Lewis Hamilton takes his fifth win of the season at the Belgian GP

31 August 2017

Lewis Hamilton takes his fifth win of the season at the Belgian GP

At the Belgian GP at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit on Sunday, Lewis Hamilton claimed an important victory in this year’s title race (his fifth of the season) after holding off Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel for 44 laps in a race which saw the two championship protagonists go wheel-to-wheel twice along the Kemmel Straight; Hamilton was the victor and therefore slashed Vettel’s championship lead to seven points in the process.

The start of the race saw Lewis Hamilton made a good getaway from pole position to lead Sebastian Vettel through La Source, but Vettel quickly recalibrated and looked to Les Combes at the end of the Kemmel Straight to try his move for the lead.

As Hamilton punched a hole in the air through Eau Rouge, Vettel drafted behind and when the pair exited Raidillon, Hamilton had to cover the inside line to protect his position. Vettel got his nose alongside but in the final 500 metres of the straight Mercedes’ power advantage was clear to see and Hamilton just stayed ahead.

Further down the grid (and in a sign of things to come) the Force India drivers made contact once again as Esteban Ocon ricocheted between teammate Sergio Perez and the concrete wall on the run down to Eau Rouge. Remarkably both drivers emerged unscathed, and along with the rest of the field completed the first lap without any further incident.

But Fernando Alonso made an exceptional start and moved from eleventh to seventh place by taking a wide line through the opening corner, but in the space of the next six laps he dropped four places as his McLaren routinely ran out of puff on the Kemmel Straight. In response to this situation, Alonso blurted over the radio “Embarrassing, really embarrassing,” before asking his engineer to stop giving him information on Lap 17, by which point he had dropped to fifteenth place.

On lap 27, Alonso reopened the radio channel with the McLaren team to ask if any rain was due to hit the track, and when the response came back negative he replied a minute later reporting a terminal engine problem.

Max Verstappen lasted just eight laps before his Renault engine gave up, forcing him to pull to the side of the track and into retirement. Kimi Raikkonen was caught speeding in the yellow flag zone as the marshals removed Verstappen’s car and was later hit with a ten-second stop-go penalty as a result.

As the early stages of the race unfolded, Hamilton remained just out of Vettel’s reach and on Lap 12 made his planned pit stop to switch to soft tyres. Vettel followed suit two laps later but in the intervening two laps lost ground to Hamilton and exited the pits three seconds behind.

With Valtteri Bottas comfortably in third and Raikkonen dropping to eighth with his penalty, the battle for the podium positions appeared to be over … but that was before Ocon returned to the track from his second pit stop directly behind teammate Perez.

Ocon, who had been ahead of Perez before Force India’s second round of pit stops, had a point to prove and on Lap 30 he got a better exit from La Source to attempt a move through Eau Rouge. He looked to the right of his teammate on the run down to the high-speed left-right-left only for Perez to move across and squeeze him towards the wall.

With nowhere to go, Ocon’s front wing endplate made contact with Perez’s right rear, sending debris flying into the catch fencing and slashing open Perez’s tyre. Remarkably, both drivers kept their foot pinned to the throttle into Eau Rouge, only for the Mexican to back off as the rear of his car snapped sideways at over 250km/h.

A substantial part of Ocon’s front wing came to a rest in the middle of the circuit and FIA race director Charlie Whiting wasted no time in calling for a Safety Car.

When the Safety Car emerged all of the remaining cars pitted for fresh rubber, essentially resetting the race ahead of the final ten laps. Both of the Mercedes drivers opted for the soft compound tyres while Vettel in second, Ricciardo in fourth and Raikkonen — now back up to fifth after his penalty — opted for the faster ultra-softs.

Behind the Safety Car, Hamilton struggled to get his harder compound tyres up to temperature and Vettel loomed large in his mirrors as he prepared for the restart. Much like he did at the start, Vettel was able to draw alongside but once again Hamilton just had enough of a power advantage to keep him at bay at the top of the hill into Les Combes.

Once through the first sector after the restart, Hamilton was able to use the high-speed corners in sector two to get his tyres up to temperature and from that point onwards managed the gap to Vettel behind.

