Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari were the class of the Formula 1 field in Belgium this weekend. If it weren’t for a rain-addled third qualifying session that allowed Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes to steal the pole, Ferrari would have dominated all seven sessions at Spa-Francochamps.
Vettel lead every lap over Hamilton, who finished second, securing Vettel’s fifth win of 2018 and 52nd career victory. It moves Vettel past Alain Prost on the all-time F1 wins list.
There was a wild start to the race, as Hamilton and Vettel went into Turn 1 side by side down the Camel straight. Vettel was able to get a slipstream and pass Lewis Hamilton while fighting off the Force India teammates.
However, in the back of the grid, Nico Hulkenberg could not quite get his car slowed down for the first corner, and he slammed into the back of Fernando Alonso, who was then sent flying over Charles Leclerc’s Halo-protected Sauber just like Romain Grosjean was sent over Alonso’s car on the first lap of the 2012 Belgium Grand Prix.
On the restart, Lewis tried to have a go on the final chicane, but Vettel was able to use his superior Ferrari engine to pull away and out of DRS threat from Hamilton with ease in the first stint. Hamilton tried to pull the undercut on Vettel on their one pit stop, but after being slowed by the Red Bull of Verstappen, who had yet to pit, Vettel was able to come out ahead of Hamilton, hold the lead and pull away from Hamilton on the final stint and cruise to an easy victory.
Valtteri Bottas had to start from the rear due to a change in the motor. With help from the first lap accident taking out four cars, Bottas was able to move up from 17th to seventh by lap 22 and fought his way to finish one spot off the podium in fourth in a great recovery drive.
A good race at Belgium relies heavily on the power of your motor, and a major standout in that regard was the Honda engine with the Toro Rosso. Pierre Gasly ran the entire race safely in the points and ended the day in ninth, Brendan Hartley was flirting with some points during the race, but he fell to 14th.
Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo got together during the Turn 1 calamity. Ricciardo’s rear wing was destroyed, and Ricciardo could not stop from running into Raikkonen and puncturing his right rear tire, sending both of them to the back. Raikkonen retired on lap 9 due to damage from the contact and floor damage from running a full Spa lap with a punctured tire. Ricciardo lost a lap while repairing his rear wing before eventually retiring on lap 32.
Vettel pulls within 17 points of Lewis Hamilton in the points heading into Monza next week. With Ferrari’s power upgrades, it looks to be the favorite to keep the momentum going at the start of the second half of the season.