Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton has put on a flawless display in Belgium, winning for the third time at the revered Spa-Francorchamps circuit, on his milestone 200th race start – in spite of a late-race safety car, caused by contact between squabbling Force Indias, shaking things up.
Hamilton, who started from pole position for the 68th time, equalling the all-time record set by Michael Schumacher, didn’t put a wheel wrong all race – even with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel shadowing him within two seconds gap all the way. His 58th career victory means the gap to Vettel in the standings drops to just seven points, with the Italian Grand Prix at Monza next weekend.
Hamilton was visibly happy with his race, finishing ahead of Vettel – with Ricciardo completing the podium in third.
“It’s been a strong weekend for myself and the team,” the three-time F1 World Champion said. “Sebastian put a great fight on, but this is what I said I was coming to do so I did it.”
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Here’s how the 2017 FORMULA 1 BELGIAN GRAND PRIX played-out lap-by-lap:
The excitement is building as we approach the first Grand Prix after the summer break, at Belgium’s revered Spa-Francorchamps circuit. And 80,000 Dutch fans have turned up to see their man, Max Verstappen do something special from fifth on the grid.
It’s a historic race for many reasons, as the 50th Belgian Grand Prix held at Spa - 25 years since Michael Schumacher’s maiden win for Benetton in 1992. And Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton is the one to watch, the Brit securing his 68th pole position (for his 200th Grand Prix), equalling the all-time record held by Michael Schumacher. Hamilton is joined on the front row by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who leads the championship standings - the Brit desperate to close the 14-point gap.
There’s plenty of penalties to consider, with McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne starting from P20 - after he was penalised 65 grid places for use of additional power unit elements plus an unscheduled gearbox change. Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein will start from P17 and P18 respectively, after five-place grid penalties for unscheduled gearbox changes. Williams’ Felipe Massa starts from P16, after a five-place grid penalty for ignoring yellow flags in FP3. Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat has also been penalised 20 places for use of additional power unit elements.
Strategically, the fastest strategy is a one-stop - pitting on Lap 14, switching to the soft tyres. But teams could go aggressive with a two-stop (Lap 12/32), but that will require some overtaking to make it work. The durability of Pirelli’s ultrasofts is the biggest question. Who will move first? The standing waves in the tyres seen out of the final corner is said to not be an issue, after Pirelli consulted with the teams.
First 14 cars are all on ultrasofts, with Williams’ Lance Stroll and Felipe Massa, Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson, Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat and Mclaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne are on supersofts. Sauber’s Pascal Wehrlein is on the softs, so will be going much longer.
Hamilton gets a good start, but Vettel is strong - Raikkonen is all over Bottas. Verstappen stays ahead of Ricciardo into Les Combes. It’s Hamilton, Vettel, Bottas, Raikkonen, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Alonso, Hulkenberg, Ocon and Magnussen for top-10. Hulkenberg takes Alonso for seventh into final corner.
Hamilton leads Vettel by 1-second. Alonso re-takes Hulkenberg, three abreast with Ocon - goes back into P7. Raikkonen in P4 is less than a second behind Bottas.
Vettel sets the fastest lap, a 1:50.613 - less than a second behind Hamilton now, and says “we can go with him for a while”. Perez passes Magnussen down the Kemmel straight for P10. Wehrlein has pitted despite softs - taken into the garage. Perez is now behind his teammate, Ocon - less than a second between them.
Hamilton leads, responds with the fastest lap, a 1:50.328. Top-10 is Hamilton, Vettel, Bottas, Raikkonen, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Ocon, Alonso and Perez. Ocon passed Alonso for P8 down Kemmel straight. Replays of start show Hulkenberg bottled up the Force Indias into La Source. Perez in P10 is chasing down Alonso now.
Hamilton sets another fastest lap, a 1:49.926. He’s 1.6 seconds ahead of Vettel now. 8-seconds covers the top-6. “Embarrassing” says Alonso after being passed en masse. Palmer in P14 is chasing Massa for P13 - less than a second between them. Ocon in P8 is now being chased by his teammate again - 1.7 seconds the gap.
Wehrlein is out of the car, retired. Grosjean passes Alonso for P10 - down the Kemmel straight. “I really don’t care about the gaps,” says Alonso, when being told by his race engineer the intervals. Big train lined up behind Palmer in P14 down to Vandoorne in P18.
Hamilton leads Vettel by 1.8 seconds, Bottas in P3 is 3-seconds adrift. Raikkonen is 2.4 seconds behind his countryman in P4.
Hamilton leads Vettel by 1.5 seconds, both doing fairly identical times - 1:50.1s. Verstappen is slowing as he goes through Eau Rouge, team is trying to talk him through engine settings. He’s parking up on the Kemmel straight - another DNF for the Dutchman, his sixth this year. That releases Ricciardo up into P5.
