By Nicola Kenton
- Sebastian Vettel claimed victory ahead of Lewis Hamilton at Spa, after an incident filled race
- The German has reduced his deficit in the drivers’ championship from 24 to 17 points
- Fernando Alonso, Nico Hulkenberg and Charles Leclerc were unharmed after a first lap collision
SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, BELGIUM – Sebastian Vettel secured victory at the Belgian Grand Prix by overtaking rival Lewis Hamilton to reduce his championship deficit to 17 points.
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Vettel back on top
After a disappointing couple of races before the summer break, Sebastian Vettel was hoping to bounce back in Belgium. Saturday saw a wet qualifying and it was Lewis Hamilton who mastered the conditions to put his Mercedes on pole with the German just behind. However on Sunday, in the dry conditions, it was clear that the Ferrari had slightly more pace. On the first lap, Vettel was able to sail past the Brit on the Kemmel straight.
The chaos ensued behind the leaders , who momentarily came under pressure from the Force India duo, but once the safety car came in Vettel began to distance himself. The gap was never substantial, generally being three to four seconds, but the Brit was unable to make any dents into it. Hamilton pitted first, on lap 20, with the German changing his tyres on lap later. Nevertheless the pit stops made no difference and the order remained the same while Vettel controlled his pace until the chequered flag.
Speaking after the race Vettel told BBC Sport:
“I had a great start, I’m not sure Lewis saw me as he pushed me to the left in the first lap, but after last year I ended up short, and this year was the other way round. As soon as I was ahead I relaxed, I had a good restart after the safety car, and after that it was a smooth race.”
Halo proves its’ worth
The first lap of the 2018 Belgian Grand Prix saw a dramatic crash between three of the drivers. Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg mossed his braking point at the first corner which led to him running into the back of McLaren’s Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard went airborne and the McLaren landed on top of Charles Leclerc’s Sauber but the impact was thankfully deflected by the halo. All three came away unscathed, although the same could not be said for their cars.
Having been tested in previous years, the halo became a compulsory part of the car this season. The introduction of the safety device was controversial with many drivers feeling that the device was unnecessary. However following the scenes at Spa, the drivers have stated that they were thankful that the halo was in place.
Alonso told BBC Sport:
“The positive side is we are all three ok, especially Charles. I flew over his car and the halo was a good thing to have today. I saw the replay and how good was the proof for the halo. We didn’t need any proof but it is a good thing.”
Rebirth of Force India
Before the summer break, it was announced that Force India has been put into administration after driver Sergio Perez took the team to court over unpaid wages. This was instigated so that the team could be taken over and bought by somebody else to save the jobs of all the employees. Last week it was announced that Force India have been taken over by a consortium including the father of Williams driver Lance Stroll. The team’s name has been changed to Racing Point Force India and all previous points from the 2018 season have been taken away with a new total starting afresh from the Belgian Grand Prix.
Whenever there is a wet qualifying there is always a chance for teams lower down the grid to ‘out-qualify’ themselves. After a disappointing start to the year, in recent races the team had been accruing double points finishes and this weekend was no exception. Perez managed to get his car into third place on the grid with team-mate Esteban Ocon in fourth.
The duo were in front of the chaos that ensued during the race and despite, Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas getting past them, they finished in fifth and sixth places respectively. The team have started how they mean to go on and will hope they can fight their way back up the constructors’ championship.
Podium run over for Raikkonen
It was a good weekend for Ferrari on one side of the garage, however on the other Kimi Raikkonen had to retire from the race because of DRS problems. The Finn had been on the podium for the last five Grand Prix but that came to an end in Belgium.
Throughout practice, the Finn looked faster than his team-mate but then qualifying came. The rain began to ease in Q3 and the drivers were able to put in their quickest laps. Apart from Raikkonen who was stuck in the pits because he didn’t have enough fuel and then there wasn’t enough time left for him to complete another flying lap. The Finn ended up sixth on the grid.
Sunday saw him close to the melee at the beginning of the race. In order to avoid Kevin Magnussen, the Finn had to brake and Daniel Ricciardo subsequently hit him. This left Raikkonen with a puncture right rear tyre and damage to his rear wing. The Ferrari driver limped back to the pits and managed to get back into the race but the damage was too much.
Haas continue to pick up points
It has been a good season so far for American team Haas. They sit fifth in the constructors’ championship and came to the Belgian Grand Prix hoping for another points finish. When the chequered flag fell on Sunday, the team had Romain Grosjean in seventh place with team-mate Magnussen just behind in eighth.
Grosjean had a troubled start to the season when he failed to score points in the first eight races but since then the Frenchman has been on a scoring streak. Grosjean has scored points in four of the last five races and backed up his seventh place finish at Spa in 2017 with another this year. While team-mate Magnussen scored points at Spa for the first time.
This was the third double points finish for the team in the last five races and there was more good news. Championship rivals McLaren and Renault both failed to score in Belgium. Haas have now cemented fifth position as they are 24 points ahead of McLaren and only six points behind Renault in fourth.
The 2018 Italian Grand Prix takes place this weekend in Monza.
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