Hamilton holds off Vettel to win at Spa
Despite being on harder 'soft' Pirelli tires, Polesitter Lewis Hamilton kept the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel on Ultrasoft tires just over 1-second behind him and led the entire race to win the Belgian GP at Spa for Mercedes in his 200th start. Hamilton reduced Vettel's points lead down to 7 with the win
Just 2.3s separated the title rivals at the checkered flag, as Daniel Ricciardo secured an unexpected podium for Red Bull with third place at Spa-Francorchamps.
Kimi Raikkonen was fourth in the second Ferrari, the Finn having been given a 10-second stop-go penalty for ignoring yellow flags when the luckless Max Verstappen retired his Red Bull with power loss on Lap 8.
Valtteri Bottas finished a disappointed fifth for Mercedes, while Nico Hulkenberg scored his third sixth place of the year for Renault, followed home by the Haas of Romain Grosjean and the Williams of Felipe Massa.
Esteban Ocon survived contact with Force India team mate Sergio Perez not once but twice in two separate clashes on the run down to Eau Rouge to take the flag in ninth, with Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz completing the top ten.
Hamilton took charge from the start as Vettel pushed in his wake ahead of Bottas, Raikkonen, Verstappen and Ricciardo. But much to his 40,000 Dutch fans’ dismay the luckless Verstappen lasted only seven laps before coasting to a halt partway up the Kemmel straight with power loss.
This time Perez had again squeezed his team mate towards the old pit wall, and they made firmer contact. Perez sustained a punctured right-rear tire, while Ocon lost a chunk of his front wing. There was debris everywhere, hence the safety car.
Where all but supersoft runners Grosjean and Sainz went for ultrasoft tires in the ensuing rash of pit stops, Mercedes put their drivers on softs, and it seemed that they might have thrown away the race.
Bottas got things wrong at the restart on the 34th lap and was passed on the left on the run to Les Combes by the ever-opportunistic Ricciardo and on the right by Raikkonen.
As one Mercedes fell back, however, the other forged ahead again, and against expectations Hamilton was able to contain Vettel’s challenge, even though the Ferrari was on the theoretically faster rubber.
The result brings him within seven points of the German, 213 to 220, with Bottas third on 179, Ricciardo on 132, and Raikkonen on 128.
Behind them, Hulkenberg easily took sixth, but a mid-race change of strategy helped Grosjean to take seventh for Haas ahead of Massa, whose Williams fended off Ocon’s damaged Force India to the flag. Sainz salvaged 10th and a point for Toro Rosso, as Williams’ Lance Stroll led Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat, Renault’s Jolyon Palmer, McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne and Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson home.
Perez’s car was withdrawn late in the race, joining McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, Verstappen and Sauber’s Pascal Wehrlein on the retirements list.
Lewis Hamilton (1st): "It's amazing to come back into the season and start on the right foot. The Ferrari was very strong today and they put on a fantastic fight. We were both pushing every single lap and there was no room for error or mistake. The Safety Car was driving so slow that keeping tire temperature was very difficult. On the restart, Sebastian got a good tow, it was very close. It is fun to be racing against another team and Sebastian at his best and the car at its best - that's what racing is all about. I want to thank the team, I would not have been able to win today without them."
Valtteri Bottas (5th): "Today's race and result were a big disappointment. It's been an all-around difficult weekend for me. It would have been nice to at least be on the podium and score good points for us as a team. After the Safety Car restart I was on the Soft tires, but the guys who overtook me were on the UltraSofts. I was on the back foot, struggled with grip and could not fight them. In the race the Softs are working well for us, but during a Safety Car restart there's always a risk that other guys might have softer compounds. In a normal race we would have had an optimal tire strategy. This has been the most difficult weekend for me, so I need to learn a lot from it because I wasn't quick enough. I need to analyze my mistakes quickly, and then hopefully come back stronger next week in Monza."
Toto Wolff: "That was a fantastic drive from Lewis to finish off a perfect weekend from him. It was a great result for the championship and a faultless performance. He defended well on the opening lap then it was a battle lap by lap to stretch out the gap to Sebastian. After the pit stop, we saw a small blister on one of his rear tires and we had some question marks about whether they would last to the finish. Then the Safety Car came out and made the decision easier for us. We had a discussion about which tires to fit - we didn't have a new set of UltraSoft remaining, and the team on the pit wall knew that the Soft would be the better tire over the stint - if we could defend in those first laps after the restart. As Lewis showed, it was the right decision, and he delivered a great win. From Valtteri's side, we struggled with his car this weekend, and especially in traction as you could see on the TV pictures at the restart. We need to find out what happened there - and likewise, he will be the first to be self-critical about losing the positions after the restart. Now we move on to Monza. Ferrari were very strong here and we can expect exactly the same at their home race. Our job is to keep pushing, keep bringing performance to the car and to make sure we deliver all of our potential at every race from here to the end of the season."
