Formula 1 news story about [F1 2018 NEWS FEATURE] BELGIAN GRAND PRIX: RACE REVIEW

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel has won the Belgian Grand Prix for the third time, his first for Ferrari and fifth victory this year - closing the gap to title rival Lewis Hamilton to 17 points, on a day when the Brit just couldn’t match his pace.

Vettel, who now has 52 wins, eclipsing fellow 4-time F1 World Champion for third on the all-time list, took the lead at Les Combes on Lap 1 and never looked back - despite a safety car for one of the most dramatic crashes of the season at Turn 1, with McLaren’s Fernando Alonso launched sideways over the back of the Sauber of Charles Leclerc.

“I had a great start, but not sure Lewis saw me. He pushed me to the left, but I knew my chance would be later on up the hill, and I think I timed it well,” Vettel said on his crucial pass for the lead.

“I had a good restart, a very good exit off the first corner, but after that a very smooth race.”

Hamilton finished second, 11-seconds adrift at the chequered flag. Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen completed the podium. While the entire grid now moves to Italy, and the end of the European season, with the next round held back-to-back.

Pos No Driver Car Laps Time/Retired Pts
1 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 44 1:23:34.476 25
2 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 44 +11.061s 18
3 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 44 +31.372s 15
4 77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 44 +63.605s 12
5 11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 44 +71.023s 10
6 31 Esteban Ocon Force India Mercedes 44 +79.520s 8

Here’s how the FORMULA 1 2018 BELGIAN GRAND PRIX played-out lap-by-lap:

Build Up:
It’s the 51st Belgian Grand Prix at the legendary circuit Spa-Francorchamps, and we’ve got a mouthwatering spectacle ahead - with two four-time F1 World Champions on the front row of the grid, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton on pole for a record fifth time at Spa, his 78th time overall - and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel alongside.

Behind the two championship challengers, Force India has locked out the second row - with Esteban Ocon in an career-best equalling P3, and Sergio Perez also in a career-best equalling P4, after the pair stayed out on slicks during a wet qualifying session. It’s a result from heaven for the team, which has had a rough month, having to re-enter the championship after the team was rescued from administration by the Lawrence Stroll-led consortium.

Haas’ Romain Grosjean starts fifth, his best grid slot since Austria - and the Frenchman needs strong result to retain his drive for 2019. Behind him is Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen, with the team admitting a fuel miscalculation in Q3 cost him a shot at pole. On the fourth row, it’s the two Red Bull Racing drivers with Max Verstappen (in P7) again ahead of Daniel Ricciardo (P8) - the qualifying head-to-head now 10-3.

There’s several top drivers down the back of the grid, with Valtteri Bottas starting P17, followed by both Renaults, with Nico Hulkenberg (P18) Carlos Sainz (P19) and hometown hero Stoffel Vandoorne (P20) all taking grid penalties due to replacement power unit elements. So the fightback drives will be fascinating as the Mercedes and both Renaults come through the field.

Last year’s race was a two-stopper, with 2018’s edition expected to be a similar story. A wet qualifying session means all drivers can choose the dry compound they start on, but most are likely to be on the supersofts - which are said to last for around 16 laps, before switching over to the softs that are said to last for 28 laps. The final stint could be a return to the supersofts, or even the mediums.

The fickle Ardennes weather looks stable for now, but things can change quickly at Spa-Francorchamps - and it can be raining at one part of the track, and dry at another, forcing teams to think on their feet. The track temperature is 30 degrees, ambient 17 degrees so fairly cool, and getting marginally cooler.

Formation Lap:
The top-10 all starts on the supersofts, the balance of the grid are on the softs - with Renault’s Carlos Sainz starting on the mediums, the only one to take that gamble.

Lap 1:
Hamilton gets a good start, he’s leading into Turn 1. Huge crash as Alonso goes over the top of Charles Leclerc, and Hulkenberg also out. Vettel takes the lead into Les Combes. Perez passing Ocon down the Kemmel straight. Safety car is out. Raikkonen has a puncture, he’s now at the back - limping home. Replay shows Hulkenberg hitting into Alonso, after locking his brakes, who went sideways over Leclerc.

Lap 2:
Safety car still out. Ricciardo has pitted, his rear wing destroyed. The Australian looks to be out of the race for a while. Raikkonen has pitted for mediums. Order is Vettel, Hamilton, Perez, Ocon, Verstappen, Grosjean, Magnussen, Gasly, Ericsson, Sirotkin, Stroll, Hartley, Sainz, Bottas, Vandoorne, Raikkonen. Ricciardo is having a new rear wing fitted.

Lap 3:
Safety car is still out. Replays show Ricciardo’s left front connected with right rear of Raikkonen at Turn 1, as the Australian was then involved in carnage behind that destroyed his rear wing. Sainz and Vandoorne have both pitted for mediums. Bottas is on the supersofts.

