fresher tyres, he was able to challenge. Launching an attack around the inside of turn 1, Ocon cut back to go on the inside of Perez heading up the hill to Eau Rouge. Perez then squeezed his team mate on the entry to the iconic corner. This left the Frenchman with nowhere to go and the pair collided, resulting in Perez picking up a puncture, Ocon smashing his front wing, and the safety car being deployed.

The deployment of the safety car in the closing stages of the race promoted most of the field to pit, and when the safety car pitted on lap 33, there was a ten lap sprint to the finish. On the ultrasoft tyre, Vettel was on the fastest compound available to drivers this weekend for his final stint, while Hamilton was on the softs which was two steps slower than the ultras. On the restart, Vettel followed Hamilton in his slip stream but was unable to make the pass into Les Combes. Behind this, Daniel Ricciardo had a very good restart, overtaking Valtteri Bottas to move into third. Bottas then dropped to fifth when Raikkonen followed Ricciardo through.

On lap 44, Hamilton crossed the line to secure his fifth win of 2017. Scoring a maximum 25 points, Hamilton sliced his deficit to Vettel in the Drivers’ Championship by half, with seven points now separating them in the standings. Vettel held onto second to secure his ninth top three finish of the season. Daniel Ricciardo finished in third to secure another podium for Red Bull.

Kimi Raikkonen rounded up the rest of the field, finishing in fourth for Ferrari. Valtteri Bottas followed him across the fine in fifth, followed by Nico Hulkenberg, Romain Grosjean, Felipe Massa, Esteban Ocon and Carlos Sainz Jr, who rounded out the points in tenth for Toro Rosso.

Driver of the day for the Belgian Grand Prix goes to Lewis Hamilton, who secured a stunning and much needed win for Mercedes. The win that he secured today puts him back in contention in the Drivers’ Championship, being now only seven points away from Sebastian Vettel. A win for him in Italy next weekend and a second place for Vettel will mean that the pair will be even on points with seven races remaining this season. Due to the high speed nature of Monza, Mercedes should have an advantage over Ferrari, and this will be in the back of the Brit’s mind when F1 returns next weekend.

Results from the Belgian Grand Prix:

  1. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 25 points
  2. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, 18 points
  3. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing, 15 points
  4. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 12 points
  5. Vatteri Bottas, Mercedes, 10 points
  6. Nico Hulkenberg, Renault, 8 points
  7. Romain Grosjean, Haas F1, 6 points
  8. Felipe Massa, Williams, 4 points
  9. Esteban Ocon, Force India, 2 points
  10. Carlos Sainz Jr, Toro Rosso, 1 point
  11. Lance Stroll, Williams, 0 points
  12. Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, 0 points
  13. Jolyon Palmer, Renault, 0 points
  14. Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren, 0 points
  15. Kevin Magnussen, Haas F1, 0 points
  16. Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, 0 points
  17. Sergio Perez, Force India, Ret
  18. Fernando Alonso, McLaren, Ret
  19. Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, Ret
  20. Pascal Wehrlein, Sauber, Ret

Drivers Standings after the Belgian Grand Prix:

  1. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, 220 points
  2. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 213 points
  3. Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, 179 points
  4. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing, 132 points
  5. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 128 points
  6. Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 67 points
  7. Sergio Perez, Force India, 56 points
  8. Esteban Ocon, Force India, 47 points
  9. Carlos Sainz Jr, Toro Rosso, 36 points
  10. Nico Hulkenberg, Renault, 34 points
  11. Felipe Massa, Williams, 27 points
  12. Romain Grosjean, Haas F1, 24 points
  13. Lance Stroll, Williams, 18 points
  14. Kevin Magnussen, Haas F1, 11 points
  15. Fernando Alonso, McLaren, 10 points
  16. Pascal Wehrlein, Sauber, 5 points
  17. Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, 2 points
  18. Stoffel Vandoorne, Toro Rosso, 1 point
  19. Jolyon Palmer, Renault, 0 points
  20. Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, 0 points
  21. Antonio Giovinazzi, Sauber, 0 points
  22. Paul di Resta, Williams, 0 points
  23. Jenson Button, McLaren, 0 points

Constructors Standings after the Belgian Grand Prix:

  1. Mercedes, 392 points
  2. Ferrari, 348 points
  3. Red Bull Racing, 199 points
  4. Force India, 103 points
  5. Williams, 45 points
  6. Toro Rosso, 40 points
  7. Haas F1, 35 points
  8. Renault, 34 points
  9. McLaren, 11 points
  10. Sauber, 5 points

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