Vettel beats Hamilton into second after F1’s Belgian GP begins with a bang

• Ferrari driver cuts gap in title race to 17 points behind Briton
• Max Verstappen finishes third with Valtteri Bottas fourth

Clinical and flawless, Sebastian Vettel’s win at the Belgian Grand Prix was reminiscent of some of the German’s untouchable victories during his championship-winning years at Red Bull. He has narrowed the points gap to Lewis Hamilton, who was left expressing not a little concern at the pace Ferrari were able to demonstrate on a circuit where he and Mercedes have previously been so dominant.

Hamilton insisted he did not believe Ferrari’s advantage was due to anything illegal but referred to “a few trick things going on in the car” that Mercedes badly need to match.

Vettel won by 11 seconds from Hamilton, having taken the lead on the opening lap, after which the superior pace of the Ferrari left the German untroubled at the front. Max Verstappen came up from seventh on the grid to take a well-deserved third place for Red Bull, his best finish at Spa.

Vettel has reduced Hamilton’s lead in the title race from 24 points to 17. The German won here for Red Bull in 2011 and 2013, both years he went on to win the title in a car that was the class of the field. He might be forgiven for believing the Ferrari under him now has proved to have a similarly impressive edge, something Hamilton readily acknowledged as he called on greater efforts from his team.

“I did everything I could and we ultimately did well, but he drove past me like I was not there,” he said. “We have to keep pushing to see what we can do. They have got a few trick things going on in the car, I did what I could, we did what we could so we have to keep working.”

Both Ferrari and Mercedes brought new engines to Belgium and the Scuderia already possessed a straight‑line speed advantage. But at Spa it looked to have become of a different order altogether, prompting Hamilton’s concern. Asked if he believed it was legal he said: “I don’t know what is on their car so I couldn’t tell you either way.”

However, when pressed the British driver was adamant he believed Ferrari had simply done a better job. “I’m not saying there is anything illegal,” he said. “We all have something, tricks, a trick is just something that helps you bring that extra performance. Please don’t twist my words to say that I say they are doing it illegally, because they are not. They just outperformed us today and we have to work harder.”

This was Ferrari’s first win here since 2009. Vettel was hugely pleased by his team’s performance, especially in light of their failure to match Mercedes’ development last season. “I hope we have more power, that’s what we are working for,” he said. “If that is the case then well done to our engine guys. We have been making progress in the last two years and that’s good news. I wouldn’t disagree that this year in terms of power we are a lot closer than last year. Last year we didn’t have a chance here.”

He had not been able to match Hamilton in qualifying in the wet and was second on the grid. But the Ferrari had been very strong all weekend in the dry conditions that were repeated on Sunday and Vettel made the most of it. The power-dependent Spa fell to a resurgent Scuderia who look ominously strong for the next rounds at Monza and Singapore.

Last year Hamilton was able to skilfully deny Vettel with his track position from pole, backing the German up through Eau Rouge when he challenged, but the superior pace of the Ferrari this year meant Vettel would not be denied.

The front runners had got away cleanly but Nico Hülkenberg shunted Fernando Alonso going into La Source, sending the Spaniard airborne and into the top of Charles Leclerc’s Sauber. His halo cockpit protection took some of the impact which will perhaps end any further speculation on whether the device should have been imposed.

Sebastian Vettel celebrates his victory for Ferrari in the Belgian F1 Grand Prix.
Sebastian Vettel celebrates his victory for Ferrari in the Belgian F1 Grand Prix. Photograph: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

The safety car was deployed as a result but crucially Vettel had already made his move. The German successfully slipstreamed Hamilton on the Kemmel Straight and had the job done going through Les Combes. The overtake he was denied last year was executed perfectly, with nothing Hamilton could do. Vettel had established a lead and went on to win with a consummate run reminiscent of those heady days at Red Bull.

Hamilton admitted that while he briefly tried to push, he ultimately had to accept the German could not be caught. “He was doing times I could not match,” he said. “So it came to a point where it was sensible to save the engine and get to the finish line.”

He leaves to lick his wounds before Monza next weekend, where he must hope Mercedes can extract more from their car. Vettel, in contrast, goes into the final eight-race run-in, still behind on points but having given definitive notice that on track he is now the man in front.

1 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 1hr 23min 34.476sec, 2 Lewis Hamilton (GB) Mercedes 1:23:45.537, 3 Max Verstappen (Neth) Red Bull 1:24:05.848, 4 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes 1:24:43.081, 5 Sergio Pérez (Mex) Force India 1:24:45.499, 6 Esteban Ocon (Fr) Force India 1:24:53.996, 7 Romain Grosjean (Fr) Haas 1:25:00.429, 8 Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas 1:25:02.115, 9 Pierre Gasly (Fr) Toro Rosso 1:25:20.338, 10 Marcus Ericsson (Swe) Sauber at 1 Lap, 11 Carlos Sainz Jr (Sp) Renault at 1 Lap, 12 Sergey Sirotkin (Rus) Williams at 1 Lap, 13 Lance Stroll (Can) Williams at 1 Lap, 14 Brendon Hartley (NZ) Toro Rosso at 1 Lap, 15 Stoffel Vandoorne (Bel) McLaren at 1 Lap 

Not classified: 16 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull 28 Laps completed, 17 Kimi Räikkönen (Fin) Ferrari 8 Laps completed, 18 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Sauber 0 Laps completed, 19 Fernando Alonso (Sp) McLaren 0 Laps completed, 20 Nico Hülkenberg (Ger) Renault 0 Laps completed 

Valtteri Bottas drove a strong recovery to comeback from 17th on the grid after receiving engine penalties to claim fourth place. The two Force Indias, in their first race under new owners, returned just the finish they team wanted, with Sergio Pérez in fifth and Esteban Ocon in sixth.

Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen in the two Haas cars were in seventh and eighth, in front of the Toro Rosso of Pierre Gasly in ninth and Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson in 10th.

Kimi Räikkönen took a puncture on the opening corner after clashing with Daniel Ricciardo, lost position and was forced to retire on lap nine with his rear wing and DRS damaged. Ricciardo also took damage and ultimately retired on lap 31.

Drivers: Lewis Hamilton (GB) Mercedes 231pts, 2 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 214, 3 Kimi Räikkönen (Fin) Ferrari 146, 4 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes 144, 5 Max Verstappen (Neth) Red Bull 120, 6 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull 118, 7 Nico Hülkenberg (Ger) Renault 52, 8 Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas 49, 9 Fernando Alonso (Spa) McLaren 44, 10 Sergio Pérez (Mex) Force India 40, 11 Esteban Ocon (Fr) Force India 37, 12 Carlos Sainz (Sp) Renault 30, 13 Pierre Gasly (Fr) Toro Rosso 28, 14 Romain Grosjean (Fr) Haas F1 27, 15 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Sauber 13, 16 Stoffel Vandoorne (Bel) McLaren 8, 17 Marcus Ericsson (Swe) Sauber 6, 18 Lance Stroll (Can) Williams 4, 19 Brendon Hartley (NZ) Toro Rosso 2, 20 Sergey Sirotkin (Rus) Williams 0 

Constructors: 1 Mercedes 375pts, 2 Ferrari 360, 3 Red Bull 238, 4 Renault 82, 5 Haas 76, 6 McLaren 52, 7 Toro Rosso 30, 8 Sauber 19, 9 Force India 18, 10 Williams 4 


Giles Richards at Spa-Francorchamps

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Lewis Hamilton wins Spanish Grand Prix to stretch lead in F1 title race
Lewis Hamilton won the Spanish Grand Prix ahead of his Mercedes team-mate, Valtteri Bottas, to extend his lead in the F1 drivers’ title race

Giles Richards at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya

13, May, 2018 @3:22 PM

Article image
Lewis Hamilton hits out over Sebastian Vettel's 'tap on the wrist'
Lewis Hamilton regained the Formula One world championship lead with an emphatic victory in the French Grand Prix, ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and the Ferrari of Kimi Räikkönen

Giles Richards at Circuit Paul Ricard

24, Jun, 2018 @9:32 PM

Article image
Lewis Hamilton on top but Mercedes face uphill battle to match Ferrari | Giles Richards
How Mercedes fare in Barcelona will be telling – they must work the tyres at the correct temperature to unlock performance

Giles Richards

30, Apr, 2018 @9:45 PM

Article image
Lewis Hamilton wins Singapore Grand Prix to extend lead in F1 title race
Lewis Hamilton won the Singapore Grand Prix with a strong run from pole to increase his world championship lead over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to 40 points

Giles Richards

16, Sep, 2018 @2:29 PM

Article image
Kimi Räikkönen makes Lewis Hamilton wait for F1 title with US GP win
Lewis Hamilton must wait for his fifth F1 title after victory for Kimi Räikkönen at the US Grand Prix, with Max Verstappen second and Sebastian Vettel fourth behind the Briton

Tom Dart at the Circuit of the Americas, Austin

21, Oct, 2018 @8:15 PM

Article image
Mercedes rue missed Melbourne chance but Red Bull and McLaren have hope | Giles Richards
The performances of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen at Melbourne showed Red Bull can be a force this season while Fernando Alonso gave McLaren reason to be cheerful

Giles Richards in Melbourne

26, Mar, 2018 @10:00 AM

Article image
Verstappen shoves 'idiot' Ocon in clash following Hamilton's Brazil win
Max Verstappen and Esteban Ocon came together in a post-race incident after their collision handed Lewis Hamilton victory in Brazil

Giles Richards

11, Nov, 2018 @8:26 PM

Article image
Lewis Hamilton eyes fourth title after showing composure and maturity | Giles Richards
Lewis Hamilton has proved he knows how to play the game and stay out of trouble as he progresses to the threshold of another drivers’ crown with his triumph in Austin

Giles Richards

23, Oct, 2017 @8:56 PM

Article image
Lewis Hamilton: I was lucky to take second from tough weekend in Sepang
Lewis Hamilton extended his championship lead to 34 points in Malaysia but says his Mercedes team still have a big task to ensure he wins the title

Giles Richards

01, Oct, 2017 @8:09 PM

Article image
Max Verstappen wins thrilling German GP after Lewis Hamilton error
Max Verstappen’s Red Bull won the F1 German Grand Prix in treacherous wet conditions after Lewis Hamilton made an error while leading

Giles Richards at Hockenheim

28, Jul, 2019 @3:51 PM