Vettel eases to crash-marred Belgian GP victory

Mat Coch

Monday 27th August, 2018 - 1:18am

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Sebastian Vettel

Sebastian Vettel has won a Belgian Grand Prix that saw four cars eliminated in a dramatic crash at the opening corner.

The German seized the lead as the field raced out of Eau Rouge before controlling the race through the single pit stop cycle to take a comparatively straight forward victory.

Lewis Hamilton was powerless to match the Ferrari, briefly mounting a challenge after pitting a lap earlier than Vettel before fading to more than five seconds behind Hamilton.

In third was Max Verstappen, who climbed from seventh to third after a lonely race once he dispatched with Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez.

A mistake from Nico Hulkenberg triggered a multi-car crash at the opening corner, accounting for Fernando Alonso, Charles Leclerc and, ultimately Kimi Raikkonen.

The Finn became involved when he was tagged by Daniel Ricciardo, who’d lost his rear wing as Alonso swiped across the top of the Red Bull, puncturing the right rear tyre which forced the Ferrari out on Lap 9.

On the run up to Les Combes on the opening lap the leaders ran four wide, with Vettel, Hamilton, and the two Racing Point Force Indias jockeying for track position.

Vettel held the upper hand, with Hamilton’s Mercedes slotting into second ahead of Perez before the Safety Car was called for to clean up the opening lap shunt.

Ricciardo limped around with a wounded car, dropping a lap as the team replaced the rear wing before the Australian rejoined the race the last of the classified runners.

Verstappen quickly climbed from seventh to third, though by the time he’d cleared the two Racing Point Force Indias he was more than 10 seconds adrift of Vettel and Hamilton ahead.

On Lap 22, Hamilton took to the pits, triggering an immediate reaction from Vettel who held a 3.2s advantage on the previous lap.

Ferrari bolted on a set of soft compound tyres, returning to the fray in the lead as Hamilton found himself tucked up behind the yet-to-stop Verstappen.

Hamilton did reduce Vettel’s margin in the pit stop cycle, deposing Verstappen on the Kemmel Straight with ease to sit less than two seconds behind the race leading Ferrari on Lap 23.

Once back up to full racing speed, Vettel was able to gradually ease out the gap to Hamilton, who looked to concede defeat and drive instead for second place.

Ricciardo’s race came to an end on Lap 31 when, while running 16th and with no chance of meaningful gains, Red Bull elected to park him.

Having started off the back row of the grid, Valtteri Bottas raced his way to fourth, including a move around the outside of Pierre Gasly at Eau Rouge.

Behind the factory Mercedes were the two Racing Point Force Indias, with Perez ahead of Ocon.

They headed mid-field rivals Haas, with Romain Grosjean in seventh from Kevin Magussen eighth.

Gasly ended the race ninth, the final driver on the lead lap, while Sauber collected a point courtesy of Marcus Ericsson.

Victory for Vettel sees the German reduce his deficit to Hamilton the championship to 17 points, which now heads to Monza for the Italian Grand Prix next weekend.

Results: Belgian Formula 1 Grand Prix

Pos Driver Team Gap
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +11.061
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull Renault +31.372
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes +1:03.605
5 Sergio Perez Racing Point Force India Mercedes +1:11.023
6 Esteban Ocon Racing Point Force India Mercedes +1:19.520
7 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari +1:25.953
8 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari +1:27.639
9 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso Honda +1:45.892
10 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari +1 lap
11 Carlos Sainz Jr. Renault +1 lap
12 Sergey Sirotkin Williams Mercedes +1 lap
13 Lance Stroll Williams Mercedes +1 lap
14 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso Honda +1 lap
15 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren Renault +1 lap
Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Renault
Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari
Charles Leclerc Sauber Ferrari
Fernando Alonso McLaren Renault
Nico Hulkenberg Renault

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