Race Report: Vettel wins Belgium Grand Prix

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No doubt that a wet qualifying session caught Ferrari out and tilted the Belgium Grand Prix in favor of Mercedes but the pace the Scuderia showed during practice suggested that it may not be quite that easy for Lewis on Sunday.

Could Sebastian Vettel undo the Q3 setback and turn a dry weather race into a victory? Could Lewis Hamilton hold the Ferrari behind him and guard his championship lead? The pace of the Ferrari was good in the dry and apart from trying to deploy crafty pit stop strategy, Mercedes couldn’t keep the red car behind them and it handed the victory to Vettel who closed the gap in the championship to 17 points.

Spa Francorchamps is a power circuit and if Ferrari’s pace here is any indication, the next race is an Italian home grand prix and also a power circuit so it was crucial for Ferrari to launch their championship assault in Belgium and it will help them carry that momentum to Italy next week.

Win

A win for Ferrari and Vettel who desperately needed to reclaim pace and begin their war on reducing Lewis Hamilton’s point advantage. Through a series of errors and lackluster pace in the wet, Ferrari dug themselves a hole that they need to get out of and today was the first step.

A win for Valtteri Bottas who managed to start in the back of the pack and pass his way up to 4th place securing much-needed constructor points for Mercedes.

Haas F1 may have a point regarding new teams and prize money awarded for their efforts in the first two seasons but Racing Point Force India has been through a lot in the last three weeks and with no points to their name, what better way to bounce back from financial collapse than to finish 5th and 6th at the Belgium Grand Prix? An 18-point haul on their debut race as a new team is quite an achievement.

As for Haas F1, they may be soured by the rubber-stamping of Force India’s acquisition but they put their heads down and managed a good race for points finishing 7th and 8th for Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen respectively.

It’s a win for Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson who had to pick up the Sauber mantle and run with it to the points as his teammate was punted from the race on the first lap. Ericsson joined Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly in scoring points for the teams in 10th and 9th respectively.

Still a win for Max Verstappen who, apart from having the largest fan base at the Belgian circuit, managed to make the most of his tiny rear wing and bring the Red Bull home in 3rd.

Fail

A fail for Carlos Sainz who had a tough weekend starting with a poor qualifying performance and then translating to a race outside of the points presumably dude to a lack of power on a power circuit. Sainz finished 11th and lacked pace all day.

A fail for Stoffel Vandoorne who finished last in 15th place at his home grand prix in his McLaren. His job is on the line and he didn’t manage to help himself by coming in dead last of the classified runners.

A fail for Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo but to be fair, I’m not sure it was his fault as he was punted from behind at turn 1 and then collided with Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari which caused a puncture and end-plate damage to the Finn’s rear wing. Daniel, suffering from damage to his own rear wing, managed to fit a new one but was running a full lap down and eventually retired the car as did Raikkonen.

A fail for Brendon Hartley who couldn’t manage to find the points to match his teammate in a car and Honda power that was doing reasonably well this weekend. The Kiwi finished in 14th.

WTH

A WTH for Nico Hulkenberg who had his Grosjean moment at turn one, lap one by taking out Fernando Alonso and Charles Leclerc. The German out-braked himself and hit Alonso sending the Spaniard into Leclerc and ending the race for all three of them.

Also, the poetic and glossy words Otmar Szafnauer had for Lance Stroll had to be hard to swallow given he’ll have no choice but to take the driver even though Sergey Sirotkin has been beating him over at Williams. Lance roams the paddock as cherished property but his teammate would suggest that he may not be as cherished by others as he is by his father.

Belgium Grand Prix Results:

PosDriverCarLapsGap
1Sebastian VettelFerrari441h23m34.476s
2Lewis HamiltonMercedes4411.061s
3Max VerstappenRed Bull/Renault4431.372s
4Valtteri BottasMercedes441m03.605s
5Sergio PerezForce India/Mercedes441m11.023s
6Esteban OconForce India/Mercedes441m19.520s
7Romain GrosjeanHaas/Ferrari441m25.953s
8Kevin MagnussenHaas/Ferrari441m27.639s
9Pierre GaslyToro Rosso/Honda441m45.892s
10Marcus EricssonSauber/Ferrari431 Lap
11Carlos SainzRenault431 Lap
12Sergey SirotkinWilliams/Mercedes431 Lap
13Lance StrollWilliams/Mercedes431 Lap
14Brendon HartleyToro Rosso/Honda431 Lap
15Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren/Renault431 Lap
Daniel RicciardoRed Bull/Renault28Retirement
Kimi RaikkonenFerrari8Retirement
Fernando AlonsoMcLaren/Renault0Collision
Charles LeclercSauber/Ferrari0Collision
Nico HulkenbergRenault0Collision

Driver’s Championship

PosDriverPoints
1Lewis Hamilton231
2Sebastian Vettel214
3Kimi Raikkonen146
4Valtteri Bottas144
5Max Verstappen120
6Daniel Ricciardo118
7Nico Hulkenberg52
8Kevin Magnussen49
9Fernando Alonso44
10Sergio Perez40
11Esteban Ocon37
12Carlos Sainz30
13Pierre Gasly28
14Romain Grosjean27
15Charles Leclerc13
16Stoffel Vandoorne8
17Marcus Ericsson6
18Lance Stroll4
19Brendon Hartley2
20Sergey Sirotkin0

Constructor’s Championship

PosConstructorPoints
1Mercedes375
2Ferrari360
3Red Bull/Renault238
4Renault82
5Haas/Ferrari76
6McLaren/Renault52
7Toro Rosso/Honda30
8Sauber/Ferrari19
9Force India/Mercedes18
10Williams/Mercedes4
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JakobusVdL

I’m happy to see the Ferrari got a win with Vettel, but disappointed to see they dropped further constructors points with Raikonnen’s DNF.
I’m hopeful that the wdc and wcc championship fights will go all the way to the end of the season.
It looks like Force India weren’t ‘being McLaren’ in their claims that they had good updates designed, but just needed the money to implement them.
Ocon and Perez are going to make it really tough for Otmar to put a different driver in one of those seats.

