Sebastian Vettel beats Lewis Hamilton to victory, closes championship gap
Belgian Grand Prix

Sebastian Vettel beats Lewis Hamilton to victory, closes championship gap

Sebastian Vettel closed the gap to championship leader Lewis Hamilton to 17 points with an impressive victory at the Belgian Grand Prix.

The Ferrari driver passed Hamilton for the lead on the opening lap at Spa-Francorchamps and never looked back, crossing the line with a convincing 11s lead over the Mercedes driver. Hamilton held a further 21.7s margin over Max Verstappen in third place, with Valtteri Bottas completing an solid comeback drive from 17th on the grid to finish fourth.

The race started with a huge accident at the first corner as Fernando Alonso's McLaren was launched over Charles Leclerc's Sauber. The incident was triggered by Nico Hulkenberg locking up under braking and smashing into the rear of Alonso, who in turn was launched over Leclerc. Despite the dramatic images, all three drivers were unharmed although heavy black marks on the Sauber's white Halo head protection device acted as a reminder of why the sport is still working to improve safety.

Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen also lost out in the collision as Alonso's flying McLaren sheared Ricciardo's rear wing off his Red Bull and sent the Australian into the rear of Raikkonen's Ferrari. Raikkonen was able to continue after pitting with a puncture but retired a handful of laps later due to a DRS failure.

The rest of the race failed to live up to the drama of the opening lap and Vettel never really looked under threat from Hamilton. Esteban Ocon, who had started third, thought about launching a move on Vettel at Les Combes on the opening lap after gaining a slipstream from the lead two cars on the preceeding straight, but thought better of it and dropped to fourth behind teammate Sergio Perez.

Hamilton's one chance to turn the race around came at his single pit stop on lap 21. The Mercedes was suffering with rear blistering on its first set of tyres, but he pushed hard on his outlap on a new set of softs to up the pressure on Vettel. The gap between the two dropped from 3.2s before the pit stop to 1.7s after, meaning the slightest mistake by Ferrari during its pit stop on lap 22 would have been costly, but in the end it proved to be the closest Hamilton would get to regaining the lead.

Verstappen moved from eighth on the grid to third by lap ten, but was never a contender for victory and settled into a lonely race in his Red Bull. The Force Indias of Perez and Ocon dropped to fifth and sixth by the finish, but the result was still impressive given that the team was in administration as recently as the last round in Hungary. The team had its points wiped clear in order to return to the grid under new ownership in Spa, but Sunday's haul of 18 points has moved it up to ninth, just one point behind Sauber.

Haas took a solid finish in seventh and eighth ahead of Pierre Gasly in the Toro Rosso in ninth and Marcus Ericsson, who scored the final point on offer for Sauber, in tenth.

There is only a one week break until the next round of the season at Ferrari's home race at Monza, and given the impressive straightline speed of the car at Spa, there is every reason to believe Vettel will be well placed to score the Italian team's first victory at the track since 2010.

Related news

F1 engine manufacturers will have to share tech with new entrants under new rules

F1 engine manufacturers will have to share tech with new entrants under new rules

Formula One is hoping to attract new engine manufacturers to the grid by introducing rules that require existing manufacturers to share technology with new entrants.

Sebastian Vettel fastest in Abu Dhabi test as Kimi Raikkonen returns to Sauber

Sebastian Vettel fastest in Abu Dhabi test as Kimi Raikkonen returns to Sauber

Sebastian Vettel set the fastest time on the first day of Abu Dhabi's post-season test, as his former Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen completed his first day back at Sauber.

Hamilton caps off 2018 with easy win in Abu Dhabi

Hamilton caps off 2018 with easy win in Abu Dhabi

Lewis Hamilton won the final race of the Formula One season in Abu Dhabi, crowning his championship-winning 2018 campaign with an 11th victory from 21 races.

Lewis Hamilton beats Valtteri Bottas, Sebastian Vettel to pole for Abu Dhabi finale

Lewis Hamilton beats Valtteri Bottas, Sebastian Vettel to pole for Abu Dhabi finale

Lewis Hamilton will start from pole position at the final race of the 2018 season after securing the fastest qualifying time by 0.162s in Abu Dhabi.

