Ferrari stroll to Spa victory
UNTROUBLED, Sebastian Vettel drove the perfect race to secure victory at the 2018 Belgian Grand Prix.
While Saturday qualifying, wet in the final part, went the way of Lewis Hamilton, Sunday brought a completely different complexion as the Ferrari driver skilfully scythed past pole sitter Hamilton into the lead of the race.
Both Force India cars, starting on the second row thanks to a dramatic quali, started equally well and slotted in behind the front two. It all went off behind them, however, as a dramatic first corner crash, triggered by Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, saw Fernando Alonso’s McLaren fly over the cockpit of Charles Leclerc.
The halo, significantly scuffed by Alonso’s tyre, played a significant role in keeping the Sauber driver safe and uninjured in an otherwise dangerous crash.
Though they retired slightly later, the first lap also laid claim to Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo. The Red Bull driver was tagged from behind by Alonso and lost his rear wing. While he did get back out, he was a lap down without little prospect of gaining anything meaningful from the race. Consequently, Red Bull retired Ricciardo’s no. 3 car.
For Raikkonen it was desperately unlucky as Ricciardo’s front wing caused a right-rear puncture on the Ferrari. It subsequently damaged the right endplate of the rear wing, the DRS, and caused enough floor damage to render the car un-driveable.
Up front it was an easy Sunday afternoon drive for Vettel. While both Mercedes and Ferrari introduced upgraded internal combustion engines for this weekend, Hamilton and Mercedes just didn’t have the pace to live with the Ferrari. This was something that Hamilton bemoaned by saying Ferrari had some “tricks”.
Max Verstappen drove a lonely race into third while Valtteri Bottas ably recovered to fourth after starting nearly last on the grid.
Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon delivered fourth and fifth for Force India in what has been a difficult time for the team off the track.
Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen were sixth and seventh for Haas while Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly and Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson completed the top 10.
Vettel’s win brings him to within 17 points of Hamilton in the drivers’ standings and gives Ferrari some much-needed momentum ahead of their home race at Monza this weekend.