Lap 4:
Safety car still out, as debris continues to be collected. Replays show Bottas hit into the back of Sirotkin, damaging his front wing. Ricciardo heads back out onto the track, 2 laps down. Safety car in at the end of this lap.

Lap 5:
Hamilton tried to nab Vettel into final corner but goes too deep. The German stays ahead into Turn 1. Perez is on the back of Hamilton, with Ocon behind.

Lap 6:
Vettel leads Hamilton by 1.6 seconds, followed by Perez and Ocon. As Verstappen closes in on the Frenchman. Vettel sets the fastest lap, a 1:48.656 - and is extending his lead.

Lap 7:
Vettel leads Hamilton by 2.2 seconds. Verstappen is much closer to Ocon now. He makes an aggressive dummy move into Les Combes, and is up to P4. The Dutchman is now after Perez in P3 for the podium.

Lap 8:
Vettel leads Hamilton now by 2.6 seconds. Bottas passes Hartley for P13 into Eau Rouge! Impressive move. Raikkonen has stopped for some front wing adjustments, with brakes smoking. Long stop. No further action on steward enquiry between Ricciardo and Raikkonen.

Lap 9:
Another fastest lap for Vettel, a 1:48.646, he’s 2.9 seconds ahead of Hamilton. Perez is 7.2 seconds behind in P3. Raikkonen set to retire, returning to the pits. Bottas passes Sainz for P12 down the Kemmel straight.

Lap 10:
Verstappen all over the back of Perez. Ericsson in P9 is chasing down Gasly ahead, 0.8 sec the gap. Verstappen passes Perez for P3 into Les Combes. So it’s Vettel, Hamilton and Verstappen the top-3. Vettel now 3.2 seconds up on Hamilton.

Lap 11:
Vettel more than 0.3 sec faster than Hamilton on that last lap. Bottas passes Stroll for P11 into Les Combes. Top-10 is Vettel, Hamilton, Verstappen, Perez, Ocon, Grosjean, Magnussen, Gasly, Ericsson and Sirotkin.

Lap 12:
Another fastest lap for Vettel, a 1:48.495 - around half a second faster than Hamilton on that last lap. The German now 3.9 seconds clear in the lead. Sirotkin running in the points for the first time this season, but Bottas has now passed into Les Combes for P10. Ricciardo unlaps himself from Stroll.

Lap 13:
Will we soon see Hamilton attempt to undercut Vettel? Vettel leads Hamilton by 3.6 seconds. The top-3 are the only ones in the sub 1:50s, with the lead pair in the 1:48.6s.

Lap 14:
The leading pair doing fairly similar times on that last lap, 1:48.7s - 1.5 seconds faster than Verstappen in P3. So we’re seeing the grid conserving tyres to try and ensure a one-stop race. No drivers are within a second of each other.

Lap 15:
Vettel leads Hamilton by 3.8 seconds. Stroll in P12, 1.3 seconds behind his teammate. So the two Williams running in close formation. Hamilton has set the fastest second sector.

Lap 16:
Hamilton sets the fastest lap, a 1:48.479 - 0.2 sec faster than Vettel on that last lap, the gap 3.8 seconds. Bottas in P10 is getting closer to Ericsson, 1-sec the gap.

Lap 17:
Vettel leads Hamilton, who’s set another fastest lap, a 1:48.208 - the gap now 3.4 seconds. So the Brit is starting to apply pressure, by getting the hammer down. Vettel has done a personal best lap. Bottas passes Ericsson down the Kemmel straight and into P9.

Lap 18:
Vettel still in front by 3.3 seconds, Hamilton continuing to close the gap. Bottas closing down Gasly for P8, and he makes the move down the Kemmel straight.

Lap 19:
Mercedes out in the pit lane, Hamilton just 0.1 sec slower than Vettel on that last lap. Could they be going out for Bottas? Who’s going to move first?

Lap 20:
Vettel leads Hamilton by 3.3 seconds, with the Brit 0.2 seconds faster on that last lap.

Lap 21:
Both frontrunners doing 1:48.7s on that last lap. Blisters forming on Hamilton’s left rear. Bottas on the back of Magnussen and pushing for P7, the gap less than a second.

Lap 22:
Hamilton has pitted from P2, he’s onto the softs. As Vettel told to pit on the next lap. He’s come back out in P3, behind Verstappen. And it’s now time to put the hammer down before Vettel’s stop. Bottas has passed Magnussen for P7.

Lap 23:
Vettel pits for the softs as well. This could be close. Vettel retains his lead, though looked very close. Hamilton passes Verstappen down Kemmel straight with DRS and is up to P2. It’s just 1.7 seconds to Vettel now.

Lap 24:
Vettel leads Hamilton by 1.9 seconds, with the Brit doing the fastest lap, a 1:46.721.