Lewis Hamilton leads Kimi Raikkonen in final practice for Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton leads Kimi Raikkonen in final practice for Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton finished the final practice session for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the top of the timesheets as Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen emerged as his closest competitor.

Valtteri Bottas pips Max Verstappen by 0.044s to top second practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Valtteri Bottas pips Max Verstappen by 0.044s to top second practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Valtteri Bottas topped the second practice session for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as Mercedes and Red Bull battled each other for the fastest time under Yas Marina's floodlights.

Max Verstappen leads comfortable Red Bull one-two in first Abu Dhabi Grand Prix practice

Max Verstappen leads comfortable Red Bull one-two in first Abu Dhabi Grand Prix practice

Max Verstappen was comfortably quickest after the first practice session for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, finishing the session 0.454s quicker than teammate Daniel Ricciardo.

Dovizioso triumphs in wild rain-hit finale

Dovizioso triumphs in wild rain-hit finale

Ducati MotoGP rider Andrea Dovizioso emerged victorious in a stop-start, attrition-heavy 2018 MotoGP season finale at a wet Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia.

Latvala wins in Australia, WRC title for Ogier

Latvala wins in Australia, WRC title for Ogier

Toyota driver Jari-Matti Latvala won Rally Australia, while crashes for Thierry Neuville and Ott Tanak helped seal a sixth World Rally Championship title for M-Sport Ford's Sebastien Ogier.

RELATED NEWS

F1 engine manufacturers will have to share tech with new entrants under new rules
F1 news

F1 engine manufacturers will have to share tech with new entrants under new rules

Formula One is hoping to attract new engine manufacturers to the grid by introducing rules that require existing manufacturers to share technology with new entrants.

Sebastian Vettel fastest in Abu Dhabi test as Kimi Raikkonen returns to Sauber
Abu Dhabi test

Sebastian Vettel fastest in Abu Dhabi test as Kimi Raikkonen returns to Sauber

Sebastian Vettel set the fastest time on the first day of Abu Dhabi's post-season test, as his former Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen completed his first day back at Sauber.

Hamilton caps off 2018 with easy win in Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Hamilton caps off 2018 with easy win in Abu Dhabi

Lewis Hamilton won the final race of the Formula One season in Abu Dhabi, crowning his championship-winning 2018 campaign with an 11th victory from 21 races.

Lewis Hamilton beats Valtteri Bottas, Sebastian Vettel to pole for Abu Dhabi finale
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - Qualifying

Lewis Hamilton beats Valtteri Bottas, Sebastian Vettel to pole for Abu Dhabi finale

Lewis Hamilton will start from pole position at the final race of the 2018 season after securing the fastest qualifying time by 0.162s in Abu Dhabi.

Lewis Hamilton leads Kimi Raikkonen in final practice for Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - FP3

Lewis Hamilton leads Kimi Raikkonen in final practice for Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton finished the final practice session for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the top of the timesheets as Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen emerged as his closest competitor.

Valtteri Bottas pips Max Verstappen by 0.044s to top second practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - FP2

Valtteri Bottas pips Max Verstappen by 0.044s to top second practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Valtteri Bottas topped the second practice session for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as Mercedes and Red Bull battled each other for the fastest time under Yas Marina's floodlights.

Max Verstappen leads comfortable Red Bull one-two in first Abu Dhabi Grand Prix practice
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - FP1

Max Verstappen leads comfortable Red Bull one-two in first Abu Dhabi Grand Prix practice

Max Verstappen was comfortably quickest after the first practice session for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, finishing the session 0.454s quicker than teammate Daniel Ricciardo.

Dovizioso triumphs in wild rain-hit finale
Valencia Grand Prix

Dovizioso triumphs in wild rain-hit finale

Ducati MotoGP rider Andrea Dovizioso emerged victorious in a stop-start, attrition-heavy 2018 MotoGP season finale at a wet Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia.

Latvala wins in Australia, WRC title for Ogier
Rally Australia

Latvala wins in Australia, WRC title for Ogier

Toyota driver Jari-Matti Latvala won Rally Australia, while crashes for Thierry Neuville and Ott Tanak helped seal a sixth World Rally Championship title for M-Sport Ford's Sebastien Ogier.