Top-5 covered by 13-seconds. Palmer pits. Hamilton leads Vettel by 1.6 seconds - both doing 1:50.0s. Bottas in P3 was almost half a second slower on that last lap.
Magnussen says both cars will be in the points if he pits, and he does - in an attempt to prevent Renault’s undercut for Palmer. Force Indias are scrapping for P7, Ocon ahead. Hamilton leads Vettel by 1.6 seconds.
Hamilton leads, but Vettel sets the fastest lap - a 1:49.911 - 0.05 sec faster than Hamilton. Ocon, Grosjean and Alonso pit. Sainz in P9 is chasing down Massa, 0.7 sec the gap.
Vettel says he’s happy to stay out - 1.8 seconds the gap to leader Hamilton. Hulkenberg pits, as does Massa. Ricciardo in P5 is 6.1 seconds adrift of Raikkonen, both doing 1:51.0s. Hamilton told it’s hammer time, so opening the gap.
Hamilton pits from the lead, goes onto the softs - 2.3 second stop, he drops to P4. Looks like he’ll be on a one-stop. Perez pits. Vettel now leads Bottas by 6.6 seconds. Vettel is flying 1:50.2s, half a second faster than Bottas on that last lap. Raikkonen is under investigation for failing to slow under yellow flags.
Bottas pits from P2, as Hamilton lights up the second and third sectors. No response from Ferrari as yet. Huge train behind Kvyat in P9, with Grosjean and Perez in tow. Perez passes both into Les Combes, with a beautiful run down the Kemmel straight.
Vettel pits from the lead, onto the softs - 2.6 second stop. Ricciardo also pits, from P5 - onto the supersofts. Hamilton gets past Raikkonen for the lead, on the Kemmel straight - as he sets the fastest lap, a 1:49.414. The Brit is on much fresher tyres.
Raikkonen pits from P2, as Hamilton flies through onto the straight - onto the softs for the Finn, 2.8 second stop. Bottas sets the fastest lap, a 1:48.676. Perez under investigation for leaving the track at Turn 5. Top-10 is Hamilton, Vettel, Bottas, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Ocon, Sainz, Perez and Grosjean. Raikkonen gets a 10-second stop-go penalty for not slowing under double waved yellow flags.
Alonso given an update, tells his race engineer “no more radio for the rest of the race”. Hamilton leads Vettel by just 0.6 seconds, so we’re on for a straight fight here. Both on the softs. Vettel more than a second faster on that last lap.
Hamilton responding to Vettel’s pace, 0.8 seconds the gap. Raikkonen pits for his stop-go. Hamilton building his gap, to give him a little breathing room with the Ferrari bearing down. Top-5 is Hamilton, Vettel, Bottas, Ricciardo and Hulkenberg. All on softs except for Ricciardo, who is on supersofts.
Hamilton sets a personal best on that last lap, 0.8 faster than Vettel - 1.6 seconds the gap. Top-10 covered by 51 seconds now. Perez given a 5-second time penalty for his Turn 5 incident, where he passed two cars and then cut the chicane at Les Combes - gaining an advantage. Raikkonen in P7 is half a second behind Ocon.
Hamilton leads Vettel by 1.2 seconds now, Vettel two tenths faster on that last lap. Raikkonen passes Ocon for P6 into the final corner, the Bus Stop chicane. Sainz pits from P10.
Hamilton has responded to Vettel, same lap times - 1:49.2s. Bottas in P3 is a tenth quicker than both of them. Ricciardo in P4 is in a race of his own, 14 seconds behind Bottas and 21 seconds ahead of Hulkenberg. It’s all about the battle up-front, with Hamilton staying ahead of Vettel - no mistakes at this stage.
Top-4 all doing 1:49s, along with Raikkonen. Rest of the top-10 doing 1:50s or slower. Hamilton leads Vettel by 1.7 seconds.
No drivers are within a second of each other. Hamilton is extending his gap to Vettel, 1.7 seconds the difference. Bottas in P3 is the man on the move, he’s 5.2 seconds behind Vettel - with his last lap time, 0.4 seconds faster.
Bottas shows his hand, with the fastest lap - a 1:48.616. Raikkonen in P6 is chasing down Hulkenberg, 0.6 seconds faster on that last lap.
Raikkonen in P6 is 0.6 seconds adrift of Hulkenberg, and he gets past the Renault down the Kemmel straight and up into P5. Sainz in P13 is behind his idol Alonso, and gets past for P12.
Ocon in P7 is being chased by Perez - 1.6 seconds the gap, but the Mexican pits and takes his 5-second time penalty. Hamilton leads Vettel by 1.8 seconds, Bottas still 5.6 seconds behind in P3.
