DOMINANT VETTEL GATHERS TITLE MOMENTUM AT SPA
Halo proves its worth at La Source airborne fracas
1st SEBASTIAN VETTEL Ferrari
2nd LEWIS HAMILTON Mercedes
3rd MAX VERSTAPPEN Red Bull
In an alarming airborne accident reminiscent of 2012, the controversial ‘halo’ saved Charles Leclerc from likely serious injury. From a back-of-the-grid start for engine penalties, Hülkenberg misjudged his braking into La Source, solidly rear-ending Alonso whose McLaren aviated, glancing off the Sauber’s halo. Oblivious of the fracas behind, the leaders raced on for long enough before the inevitable SC for Vettel to blast past pole-sitter Hamilton along the Kemmel straight. Hamilton had denied Vettel a certain pole when it rained in Q3, the drying track also enabling the Force India duo a fairytale debut under new ownership by locking out row two. Hamilton kept these three at bay from La Source to Raidillon before Vettel swept by and then, fleetingly, it was four abreast as Perez and Ocon went for glory under braking for Les Combes. From there Vettel was away, his winning margin 11s as the beaten Hamilton eased off in the closing stages. On lap 21 Hamilton attempted an undercut that brought him to within 2s of Vettel, but he never possessed the speed to get on terms. This deficit was not all about raw power alone, the Mercedes not kind to its tyres like the Ferrari and losing time with poor traction out of slow corners. A lonely Verstappen finished third ahead of Bottas, Valtteri hindered by engine penalties and a 5s penalty for a first corner indiscretion, Räikkönen and Ricciardo also victims of the initial mêlée at La Source.
Hamilton still leads Vettel by 17 points but unless Mercedes turn things around fast, Seb is now odds-on for a fifth title. Celebrating 50 years since Bruce’s first victory, McLaren qualified last and three from last. An eventful summer break included three significant announcements: Ricciardo from Red Bull to Renault for 2019; Alonso retiring from F1 after 2018, and Force India’s acquisition by a Lawrence Stroll-led consortium.
The Championship Chase
Hamilton 231, Vettel 214, Räikkönen 146, Bottas 144, Verstappen 120
Mercedes 375, Ferrari 360, Red Bull 238, Renault 82, Haas 76
Formula 1 All the Races