Formula 1 news story about [F1 2019 NEWS FEATURE] BELGIAN GRAND PRIX: RACE REVIEW

Ferrari young gun Charles Leclerc has finally secured his maiden victory, holding off the resurgent Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton to win a safety car-affected Belgian Grand Prix. Ferrari’s first in 2019.

Leclerc got a strong start from pole position, leading teammate Sebastian Vettel into Turn 1 - as Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen went into the Raidillon barrier bringing out the safety car. Leclerc retained his lead at the restart and stayed out, despite Vettel behind pitting early to protect against an undercut from Hamilton - and ultimately leapfrogging him.

But Vettel didn’t have the pace to stay ahead, with Hamilton bearing down, and the squad switched the pair on lap 27. From there to the end, Leclerc came under increasing pressure from Hamilton - and held him off to the flag.

Leclerc’s victory came just a day after the death of his friend, Anthoine Hubert, who succumbed to his injuries after a horrific crash in the F2 feature race - and the Monegasque dedicated his maiden victory to him.

“On one hand, I’ve got a dream since being a child that has been realised,” Leclerc said.

“On the other hand, it has been a very difficult weekend since yesterday, we have lost a friend first of all. But it’s very difficult in these situations. So I would like to dedicate my first win to him. We have grown up together. My first ever race I’ve done it with Anthoine [Hubert], Esteban [Ocon], Pierre [Gasly] when we were younger. It’s just a shame what happened yesterday. I can’t fully enjoy my first victory, but it will definitely be a memory I will keep forever.”

The sport now heads directly to Monza, with the Italian Grand Prix held on September 8th.

Pos No Driver Car Laps Time/Retired PTS
1 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 44 1:23:45.710 25
2 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 44 +0.981s 18
3 77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 44 +12.585s 15
4 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 44 +26.422s 13
5 23 Alexander Albon Red Bull Racing Honda 44 +81.325s 10
6 11 Sergio Perez Racing Point BWT Mercedes 44 +84.448s 8

Here’s how the 2019 FORMULA 1 BELGIAN GRAND PRIX played-out lap-by-lap:

Build Up:
It may be the first race after F1’s summer break but the sport remains in mourning after the death of French young gun Anthoine Hubert in yesterday’s Formula 2 feature race. The 22-year-old was involved in a horrific crash at Turn 4 on Lap 2, in which he was hit by Juan Manuel Correa - and later succumbed to his injuries. Everyone at The Inside Line sends their deepest condolences to his family and friends.

So with heavy hearts, we look to the grid - with Ferrari locking out the front row for the first time since Bahrain, with Charles Leclerc on pole for the third time in his career, Belgium the sixth-straight time he’s outqualified his teammate, four-time F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel, who complained of too much traffic on his final lap. Almost three quarters of a second between their times, the biggest gap from pole to second since Monza 2017.

Then it’s the two Silver Arrows, with five-time F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton ahead of freshly inked Valtteri Bottas - who was confirmed this weekend to be staying at Mercedes through to the end of 2020. The pair needing to get between the two Ferraris into La Source or Les Combes for a sniff at the win. Hometown hero Max Verstappen, who was born in Belgium but races for the Netherlands, starts fifth - ahead of Alfa Romeo Racing’s Kimi Raikkonen. Sergio Perez, who has committed his long-term future to Racing Point until the end of 2022, starts seventh - his best slot since Azerbaijan, where he last scored points.

Then it’s the two Haas cars, Kevin Magnussen eighth, Romain Grosjean ninth. Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo closes out the top-10, the Australian qualifying sixth but a new internal combustion engine dropped him to 10th. Ricciardo is one of multiple drivers with grid penalties, Lance Stroll (P16), Alexander Albon [P18, for his Red Bull Racing debut) and Daniil Kvyat (P19) required to start from back of grid due to multiple power unit element changes. Nico Hulkenberg (P12) and Carlos Sainz (P15) each dropped five places for use of additional power unit elements. Robert Kubica races from the pit lane at the stewards' discretion after failing to set a qualifying time.