Alonso retires from the race. Palmer in P15 is less than a second behind Kvyat. Hamilton leads Vettel by 1.9 seconds, the German 0.2 seconds faster on that last lap. Ricciardo sets a personal best lap.
The focus is all on the battle up-front, with Hamilton leading by 2-seconds. Ocon pits as Perez sets the fastest lap, a 1:48.300. He’s in P10, one place ahead of Ocon.
Force India battle heating up, as Ocon seeks to pass Perez. Ocon asks why Perez pitted him before, told to stick with it. Ocon go side by side into the run down to Eau Rouge, as Ocon tried to pass - his front wing cuts the Mexican’s right rear, causing a puncture. Yellow flags are out. Will we see a safety car?
Safety car is deployed, as Raikkonen and Hulkenberg pits. Debris all over the track on the run down to Eau Rouge. Both go onto the ultras. A flurry of cars pitting. But no one up front has moved. Ferrari are still waiting in the pits. Top-4 all pits
Still under the safety car, but so much action. Hamilton still leads Vettel - the Brit on softs, Vettel ultras. Bottas on softs, Ricciardo on ultras. Magnussen pits. So top-10 is Hamilton, Vettel, Bottas, Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Hulkenberg, Grosjean, Massa, Magnussen and Ocon. From there, it’s Sainz in P11, Stroll, Kvyat, Perez, Palmer, Vandoorne and Ericsson.
We’re still under the safety car. Hamilton complaining about why the safety car is out, with debris allegedly cleared. Will his tyre choice - of softs - come back to haunt him, with the rubber cooling under the safety car? Lapped cars are now overtaking the safety car.
We’re still under the safety car, Hamilton asking why the safety car is driving so slow. This is setting up what should be an incredible battle for the lead, with Vettel behind Hamilton on much softer tyres. The incident between the Force Indias has been noted by the stewards. Safety car will come in at the end of this lap. Hamilton backing the pack very slowly.
Hamilton leads Vettel after blasting out of Blanchimont, he leads into La Source - but can he stay ahead into Les Combes? Vettel all over the Mercedes’ tail - but can’t make it work into Les Combes. Ricciardo has passed Raikkonen and Bottas for P3. Bottas down in P5. Hamilton already pulling out a gap.
Hamilton sets the fastest lap, a 1:47.698. Vettel in P2 is not giving up - he’s staying with the Brit, 0.8 seconds the gap. Raikkonen in P4 is 1-second behind Ricciardo.
Hamilton sets another fastest lap, a 1:46.603 - four tenths faster than Vettel on that last lap, 1.2 seconds the gap. Raikkonen and Bottas are chasing down Ricciardo. Force India’s Otmar Szafnauer says “I only saw what you saw, but looks like Sergio squeezed Esteban into the wall.” He also says the racing will stop now, with both unable to manage.
Hamilton leads Vettel by 1.4 seconds. Ricciardo in P3 is 2.8 seconds behind Vettel. Raikkonen in P4 has dropped back, 1.4 seconds the gap. Bottas in P5 is now within DRS range of Raikkonen.
Hamilton leads Vettel by 1.3 seconds, though the German set a personal best lap. 17 cars racing, with Alonso, Verstappen and Wehrlein out at this stage. Vettel told he can push tyre wise, “no problem” says his race engineer Ricciardo Adami.
It’s Hamilton, Vettel - 1-second the gap now, can he get back within DRS range for another chance at the lead? Ricciardo looks comfortable in P3 now, with Raikkonen dropping back to 1.4 second gap.
Five laps to go. Hamilton leads Vettel by 1.3 seconds - the German was 0.2 sec slower on that last lap. Raikkonen and Bottas are doing very similar lap times, 1:48.1s - 0.2 seconds slower than Ricciardo ahead.
Hamilton leads Vettel but it looks like the Brit has the pace to stay out front - 1.4 seconds the gap now. Hamilton told tyre temps have stabilised, so manage as he likes.
Vettel sets the fastest lap, a 1:46.577 - a tenth faster than Hamilton, who leads by 1.2 seconds. Any mistake and Hamilton’s championship could be on ice. Ocon in P9 is chasing Massa, 0.5 seconds the gap.
Perez told to box and retire his car. Hamilton remains in front, 1.4 seconds the gap - the Brit 0.3 seconds faster on that last lap. He looks very comfortable out front. Ricciardo has extended the gap over Raikkonen to 2.5 seconds.
Lap 44 - FINAL LAP:
Lewis Hamilton wins the Belgian Grand Prix for a third time, his first win there since 2015. It’s his 58th win, on his 200th Grand Prix - and he did not put a foot wrong all race. A lights to flag tour de force, despite a late-race safety car.
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