Red Bull-Tag Heuer
Daniel Ricciardo (3rd): "It's always nice to get a podium for sure. Especially after yesterday when you're on the tail-end of that Top 6, then all you think of is moving forward, so I honestly believed we could be better than sixth today. Max had a problem and then Kimi made his mistake with the yellow flag so we gained a few positions but I think after the first stint our pace improved a lot. We showed a more respectable pace today and then we had an opportunity under the safety car with the re-start and took the most of that, so I'm really happy with the result. I definitely feel for Max. He's had a pretty up and down season and most of the time it was out of his control so of course that's frustrating especially for this to happen at his home race."
Max Verstappen (DNF, Engine): "I am extremely disappointed not just because of my retirement but for the fans also. They pay a lot of money to come and watch the race, I then retire after only eight laps so it must be frustrating for them. We have had a good weekend up until today, we have worked really hard and qualifying went very well so I was optimistic for the race. Out of the last corner I shifted from third to fourth and straight away lost power, it went into some sort of safe mode. It has been a very tough year so far and we need to get on top of these problems which we will discuss as a team again. Obviously I am not a happy person so I'm looking forward to getting home. I will go away and regroup and come back with a positive attitude next week."
Christian Horner, Sporting Director: "A fantastic piece of opportunistic driving by Daniel secured a great podium for the team today with third place. We felt we ran the correct strategy going into the race, as soon as it went to the safety car and it all bunched up we knew Daniel would get one shot at the restart against Bottas and he made it work. He then fended off Kimi to the end securing P3; fully deserved after he drove a phenomenal race today. Unfortunately it has been an enormously frustrating day for Max. Once again he was in a great position and through no fault of his own he has suffered another engine failure. Our engine partners have apologized and are quite aware that their reliability and product isn't where it should be, while Alain Prost has personally apologized to Max. With that we as a team offer our apology to the mass of Dutch fans who came out to support Max at his home race. Max is a fantastic talent, driving at a phenomenally high level at present, and he's got great drive and determination and he'll come through this period and this season a stronger driver. I've no doubt he'll be determined to deliver his best again in Monza, despite the engine penalties we will take there, and the disappointment he feels right now, and that's the measure of the man he is."
Sebastian Vettel (2nd): "If we had ended up ahead in qualifying, then we would have had a good pace to stay in front today! I was surprised how close I could follow through the whole race. So I am a bit angry at myself, because, when the race restarted after the safety car, I was probably too close to Lewis out of Turn 1. I tried to open the gap down Eau Rouge but it's a difficult compromise. You see the cars coming behind and you know that you need to defend, instead of focusing on attacking. At the same time I know that down the straights we are not as quick as Mercedes. So, I am not entirely happy, but after all it's been a great weekend for the team. We don't need to be afraid of any circuit, I believe we have the best car in terms of package. There's still something missing but the guys in Maranello are very motivated. I think we have done the biggest improvement and a big step forward. Now we turn the page on and move on to Monza: let's see what happens there."
Kimi Raikkonen (4th): "Overall, we have been quite competitive this weekend. In the race the car was good on the Soft compound, while with the Ultrasofts, after some laps, I was struggling with the rear; the first laps were ok but then I was sliding around. When I saw the yellow flags I was on the straight, on the right side and I'm sure I did not go any faster than on any other lap. The penalty was not ideal, but luckily there was a Safety Car and we could recover something. I overtook Bottas and then I tried to get close to Ricciardo, but we did not have enough speed to overtake him as he was surprisingly good in race conditions, with good speed in the right places. I guess the result of today could have been worse, but for sure I was looking for more. We have to take the good things, we learned from this race and we'll try to do better next weekend."
Maurizio Arrivabene, Team Principal: "Going into this race, on paper at least, it didn't seem like one that would suit us particularly well. Despite that, we proved able to fight for the win right down to the final lap. Seb drove a great race and at the restart after the Safety Car, it really came very close. It's a shame Kimi had to take a penalty, which cost him almost half a minute, but he managed to recover with a nice passing move at the restart. The SF70H proved to be very competitive and the team, both at the track and in Maranello, worked with concentration and determination. However, we still need to improve. The next GP will be in Monza where we will be meeting up with all our fans."