Should it remain dry, the quickest race strategy is a one-stop - starting on the softs, then pitting between laps 18-22 for mediums. A two-stop is marginally slower, but does require passing, with two 15-lap stints on softs - then stop on Lap 30 for mediums to the end. Should there be an early safety car, teams may opt for a different two-stop with 12-14 laps on the softs - then switch to the hards to the end of the race. But all of that will go out the window should it rain, with a 40 per cent chance of a shower during the race. Anything can happen at Spa, and it usually does - as we’ve seen many times in the past.

Formation Lap:
15 of 20 drivers start on the softs, with just George Russell (P14), Alexander Albon (P17), Antonio Giovinazzi (P18), Daniil Kvyat (P19) and Robert Kubica (pit lane) on the mediums.

Lap 1:
Polesitter Leclerc gets a good start, he leads ahead of Vettel - who goes off track after Hamilton forced him wide at exit of La Source. Vettel repasses Hamilton down to Les Combes. Verstappen is into the barrier at Raidillon after contact with Kimi Raikkonen at La Source which forced the Finn onto two wheels. The safety car is out. Replays show Hulkenberg going off track at exit of La Source, too. Norris is up to fifth.

Lap 2:
Safety car still out. Leclerc leads Vettel, Hamilton, Bottas, Norris, Grosjean, Magnussen, Perez, Gasly and Stroll. Ricciardo pits, after being hit from behind on opening lap on exit of La Source - exits in P17. Raikkonen pits as well, exits in P18.

Lap 3:
We’re still under the safety car. Sainz down in P19, and going very slowly around the back… despite pitting for more softs at the end of Lap 1, during which he stalled. Raikkonen pits again. Safety car in at the end of this lap, so we’ll be racing again shortly. Sainz has stopped at run off at bus stop chicane.

Lap 4:
Safety car stays out with Sainz having retired at bus stop chicane exit run off. Raikkonen suffering with damage from contact still. Safety car in at the end of this lap.

Lap 5:
Leclerc leads Vettel into La Source, a nice gap there as Vettel locks up into Turn 1. Hamilton all over Vettel, he’s vulnerable. And Bottas slipstreaming on Hamilton, but covers him off into Les Combes. Norris retains fifth, ahead of Grosjean and Magnussen - but the Brit is dropping back from the lead pack.

Lap 6:
Leclerc sets the fastest lap, a 1:49.685, and leads Vettel by 1.6 seconds, Hamilton just 0.9 seconds behind in P3. Perez in P8 chasing down Magnussen along the Kemmel straight. Hamilton says “Vettel is not that quick” - as he looks at the back of the Ferrari.

Lap 7:
Leclerc sets another fastest lap, a 1:49.558 - three tenths faster than his teammate, 1.8 seconds the gap. Hamilton is 1.4 seconds behind. Bottas the same distance behind in P4. Perez still balling Magnussen. Gasly, incredibly, is the lead Red Bull stable driver in his Toro Rosso.

Lap 8:
Leclerc’s fastest lap is immediately bettered by Vettel, with a 1:49.459 - marginally ahead of his teammate. The top-three the only ones in the 1:49s. Hamilton half a second slower than the two Ferraris, so needs to up pace to close down the gap.

Lap 9:
Leclerc sets another fastest lap, a 1:49.452. Vettel has lost time, half a second slower on that last lap, he’s 2.3 seconds behind his teammate now. Hamilton in P3 was four tenths faster than Vettel ahead on that last lap. Replay shows Leclerc going off at Les Combes and rejoining, error from the man in the lead.

Lap 10:
Hamilton within DRS range of Vettel now, 0.9 seconds the gap. The Brit says Vettel is struggling. He’s chasing his rival down here. Perez passes Magnussen for seventh down the Kemmel straight. Leclerc going wide at Turn 5 noted by the stewards.

Lap 11:
Leclerc leads Vettel by 2.3 seconds, but the German is under fire from Hamilton. Bottas told Vettel is coming towards us, so both Mercedes are confident of passing. Race stewards say no further action on Leclerc off track excursion. Gasly passes Magnussen for eighth place down the Kemmel straight.

Lap 12:
Hamilton close to Vettel, just 1-second the gap. And he’s looking very confident in his chase. Leclerc told he’s still going to Plan A, one-stop. Bottas sets the fastest lap, a 1:49.342. Stroll passes Magnussen for ninth along the Kemmel straight. Top-four the only ones in the 1:49s.

