Charles Leclerc finally took his long overdue maiden win in an intense Belgian Grand Prix, resisting a late charge from Lewis Hamilton in the closing laps. After the tragic loss of Anthoine Hubert the day before, the best tribute F1 could pay was to put on a good show and they did it, with his lifelong friend taking an emotional win.
At the start, Leclerc held the lead, whilst Vettel initially lost out to Hamilton, however he took second back on the Kemmel Straight. However it was heartbreak for the many Dutch fans who made their way to Spa-Francorchamps as his race was over almost instantly. Contact with Raikkonen at La Source damaged his suspension, and he couldn’t even make Eau Rouge as he tried to tour back to the pits with the damaged suspension.
On the restart, Leclerc held the lead and was not hanging around, consistently setting fastest laps. But interestingly, Vettel pitted much earlier than his rivals. With the fresh tyres he began setting fastest laps and by the time Leclerc pitted, he was in the lead with ease.
By that time however, the tyres had past their best and Leclerc was able to quickly catch him. Ferrari had the final say and they ordered Vettel to make way for his team-mate. He then fell under pressure from Hamilton, who he tried to defend from but could do nothing to prevent the Mercedes getting round the outside at Les Combes. Bottas then caught up and by that time, Vettel and his team decided enough was enough, so he pitted for a second time.
Leclerc still led the way but began to ran into traffic, which along with the strong race pace of the Mercedes, allowed Lewis Hamilton to close rapidly in the closing laps, but Charles Leclerc held on to take his maiden Formula One win ahead of the two Mercedes and Vettel!
Behind that, Lando Norris had driven an amazing race holding fifth until in a cruel twist of fate his engine cut entering the final lap. This promoted Alex Albon in his first race for Red Bull to finish in fifth after pulling off some gutsy moves, including round the outside of Daniel Ricciardo ‘No Name’ corner. There was also last lap heartbreak for Antonio Giovinazzi, who looked on course for points before he crashed at Pouhon. Racing Point had their strongest showing of the season, with both drivers scoring points, Sergio Perez finishing in sixth ahead of Lance Stroll in tenth. Both Toro Rosso drivers also drove well, finishing in the points after their poor qualifying, getting involved in some midfield battles, with Kvyat finishing seventh and Gasly ninth, with Hulkenberg finishing in between them, collecting Renault’s only points after Daniel Ricciardo was caught up in the Verstappen/Raikkonen incident.
Haas’s race pace continued to hurt them, as pretty much every lap, they found themselves mauled on the Kemmel Straight, which led to an angry radio message from Romain Grosjean midrace, whilst the two Williams’ and Kimi Raikkonen rounded off the finishers.
Despite not winning, Lewis Hamilton extends his lead to 65 points, whilst Max Verstappen’s retirement certainly was a knock to his chances of beating Valtteri Bottas for second, whilst Charles Leclerc has closed the gap to his team-mate to 12 points. Whilst in the constructors, the only change is Racing Point moving ahead of Alfa Romeo after their strong points haul. Heading into Monza, it will be fascinating to see if Ferrari will keep their advantage.
But it was Charles Leclerc’s day on Sunday, a fitting result after the tragic loss of his friend the previous day.
RIP Anthoine. This race was for you.