A fairly humdrum Belgian Grand Prix saw Lewis Hamilton halve the gap to Sebastian Vettel by taking top spot, and managing to absorb the near-constant presence of the Ferrari driver throughout the race. Vettel was never much farther than two seconds behind Hamilton, requiring the Mercedes man to be on his game, and on it he was – Hamilton coped nicely with the pressure, and the car itself demonstrated its strength on circuits like Spa – even on the soft tyres, Hamilton was able to control the gap to Vettel, who was running on the ultrasoft tyres at the end, following a safety car. The incident that led to the safety car… that was more than a little interesting.
Perez and Ocon get Rough
On the very first lap Perez, whilst tangling with another car on the run up to Eau Rouge, nearly pushed his Force India teammate Ocon into the wall. That could be forgiven as a racing incident – what happened as the race entered its final third was more controversial and likely to cause a heated discussion as the team try to deal with this latest moment of contact between the pair. Ocon was trying to get by Perez (the two had been battling throughout the race) and the Frenchman felt he’d been unfairly squeezed as the pair once again approached Eau Rouge at great speed. Ocon ended up losing part of his front wing and Perez suffered a puncture that ruined his race, though Ocon would recover to finish ninth. Ocon had some harsh words for Perez in the immediate aftermath of the race – it remains to be seen what the team will do.
Alonso’s had Enough
After qualifying 11th, Alonso put his McLaren up to seventh on the first lap, but it quickly became apparent that the underpowered Honda engine wasn’t going to resist the faster cars behind it, and Alonso dropped back down the field, much to his consternation. It’s difficult to believe he will end up staying at McLaren if they don’t make serious changes.
For the sixth time in twelve races, Max Verstappen ended up retiring – this was an engine fault (it’s not the first time that’s happened this year), and it only took eight laps for his car to give up on him. That particular little detail also led to a ten-second stop go penalty for Raikkonen, who had failed to slow enough at the yellow flags. Raikkonen would recover pretty well, ending up in fourth, benefiting from the safety car as Bottas went wide at the end of the Kemmel Straight, during a particularly audacious move by Daniel Ricciardo (who went on to take third place, a very credible result given Red Bull’s power deficiencies in Belgium.
The Gap Shrinks
Hamilton’s win (on a weekend where he also equalled Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of 68 pole positions) sees him reduce his deficit to Vettel to seven points. His fifth win of the year was a vital one – in a week’s time in Italy, another power track, he has the chance to at the very least draw level with Vettel, an absolute must with Singapore (a Ferrari track) looming.