Lap 13:
Leclerc sets the fastest lap, a 1:49.004. He’s 2.8 seconds ahead of teammate Vettel. Hamilton is 1.3 seconds adrift. Will we see him switch to a two-stop and do as he did in Hungary? Kvyat passes Magnussen for 10th down the Kemmel straight. Albon passes Ricciardo for P13th.

Lap 14:
Another fastest lap for Leclerc, a 1:48.917 - 3.2 seconds ahead of Vettel. Hamilton is 1.3 seconds behind the German in P3. Gasly pits from P8, it’s a 2.5 second stop - and he exits in P17 behind Kubica. Albon chasing down Magnussen for P11.

Lap 15:
Leclerc leads Vettel by 3.4 seconds, then it’s Hamilton, Bottas, Norris, Grosjean, Perez, Kvyat, Giovinazzi and Albon, who passed Magnussen on the run down to the final corner. Mercedes showing tyre preparation in the garage, as are Ferrari.

Lap 16:
Vettel pits from P2, he’s onto the mediums - 2.5 second stop. He exits in P5. Leclerc told to push, as Hamilton puts the hammer down and told this is critical. Ricciardo has passed Magnussen for P10 into Les Combes.

Lap 17:
Hamilton stays out, while Vettel is stuck behind Norris in P5. Gasly in P14 is chasing Perez and Raikkonen ahead. Vettel has passed Norris at Les Combes. Gasly gets past Raikkonen in a very aggressive move down the Kemmel straight, going three wide with Perez.

Lap 18:
Leclerc leads Hamilton, then Bottas and Vettel - who has set the fastest lap, a 1:47.087. He looks like he’s done enough to stay ahead of Hamilton. Hulkenberg passes Raikkonen for P14 into Les Combes, with Stroll looking at making the same move.

Lap 19:
Leclerc leads Hamilton by 4.3 seconds, then it’s Bottas and Vettel - Norris, Kvyat, Giovinazzi, Albon, Ricciardo and Grosjean. As the crowds applaud to the memory of Anthoine Hubert. Magnussen in P13 really has gone backwards, but he goes wheel to wheel with Gasly into Les Combes and goes wide - leaving him open to Hulkenberg behind.

Lap 20:
Norris pits from P5. Has Ferrari left Leclerc out too long? It’s now likely Vettel will overtake him.

Lap 21:
Leclerc leads Hamilton by 4.3 seconds. Hulkenberg has passed Magnussen for P13 down the Kemmel straight, the Dane down to P14. Albon in P8 is chasing down Giovinazzi ahead. Leclerc told to pit. Norris passes Kvyat for P5 down the Kemmel straight.

Lap 22:
Leclerc pits, releasing Hamilton - it’s a 2.4 second stop, he’s onto the mediums and drops down behind Vettel in P4. So now it’s Hamilton leading Bottas, Vettel and Leclerc. Hamilton told to box. Gasly warned for moving under brakes at Turn 5.

Lap 23:
Hamilton pits from the lead, 3.6 second stop - so a slow one for the champion. He exits in P4. He’s 7-seconds behind Leclerc now. Bottas told to pit now.

Lap 24:
Bottas pits, 2.3 second stop - onto the mediums and exits in P4 behind Hamilton. As Leclerc in P2 sets the fastest lap, a 1:46.664. He’s 3.1 seconds behind Vettel. Albon pits, 2.1 seconds - and he’s onto the softs and in P15.

Lap 25:
It’s Vettel, Leclerc and Hamilton - who sets the fastest lap, a 1:46.580. He’s much faster than both Ferraris. Perez passes Grosjean for P9 down the Kemmel straight. The lead Ferraris are losing time fighting each other.

Lap 26:
Leclerc in DRS range of Vettel ahead. The pair squabbling as Hamilton continues to punch in the searing lap times. Bottas sets the fastest lap, a 1:46.551. Vettel told to let Charles by on this lap.

Lap 27:
Vettel lets Leclerc past into La Source. Hamilton just 4.1 seconds behind Vettel now in P3, and closing. Perez passes Ricciardo for P7 into Les Combes. Giovinazzi and both Williams yet to pit.