Esteban Ocon (9th): "On lap one there was a very close moment with my teammate going into Eau Rouge. I can accept this because it was the start of the race and we were three wide, even though I got squeezed into the wall. The second contact with Sergio was too much. He squeezed me towards the wall again, made contact with my front wing, and risked both our races for no reason. It has cost the team points and it's difficult for me to understand why he was so aggressive. I will take the time to speak to him alone and share my point of view. It's a shame because we were in a strong position with a competitive car and we should have scored even more points from this race."
Sergio Perez (17th): "I am very disappointed with how the race went, especially because this was a track on which we should have scored a lot of points. Two clashes with Esteban unfortunately took away our chances and ruined the race for the team. I apologize for the incident at the start, which was totally my fault. I didn't select the start mode and I was down on power going down the hill. I was battling with Nico [Hulkenberg] and I thought I had a good margin on all the others. I moved to the right without checking my mirrors and didn't see Esteban was there. In the second case, I think he was a bit too optimistic because there was just no room to make a move. I was covering my line and I expected him to attack after Eau Rouge ‚ he had the whole straight to overtake me. I think we both misjudged the situation and we ruined the race for the team. After that, my car was too damaged to drive. It was a very particular situation and we have to review the incident. There's very little to say, it was not my best race today. We need to talk about what happened and then move forward as a team to avoid losing more points."
Dr. Vijay Mallya, Team Principal: "I have been very happy with our overall performance during the 2017 season with both drivers scoring points for the team and racing freely. However, as much as I support competitive racing, the repeated incidents between both our cars are now becoming very concerning. Under these circumstances I have no choice but to implement a policy of team orders in the interest of safety and to protect the team's position in the constructors' championship."
Otmar Szafnauer, Chief Operating Officer: "It wasn't the result we wanted and we left behind a lot of points after a collision between our drivers. This is what you get when you have two very competitive drivers who are fairly equal in performance in a decent car. It has happened to others in the past and it is happening to us now. However, we cannot afford to see this in the future, so we will ensure the team controls what happens on the track. We gave our drivers the chance to sort it out by themselves, but if they cannot do it, we will have to put some more rules in place and take the situation in our control. It's disappointing to lose so many points when we had the pace to finish well with both cars. Until the clash we had looked very competitive: the pace of the car is something we hold as a positive because we head to another speed track, Monza, next week."
Felipe Massa (8th): "I'm very happy with the race today, it was like a victory. Great start, great overtakes, good pace for the car we struggled with yesterday, so I'm really happy and also to be able to keep the cars behind at the end. I think today was a very intense race, but I'm so happy. I know eighth place is not a nice position, looking at everything I have achieved in my career, but today the way I drove the car and the way I drove in this race, it was definitely like a victory and I'm so happy. For sure there's a lot to understand and improve in the car, like what wasn't working in the last two races, but I'm happy with the perfect race I had today."
Lance Stroll (11th): "Certainly this was better than yesterday, but we just missed out on the points, which was unfortunate. We got lucky with other cars dropping out, but today was definitely a lot better. It was unfortunate that I had damage at the end when overtaking Magnussen at the safety car restart. I broke a piece of the front wing and just had to survive until the end. Without this I could have been attacking Sainz for points, but it was a good race with plenty of stuff happening and I had fun. It was great to see the car was working better in the race than in qualifying."
Paddy Lowe, Chief Technical Officer: "Congratulations to Felipe for a great race and four points. After his difficulties through the last month with missing the race in Hungary, it is great that he could come back to such a challenging circuit and deliver a strong result for the team. I am sure no one is happier about that than he is. With Lance, one or two missed opportunities, so not a perfect race, but he brought the car home just outside the points, so it was a credit worthy result. It was a very difficult weekend up to today for the team and both drivers, so overall we were happy to put that right to some extent during the race today."
Stoffel Vandoorne (14th): "It was a difficult race for us today. We had a good start, but from there on it was a pretty frustrating race. From the position we were starting in too, it was always going to be tricky, especially as I felt that our car was reasonably good and the pace was there to progress, but we were just a sitting duck on the straights. It meant we had no chance to overtake anyone, and no chance to defend from the other guys behind us. It was more or less the maximum we could do today. We got to the flag and that's probably the only positive. We always knew it was going to be tough, and today showed that."
