After surprisingly losing out to Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes in Qualifying, where rain played a part in giving the Englishman the edge, Sebastian Vettel took his Ferrari to a commanding victory in Spa Francorchamps, remaining largely unchallenged throughout.
Hamilton took the lead at the start with Vettel slotting in second after a challenge from the Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon, which has started on the second row. Back in the pack Nico Hulkenberg misjudged his breaking into La Source, the Renault piling into the back of Fernando Alonso’s McLaren. The orange car flew over the Sauber of Charles Leclerc in a frightening accident that saw the halo on the latter car do its job.
The safety car was thus deployed, but not before Vettel had powered past Hamilton up the hill after Eau Rouge to take the lead.
There was clearly nothing Hamilton could do about the Ferrari so the two settled down in first and second, where they would finish the day. Behind, the Force India pair came under threat from Max Verstappen in the Red Bull, and it would not take long for him to make easy work of the pair of them and himself settle into his eventual third position.
Kimi Raikkonen, in the second Ferrari, had by this time retired after sustaining damage early on, while Daniel Ricciardo would also retire his Red Bull shortly after mid-distance. As races go, this one was among the most processional of the season, with the only real action – bar the start line accident – coming in the mid-field thanks to the DRS.
Closing the Gap
Vettel’s win this closes the gap to Hamilton to 17 points, with a week to go before the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. Verstappen was followed home – albeit at a distance – by Valtteri Bottas in the second Mercedes, the Finn having started from the back of the grid, while 5th and 6th for Perez and Ocon represented an excellent result for the recently resurrected Force India team, now owned by a consortium led by Lawrence Stroll.
Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen came home next for Haas – another fine result for the US team – and Pierre Gasly took 9th in the Toro Rosso. The final point went to Marcus Ericsson in the Sauber.