Lap 28:
Bottas sets the fastest lap, a 1:46.465 - in P4. Hamilton ahead is chasing down the Ferraris, just 2.2 seconds the gap to Vettel - and closing.

Lap 29:
Hamilton is now just 1.1 seconds behind Vettel, and fears that the Brit is going to walk all over “us”. 0.8 seconds the gap, and closing.

Lap 30:
Leclerc leads Vettel by 4-seconds. Giovinazzi pits.

Lap 31:
Hamilton much closer to Vettel on this lap, but can’t get close enough on Kemmel straight. Bottas told Hamilton struggling to get past Vettel so keep tyres in good shape. Hamilton goes wheel to wheel into final corner but can’t make it work.

Lap 32:
Hamilton all over Vettel now, he passes around the outside into Les Combes. Wow! What a fantastic move. Now Hamilton is going to chase down Leclerc. This is going to be epic. 12 laps to go. Albon passes Gasly for P10 into Les Combes.

Lap 33:
Kubica pits, as does Raikkonen. Bottas is now chasing down Vettel for P3. Leclerc 6.7 seconds ahead of Hamilton, the Brit three tenths faster on that last lap.

Lap 34:
Vettel pits from P3, he takes on the softs. 2.6 second time, and he exits in P4. Leclerc six tenths faster on that last lap, 7-seconds the gap between them.

Lap 35:
Leclerc leads Hamilton by 7-seconds. Albon passes Ricciardo for P8 around the outside at Turn 11. Impressive move!

Lap 36:
Leclerc leads Hamilton by 6.7 seconds, but does the Brit have the pace to close the gap? It doesn’t look like it at this stage, just three tenths faster on that last lap. Replay show Vettel going wide at Les Combes.

Lap 37:
Leclerc leads Hamilton by 6.6 seconds. The pair doing fairly similar times, within a tenth of each other. As Vettel sets the fastest lap, a 1:46.409. Gasly keeps ahead of Giovinazzi despite the pair bumping wheels at Les Combes.

Lap 38:
Leclerc is now just 5.5 seconds ahead with Hamilton picking up the pace now, eight tenths faster on the last lap.

Lap 39:
Leclerc leads Hamilton by 5.6 seconds, as the Brit slides into the final corner.

Lap 40:
Leclerc leads Hamilton by 4-seconds, but traffic ahead could still compromise the race leader.

Lap 41:
Leclerc leads Hamilton by just 2.8 seconds, the Brit 1.2 seconds faster on that last lap.

Lap 42:
Traffic is compromising the leaders. 2-seconds the gap now.

Lap 43:
Leclerc still has a lot to do to close this gap, 1.6 seconds.

Lap 44 - FINAL LAP:
Leclerc is 1.3 seconds ahead of Hamilton, this is going to be a nail biting finish. Backmarkers making this difficult. As Giovinazzi goes into the barrier at Pouhon. He’s OK. Leclerc takes his maiden Grand Prix victory, and Ferrari’s first for 2019. He’s the 108th driver to win an F1 World Championship race, Monaco the 23rd nation to secure a win.

Pos No Driver Car Laps Time/Retired PTS
1 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 44 1:23:45.710 25
2 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 44 +0.981s 18
3 77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 44 +12.585s 15
4 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 44 +26.422s 13
5 23 Alexander Albon Red Bull Racing Honda 44 +81.325s 10
6 11 Sergio Perez Racing Point BWT Mercedes 44 +84.448s 8
7 26 Daniil Kvyat Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda 44 +89.657s 6
8 27 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 44 +106.639s 4
9 10 Pierre Gasly Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda 44 +109.168s 2
10 18 Lance Stroll Racing Point BWT Mercedes 44 +109.838s 1
11 4 Lando Norris McLaren Renault 43 DNF 0
12 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 43 +1 lap 0
13 8 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 43 +1 lap 0
14 3 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 43 +1 lap 0
15 63 George Russell Williams Mercedes 43 +1 lap 0
16 7 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari 43 +1 lap 0
17 88 Robert Kubica Williams Mercedes 43 +1 lap 0
18 99 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari 42 DNF 0
NC 55 Carlos Sainz McLaren Renault 1 DNF 0
NC 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing Honda 0 DNF 0