ChuckV

Charles LeClerc posted on Instagram that he wasn’t a fan of the halo before, but certainly is now – I have no doubt he would have been seriously injured without it. A+

jtr

Check out Hartley’s onboard footage:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tC6ZcYfH7FQ

Looks to me like Alonso’s front tire and wing are headed right toward LeClerc’s head. I think he would have been instantly killed if that tire had gotten him in the head. Huge win for the halo.

MIE

The Halo is a much bigger target than the drivers helmet. It is not surprising that there are tyre marks on it after an incident like this. If Alonso had a Halo fitted in 2012, no doubt there would have been tyre marks on it then.
However this incident does mean that the Halo will be very hard to remove now on safety grounds. Also, it is hard to see how the windscreen solution favoured by IndyCar would withstand this sort of impact.

JakobusVdL

I wonder where Indycar are at with driver protection after the Wickens/Hunter-Reay crash, and the Scott Dixon/Howard indy 500 crash last year?
They were both very close to having the drivers being hit by the barriers or another car.
To me the Halo looks like it would have a lot more structural capability than the (prettier) screen they ran as a demo.
Given the halo is proven through testing, and also in racing, Indycar will have to do a great deal of work to demonstrate their screen could provide equal or better driver protection.

Tom Firth

The Halo wouldn’t be appropriate in oval racing. Also Indycar are continuing to develop its screen solution, expect an update on progress probably soon in light in the Wickens accident.

subcritical71

Tom, I’m curious why it wouldn’t be appropriate at oval racing? Is it the sight lines in a turn? If so, I wonder if the halo could be offset to get around that issue. I do admit the closer racing probably makes the center support a bit more of an obstacle than in F1. But most in F1 seem to be able to navigate the first lap (turn) fairly well with it in place. If I look at Nascar, they virtually have a Halo that is shrouded in sheet metal which most folks call the roof. A center support was… Read more »

jakobusvdl

Hi Tom, i have the same question/thought as SubC.
Surely a halo solution could be made appropriate to oval racing?
Offset the post to the right and position the hoop above the required field of vision, and away you go.
But it will be interesting to see where they have got to with screen, and what load cases they are considering – and if they encompass the two crashes I mentioned.

Tom Firth

Sorry for not replying sooner. Just by comments made by Rahal, Dixon and others that the location of the central structure on the halo is in the wrong place for high banked ovals like Texas which have different drivers sightlines to road course races, which means as far as those guys are concerned, it wouldn’t be suitable. I guess you could redesign it perhaps to manage those concerns but the aero screen seems to be the preferred option as it removes that issue, and if the drivers are happier with pursuing that solution which I guess is fine as it… Read more »

jakobusvdl

Have you seen anything about the loads Indycar are considering in their design?

jakobusvdl

In other driver impact protection related news …… https://www.autosport.com/f1/news/138386/f1-new-ballistictested-helmet-revealed
These measures must relate to the fact the halo doesn’t protect against small debris or components coming horizontally towards the driver.
Good ole FIA, continuing the push to improve driver safety.

Peter

Yes, I agree the momentum of the tire is headed for the helmet. Good video, thanks.

MIE

On board from Leclerc, looking back at the cockpit:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=usFDjeQP1SQ

JakobusVdL

LeClerk is a very lucky lad

nightryder21

What did Szafnauer say about Stroll?

PMR

It would be a travesty if a driver like Ocon find himself without a seat because some bilionaire buys an F1 team just so his son can drive an F1 car.
The upside is, he’s gonna get ripped to shreads by Perez and be exposed for what he is. A midiocer racing driver with a way to rich dad

Dan Cooper

Hmm. A win for Valterri Bottas for causing a crash in practice, causing a second crash in turn one, picking up a penalty, then driving his car which almost can’t help ending up in front of everything but Ferraris and the other Mercedes, to behind not only the Ferrari/Mercedes pair, but also an under powered Red Bull. Not feelin that.

Dan Cooper

Understood but I think the point is it would be almost impossible for any of the drivers on the track to have accomplished less with the Benz. While his eau rouge pass was impressive, it wasn’t necessary – that thing’s just going to drive around the other cars and shuffle back near the top of the deck on a power circuit like it did around Perez. He finished behind a Red Bull, and I don’t understand why screwing up a race then half unscrewing it seems to get more credit than just not *&^%ing it up in the first place.

Peter

It may just be me, but everything in F1 these days seems to be a concertina… 1. they forget to put fuel in Kimi’s car, yet Vettel had fuel for the laps Kimi did +2 (Arrivabene takes the blame, that was nice) 2. No driver get to practice starts on the ribbed surface – really? They could not rib the practice area? They expect drivers to guess bite points? Is no one in F1 thinking safety? 3. Kimi gets a bad start (see 2 above) so do 3 other drivers yet Haas comes storming through – to the hairpin! 4.… Read more »

The Captain

I’d say a big win to Honda. The’ve shown there are about on par with Renault at the last two races. Lets see how they do at Monza. Oh. If you think Otmar’s comments where cringe inducing (and they where) you should check out Lance’s interview with Will Buxton on Thursdays paddock pass. He answered every question about the deal with “You’re gonna have a ask my dad!” while grinning. Well until Will asked him if he would move to the team this year and he said “My dad’s a really great guy!”. All I could think was ‘Dude! You’re… Read more »