Lap 25:
Vettel stretching the lead, now 2.1 seconds. The German 0.2 seconds faster on that last lap. Bottas is up to P5 through all the stops of drivers ahead. So it’s Vettel, Hamilton, Verstappen, Perez, Bottas, Magnussen, Gasly, Ocon, Ericsson and Grosjean closing out the top-10.

Lap 26:
Vettel sets the fastest lap, a 1:46.644. Another 0.2 sec faster on that last lap. Perez pits from P4, Bottas goes through to take the place.

Lap 27:
Verstappen pits from P3. It’s a 2.5 second stop, switches onto the softs. Hartley passes Ericsson for P10 down the Kemmel straight.

Lap 28:
Vettel leads Hamilton by 4-seconds now, the Brit 0.6 sec slower on that last lap. Ericsson trying to fight back against Hartley, and he gets back into P10 at La Source. Hartley goes back into the points at Les Combes. Great fight!

Lap 29:
Hamilton losing time here, 4.8 seconds the gap to Vettel now. Ericsson passes Hartley using DRS down the Kemmel straight again! This is amazing.

Lap 30:
Bottas pits from P4, he’s onto the softs - 2.6 second stop. Vettel now 5.0 seconds ahead of Hamilton - a tenth faster again on that last lap.

Lap 31:
Ricciardo set to retire, told to box. He comes in and turns off the car, and it’s his last Belgian Grand Prix with Red Bull.

Lap 32:
Vettel leads Hamilton by 5.2 seconds. Verstappen 24-seconds behind the leading pair in P3. Perez in P4 is another 26-seconds adrift. Bottas passes Ocon for P5 into Les Combes.

Lap 33:
Verstappen asks, “Any chance of rain, maybe?” “Not in the next hour, I’m afraid,” he’s told. Hartley and Vandoorne are a lap down. Bottas sets the fastest lap, a 1:46.286 - a new lap record. Sainz passes Sirotkin into Les Combes for P11.

Lap 34:
Vettel leads Hamilton by 5.6 seconds. Hamilton told that his braking at last corner and speed at Turns 18 and 19 is costing him time to Vettel.

Lap 35:
Hamilton has responded to Vettel, 0.2 sec faster on that last lap. The gap coming down, now just 4.7 seconds.

Lap 36:
Only 11 drivers are now on the lead lap. Vettel leads Hamilton by 5.1 seconds. Bottas hunting down Perez for P4.

Lap 37:
Vettel and Hamilton both doing 1:47.3s. Gap there 5.6 seconds. Bottas putting pressure on Perez but both drivers doing same pace at the moment.

Lap 38:
Vettel now leads Hamilton by 5.9 seconds. Order is Vettel, Hamilton, Verstappen, Perez, Bottas, Ocon, Grosjean, Magnussen, Gasly, Ericsson, Sainz, Sirotkin, Stroll, Hartley and Vandoore.

Lap 39:
Vettel leads Hamilton by 6.9 seconds. The Brit almost a second slower on that last lap. Bottas now within DRS range of Perez.

Lap 40:
Vettel now 7.4 seconds ahead, as Hamilton’s lap times drop off. Vettel the only one in the 1:46s. Bottas passes Perez on the run down to Les Combes for P4, a huge difference in straight line speed.

Lap 41:
Both frontrunners have slowed down, with Vettel now ahead of Hamilton by 8.6 seconds. Vettel 0.7 sec faster on that last lap.

Lap 42:
Hamilton now in the 1:48s, 1-second slower than Vettel. Only nine cars on the lead lap now.

Lap 43:
Vettel now leads Hamilton by 9.8 seconds!

Lap 44 - FINAL LAP:
Vettel wins in Belgium for the third time! He looked in control from Lap 1, taking the lead from Hamilton on Lap 1 and never looking back.

Pos No Driver Car Laps Time/Retired Pts
1 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 44 1:23:34.476 25
2 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 44 +11.061s 18
3 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 44 +31.372s 15
4 77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 44 +63.605s 12
5 11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 44 +71.023s 10
6 31 Esteban Ocon Force India Mercedes 44 +79.520s 8
7 8 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 44 +85.953s 6
8 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 44 +87.639s 4
9 10 Pierre Gasly Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda 44 +105.892s 2
10 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 43 +1 lap 1
11 55 Carlos Sainz Renault 43 +1 lap 0
12 35 Sergey Sirotkin Williams Mercedes 43 +1 lap 0
13 18 Lance Stroll Williams Mercedes 43 +1 lap 0
14 28 Brendon Hartley Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda 43 +1 lap 0
15 2 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren Renault 43 +1 lap 0
NC 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 28 DNF 0
NC 7 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 8 DNF 0
NC 16 Charles Leclerc Sauber Ferrari 0 DNF 0
NC 14 Fernando Alonso McLaren Renault 0 DNF 0
NC 27 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 0 DNF 0