Fernando Alonso (DNF, Engine): "In general, it's been a good weekend. We played a good team game in qualifying, we had a great start ‚ taking the outside lane was the right decision ‚ and we were seventh after the first lap. It was fun for the first three or four laps! Then we tried to defend our position, but in the middle of the straights some cars passed us without even activating the DRS. For sure, is not easy to race like this, as you cannot have any good wheel-to-wheel battles. It was a difficult afternoon and we were not competitive in race trim. The car was too slow on the straights and it was impossible to have any battles out there, so points were also impossible today. Eventually, we had to stop due to an engine issue. The situation is what it is and we need to improve it as soon as we can. I know the team is working day and night improving the car, and we hope we can see the results soon."
Eric Boullier, Racing Director: "Today was a very disappointing day for McLaren Honda, despite the best efforts of our drivers. Both Fernando and Stoffel made excellent starts, and for a few laps we dared to dream of progress, but unfortunately it was short-lived. We knew this track would be difficult for us, but after a positive start to the weekend, we were surely hoping for a better on-track performance come race day. Sadly, our package was not up to the job and, as we feared, we were unable to keep up with our nearest competitors when under pressure on the long, arduous and infamous Spa-Francorchamps circuit. Fernando gave everything all weekend, and showed his inimitable talent and prowess at the start, rapidly gaining places, which he was ultimately rendered powerless to defend. Stoffel too, started strongly, but was unable to show off his knowledge of his home circuit ‚ and favorite track ‚ and finished the race in 14th, points too far out of reach. Nevertheless, he drove a measured, solid race and did all he could to finish in 14th despite starting from the back, a couple of tricky pit-stops and a car that was unable to provide the performance required to reward the thousands of fans who turned up to show him support at his first home grand prix."
Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda: "We thought we had the possibility of scoring some points here in Belgium today, so it was disappointing that we finished the race outside of the top ten. After starting brilliantly, Fernando then had a tough race overall. He radioed in with what he thought was a problem with the car, and although there was nothing showing in the data, we decided to stop the car as a precaution. Despite starting from the back of the grid, Stoffel had good pace throughout his home race, and drove well with some great overtaking maneuvers. This weekend was definitely a bag of mixed fortunes. We were able to show some decent pace in qualifying, but we still have work to do with our race pace, and we will continue to accelerate our development in order to improve our PU further."
Scuderia Toro Rosso-Renault
Carlos Sainz (10th): "A fun race full of great battles! I enjoyed it a lot out there today and it's great to end up scoring a point that we were not expecting to get this weekend! On Friday we had really good pace, but after yesterday's qualifying we were not so sure we could achieve this today. We went for an alternative strategy after a difficult start ‚ I lost a couple of places due to a bit of traffic into Turn 1 ‚ and from then onwards we managed to do a good recovery. There was a lot of action going on throughout the whole race and, as a team, we did the right things at the right time. Today's point is a big reward ‚ it tastes like glory! ‚ and I leave Belgium satisfied with the result!"
Daniil Kvyat (12th): "A good recovery today, taking into account that I started the race from the very back. It was a tough race, jumping into the car in race conditions without having done much running during the weekend... But I managed well and enjoyed some good battles. Every time I was in clean air I had great pace but then got stuck behind other cars in wrong moments, especially during the second half of the race, after the first pit-stop. All in all, it's good to finish the race after the difficult weekend we've had. We will now start to prepare for Monza ‚ we're not expecting it to be our strongest track, but you never know what can happen and we will try our best to have a clean weekend and get a good result."
Franz Tost, Team Principal: "Spa was a difficult weekend for us. We expected it not to be easy and, unfortunately, that was the case, especially in Qualifying. We were only able to start from the mid-field with Carlos. Daniil, already from FP1, faced problems which we could not fix, so in the end we had to change the complete PU, which resulted in a grid position penalty. After the start, both cars were in traffic going into the first corner and they lost some positions. Nevertheless, Carlos could catch-up and finish the race in tenth position, scoring a point. I think this was the maximum he could extract from the car for today. He did a very strong first stint, where he managed the ultrasoft tires quite in a special way, which helped him to extend the stint. Regarding Daniil, he was able to gain some positions during the race and he finished twelfth. I think the Safety Car didn't help us strategy wise, because of our tire choice ‚ without it, we could've had a bigger advantage at the end of the race. We now hope that we can score more points in Monza next week in order to protect our position in the Constructors' Championship."
