Hamilton cruises to 89th Formula 1 win
By Mat Coch
Monday 31st August, 2020 - 1:12am
Lewis Hamilton has claimed the 89th win of his Formula 1 career with victory in the Belgian Grand Prix.
Starting from pole position, Hamilton led every lap to see the flag more than eight seconds clear of Valtteri Bottas with Max Verstappen rounding out the podium.
Daniel Ricciardo equalled his best result for Renault in fourth, snagging the bonus point for fastest lap on the final tour.
“It wasn’t the easiest of races,” Hamilton said.
“I think the tyre temperatures were slowly dropping, no matter how much you were pushing.
“I guess as you lose rubber you start to lose the temperature in the tyres.
“It was a bit of a struggle but nonetheless I think it was okay.”
A clean start saw Hamilton lead Bottas into La Source while Ricciardo found himself boxed in behind the Finn with Verstappen to his inside.
The Red Bull driver then defended against his Australian adversary at Les Combes, the pair running side by side through the next three corners before Ricciardo was finally forced to cede the spot.
Their battle allowed the two Mercedes drivers to skip clear, Hamilton opening a 1.4s lead by the time the Drag Reduction System was enabled at the start of Lap 3.
By that stage, Verstappen had dropped three seconds back from the race lead, with Ricciardo 1.7s further back.
Pierre Gasly was on an early charge, rounding Sergio Perez as the pair dipped through Eau Rouge on Lap 2.
The Frenchman then rounded up Charles Leclerc, who’d moved up well from the start, to move into eighth place a lap later as they ran up the Kemmel Straight.
Leclerc continued to fall down the order, losing out to Perez soon afterwards on the same piece of race track and then to Daniil Kvyat on Lap 7.
The gap between the two leaders hovered around 1.5s through the opening stages. No sooner would Bottas edge closer than Hamilton would edge away again, the championship leader appearing to control the pace with ease.
Their pace was sufficient to pull clear of Verstappen in third, while the Renault charge had faded before the race had reached quarter distance.
The Safety Car was called when Antonio Giovinazzi and George Russell crashed on Lap 10 on the exit of Fagnes, littering the road with debris.
Giovinazzi triggered the incident as he lost control on the exit of the left-hander, an errant wheel accounting for Russell’s Williams.
Predictably, it saw the field head into the lane, Mercedes stacking its drivers and still emerging ahead of Verstappen in third.
By not stopping, Gasly and Perez rose to fourth and fifth respectively while Ricciardo remained sixth and Albon slotted in ahead of Ocon.
Race Control withdrew the Safety Car at the end of Lap 14, releasing the field once more.
A good jump saw Hamilton clear as the field rounded Blanchimont while Bottas had to briefly contend with Verstappen.
Following the Safety Car, Ricciardo found himself tucked up behind Perez until he was able to use the slipstream to pass the Racing Point on the Kemmel Straight.
Having not stopped, Perez fell prey to Albon who went around the outside of the Mexican at the Chicane as they completed the 17th tour.
Perez took to the lane a lap later, swapping the soft compound tyres for a set of hards that were only a handful of laps fresher than the rest of the pack.
The two Ferraris nearly came to blows on Lap 19 when Leclerc tried to round Sebastian Vettel at Les Combes.
Leclerc had slipped behind his team-mate during the Safety Car interruption, the duo banging wheels as he looked to regain 12th place from Vettel.
On old tyres, Gasly slipped behind Ricciardo on Lap 21, the Frenchman offering no defence as he worked his own strategy as the only car on track yet to stop.
He finally did so at the end of Lap 26 and rejoined the race in 16th.
The race then settled into a rhythm, though Ricciardo remained in touch with the front of the race such that it created strategic headaches for Red Bull.
Though Hamilton out front held enough of an advantage to stop and resume ahead of Ricciardo, and potentially Bottas enjoyed the same advantage, that was not the case for Verstappen in third.
In the closing laps it looked as though it might prove a crucial advantage as concerns grew over tyre wear.
Hamilton skated through the escape road at the Chicane on one occasion, as did Bottas, though neither headed back into the lane.
Instead they clung on to their positions at the head of the field, with Hamilton managing to race well to lead home Bottas from Verstappen.
Ricciardo was fourth from Renault team-mate Esteban Ocon, who passed Alex Albon into Les Combes on the final lap.
It was then Lando Norris from Gasly, who’d recovered to the points, as did Perez who was one spot behind Lance Stroll.
A total of 17 cars finished the race, Giovinazzi and Russell crashing out while a power unit issue on his lap to the grid ruled Carlos Sainz out before the grand prix had started.
Hamilton now sits atop the championship standings with 157 points from Verstappen on 110 and Bottas on 107.
In the constructors’ championship Mercedes now holds a more than 100-point advantage with 264 points versus Red Bull’s 158 and daylight to McLaren in third on 68 points.
Formula 1 returns next week with the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, the second leg of three quick-fire races that will end at Mugello the following weekend.
Result: Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix
|3||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Honda||44||+15.455s|
|6||23||Alexander Albon||Red Bull Racing Honda||44||+42.712s|
|7||4||Lando Norris||McLaren Renault||44||+43.774s|
|8||10||Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri Honda||44||+47.371s|
|9||18||Lance Stroll||Racing Point BWT Mercedes||44||+52.603s|
|10||11||Sergio Perez||Racing Point BWT Mercedes||44||+53.179s|
|11||26||Daniil Kvyat||AlphaTauri Honda||44||+70.200s|
|12||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||44||+71.504s|
|15||8||Romain Grosjean||Haas Ferrari||44||+76.793s|
|16||6||Nicholas Latifi||Williams Mercedes||44||+77.795s|
|17||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||44||+85.540s|
|99||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||9||DNF|
|63||George Russell||Williams Mercedes||9||DNF|
|55||Carlos Sainz||McLaren Renault||DNS|
Fastest lap: Daniel Ricciardo
|2||Red Bull Racing Honda||158|
|4||Racing Point BWT Mercedes||66|
|8||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||2|