Bottas in third place was unable to match the restart of his teammate and Ricciardo and Raikkonen both found a way past the Mercedes on the entry to the chicane. Ricciardo went to the inside while Raikkonen went to the outside, leaving Bottas with nowhere to go as he ran wide and dropped to fifth.

Back at the front, Hamilton went on to cross the line 1.4s ahead of his title rival, securing a seven point swing in the drivers’ championship in the process. He now heads to Monza next weekend in the knowledge that a repeat result would leave the pair level on points with seven races remaining.

But it was Lewis Hamilton who won the Belgian GP, his fifth win of the season, has now gained ground on the championship and is now seven points behind Sebastian Vettel.
Hamilton finished ahead of Sebastian Vettel in second place who was 2.358 seconds behind him and ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in third place who was 10.791 seconds behind Hamilton.

Kimi Raikkonen finished the race in fourth place ahead of Valtteri Bottas in fifth place, Nico Hulkenberg in sixth place, Romain Grosjean in a brilliant seventh place, Felipe Massa in eighth place, Esteban Ocon in ninth place and Carlos Sainz Jr who rounded off the top ten finishers.

Lance Stroll ended the race just out of the points in eleventh place ahead of Daniil Kvyat in twelfth place, Jolyon Palmer in thirteenth place, Stoffel Vandoorne in fourteenth place and Kevin Magnussen in fifteenth place.

As we head into the latter stages of the grid, Marcus Ericsson finished the race in sixteenth place ahead of Sergio Perez in seventeenth place. Fernando Alonso, Max Verstappen and Pascal Wehrlein did not finish the race.

The classification for the Belgian GP is as follows:-

1. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1.24:42.820
2. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, 2.358s
3. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull-TAG Heuer, 10.791s
4. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 14.471s
5. Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, 16.456s
6. Nico Hulkenberg, Renault, 28.087s
7. Romain Grosjean, Haas Ferrari, 31.553s
8. Felipe Massa, Williams-Mercedes, 36.649s
9. Esteban Ocon, Force India-Mercedes, 38.154s
10. Carlos Sainz Jr, Toro Rosso, 39.447s
11. Lance Stroll, Williams-Mercedes, 48.999s
12. Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, 49.940s
13. Jolyon Palmer, Renault, 53.239s
14. Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren-Honda, 57.078s
15. Kevin Magnussen, Haas Ferrari, 1.07.262s
16. Marcus Ericsson, Sauber-Ferrari, 1.09.711s
17. Sergio Perez, Force India-Mercedes, Not Classified
18. Max Verstappen, Red-Bull-TAG Heuer, Not Classified
19. Fernando Alonso, McLaren-Honda, Not Classified
20. Pascal Wehrlein, Sauber-Ferrari, Not Classified

Sebastian Vettel leads the 2017 Formula One Drivers Championship with 220 points, Lewis Hamilton is in second place with 213 points, Valtteri Bottas is third with 179 points, Daniel Ricciardo is fourth with 132 points, Kimi Raikkonen is fifth with 128 points, Max Verstappen is sixth with 67 points, Sergio Perez is seventh with 56 points, Esteban Ocon is eighth with 47 points, Carlos Sainz Jr is ninth with 36 points, Nico Hulkenberg is tenth with 34 points, Felipe Massa is eleventh with 27 points, Romain Grosjean is twelfth with 24 points, Lance Stroll is thirteenth with 18 points, Kevin Magnussen is fourteenth with 11 points, Fernando Alonso is fifteenth with 10 points, Pascal Wehrlein is sixteenth with 5 points, Daniil Kvyat is seventeenth with 4 points and Stoffel Vandoorne is eighteenth with 1 point.

Mercedes leads the Constructors Championship with 392 points, Ferrari are second with 348 points, Red Bull is third with 199 points, Force India are fourth with 103 points, Williams are fifth with 45 points, Toro Rosso are sixth with 40 points, Haas are seventh with 35 points, Renault are eighth with 34 points, McLaren are eighth with 11 points and Sauber are tenth with 5 points.

Sarah Jones- @jonesy_laaa