Romain Grosjean (7th): "It was a hell of a race. I'm pretty tired right now. We knew we could be somewhere close to the top-10, but we didn't think we could be in there. After a few laps the car felt OK. I didn't have a great start, but I pushed really hard. We had good degradation on the ultrasoft. We had planned for one stop. I saw Force India going for a two stop and I thought if they don't open up too much of a gap, it should be good. The safety car came out, and then I tried really hard to get the Renault ahead of me, but it was just a little bit too fast. I'm very happy with the team, very proud. After FP1 I thought it was going to be tough, but we recovered very well. We just need to be more consistent in that tire window, the setup, and being there from the beginning of a weekend."
Kevin Magnussen (15th): "I just locked up both tires with cold brakes, cold tires, into the last corner at the safety-car restart. It was my bad and I'm really sorry for the team. It could've been a double-points finish for us this weekend. I just have to push harder next week to make up for it. Obviously, I'm at least happy that we scored points with Romain, but it's hard to swallow right now. We'll be there again next week. I think I would've had a good fight with (Felipe) Massa, for sure. I was faster than him on the stint before the safety car. I think we would've been fighting with him, but it didn't happen and I'm really frustrated with that. I think we could've had a pretty easy double-points finish with both cars. I'm really annoyed. The car's been working reasonably well this weekend. It's a high-speed track and the next one we visit is as well. Hopefully, we can be strong again. It's always frustrating when you miss out, and I think we did today."
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal: "I think we're pretty happy leaving here with six points. It's a shame for Kevin having locked up at the restart, destroying the tires. But again, six points for us ‚ we keep on getting points. We opened the second half of the season with points, so we hope to continue to score them. Both cars were performing well. I think we can be very happy with what we did."
Nico Hulkenberg (6th): "It was a solid day; I'm happy and pleasantly surprised. I had a poor start but was able to rectify it at the first corner with a move down the inside to have a great run on Checo through Eau Rouge. The car felt better than yesterday and we were the fourth quickest team out there again which allowed us to finish in the top six. I had some great fighting with Fernando. It was pretty hairy getting three abreast with him and Esteban. Fernando was making a move with DRS and a big tow, then Esteban had a massive overshoot so for a moment I thought 'oh gosh, it's not going to end well,' but fortunately it was great racing and I'm sure great to watch from the outside. I've definitely got good confidence heading to Monza."
Jolyon Palmer (13th): "I think the race could have gone better; we knew that taking a penalty would mean starting on used tires with everyone around me on fresh sets and that was always going to put us on the back-foot. Despite that, I had a decent start and the car was much better once we changed tires. It was just a case of being stuck in traffic for much of the race. I had some good fights though, they were fun, but it's a shame not to have anything to show for it. Had we started seventh, points would have definitely been achievable today."
Cyril Abiteboul, Managing Director: "Overall the team had a good race, making a return to the points, where it belongs, as fourth strongest in both qualifying and on race day. Nico equaled his season-best with sixth and despite a difficult first lap, he was able to come back strong with a very solid race strategy that was perfectly executed. Jolyon's results were disappointing for him and for the team. The five-place grid penalty and the results today do not reflect his strong start to the weekend. We will investigate further to see what happened with the difference in pace from Saturday to Sunday. I want to mention Red Bull Racing. Their race was one of contrasts, on one side Daniel Ricciardo showed solid pace for another podium but on the other side Max Verstappen was forced to retire. An electronic systems issue seems to be at the heart of this problem. I personally apologize to Red Bull Racing and more specifically to Max and his many fans who are as disappointed as we are. We will work closely with RBR to define a course of action and a roadmap to eradicate issues such as this one which meant they couldn't harness their package's potential today."
Marcus Ericsson (16th): "Going into this race we knew that we would not be very competitive. There were some good parts for us, especially in the middle sector. However, the lack of straight-line speed in the first and last sectors made it a difficult race overall for us. Although the track in Monza will be similarly challenging in terms of the power unit demands we are going to do our best there to fight for the best possible result."
Pascal Wehrlein (DNF, Suspension): "This weekend was a difficult one for me. We had an issue with the suspension on my car so, unfortunately, I had to retire from the race. I am now focusing on the next race and looking forward to having a new opportunity for a better result at Monza."
Frederic Vasseur, Team Principal: "Unfortunately, the race was a short one for Pascal today. He had to retire on his third lap after having an issue with the suspension on his car. Marcus' first stints were going ok, he was fighting his direct competition ‚ however, the last stint was disappointing. We saw that there was some damage to the car. We are now working on improving our performance for the next races."
Results 44 Laps
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