Wednesday 24 January 2018 / 02:49 PM


The Belgian Grand Prix was the first race after the summer break, with Sebastian Vettel coming into the event with a 14 point lead over Lewis Hamilton and a great race delivered at the iconic Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.

Free Practice 1 got underway on Friday with a bang of the worst kind, when Felipe Massa lost his Williams on turn 7 and hit the wall. He was the only driver to have an accident in the session and failed to get a timed lap on the board.

Tyre strategy looked to be a major talking point with the Mercedes opting to run with the harder compound while the majority of the field were running on the softest. This served to show just how dominant the Silver Arrows are as Lewis Hamilton posted the second quickest time, just 0.053s behind Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari. Vettel was third quickest, followed by both Red Bulls.

In FP2, Daniel Ricciardo was trialling a set-up designed for increasing straight line speed, and while he was setting the fastest sector times in the first and third sectors, he was far too slow in the middle. The set-up was abandoned after the session. Massa’s FP1 crash saw him miss all of FP2 as his entire chassis needed to be replaced. The session was cut short by a heavy downpour of rain, with Hamilton posting the quickest time.

Day 2 started under clear skies and was largely uneventful. The Ferraris were quickest followed by Hamilton. In Qualifying the Saubers were dead last followed by both Williams cars and Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso, which saw them all miss Q2. Mercedes and Ferrari were the only teams to have both cars post sub 1:45 times, with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen joining them. Toro Rosso, Haas and McLaren were all outpaced by the end of Q2, with the Ferrari’s and Mercedes cars pulling away from the field. In Q3, the session was owned by Lewis Hamilton, who claimed pole in a new track record. Vettel came in second, with Valtteri Bottas third and Raikkonen fourth. The Red Bulls locked out the third row in a rather predictable looking grid.

Several drivers received pre-race penalties. Stoffel Vandoorne’s McLaren had a power unit replaced and his gearbox changed. Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein also had gearboxes changed. Felipe Massa received a penalty for ignoring Yellow flags during Q3 and Jolyon Palmer’s besieged Renault also had gearbox issues, forcing it to be replaced.

The race started rather judiciously, with very little incident despite the first turn being quite a sharp one at the end of a short straight. The squabbling Force India drivers, Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon came together when they were side by side and Ocon was squeezed into the wall coming into the fast Eau Rouge section of the track. Somehow he managed to stay in control and continue driving. On lap 7, Verstappen’s frustrating season continued when his car lost power, forcing him to retire for the sixth time in 12 races. Kimi Raikkonen was then forced to take a 10 second stop go penalty for not slowing down as he passed Verstappen’s stricken car while yellow flags were waving.

A frustrated Fernando Alonso was retired after 25 laps as his Honda looked to be well down on power. Lewis Hamilton had hung onto the lead from the very beginning and was starting to pull away slightly from Vettel before Perez again forced Ocon into the wall in the same spot. This time Ocon got past Perez, who suffered a puncture and damage to the front of his car. Perez continued around the track on three tires, littering the track with debris, which forced the safety car to come out to clear the track.

On the restart, Vettel pushed hard and very nearly got past Hamilton at the end of Kemmel straight, but ran out of real estate and had to bail to make the turn. Meanwhile, Bottas fell victim to a double pass, first by Ricciardo whose audacious pass on the left and then by Raikkonen on the right as they approached Les Combes.

Ricciardo managed to hold down third place while Vettel pushed hard and stayed within striking distance of Hamilton, but couldn’t find that little bit extra to get by. The Briton won, thus halving his deficit in the Championship to Vettel, with the next race at the fast Monza circuit next week set to be a thriller.

Final Standings (Top 10)
1 – Hamilton (Mercedes)
2 – Vettel (Ferrari)
3 – Ricciardo (Red Bull)
4 – Raikkonen (Ferrari)
5 – Bottas (Mercedes)
6 – Hulkenberg (Renault)
7 – Grosjean (Haas)
8 – Massa (Williams)
9 – Ocon (Force India)
10 – Sainz (Toro Rosso)

Drivers Championship (Top 10)
1 – Vettel – 220
2 – Hamilton – 213
3 – Bottas – 179
4 – Ricciardo – 132
5 – Raikkonen – 128
6 – Verstappen – 67
7 – Perez – 56
8 – Ocon – 47
9 – Sainz – 36
10 – Hulkenberg – 34

Constructors Championship
1 – Mercedes – 392
2 – Ferrari – 348
3 – Red Bull – 199
4 – Force India – 103
5 – Williams – 45
6 – Toro Rosso – 40
7 – Haas – 35
8 – Renault – 34
9 – McLaren – 11
10 – Sauber – 5

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About the author

Andrew Ferguson

A rugby league historian and stats buff – most notably as the brains behind the phenomenal Rugby League Project resource – Melbourne-based Andrew has written extensively for Rugby League Review and the Men of League magazine, and is a valued addition to CBS’s rugby league stable.

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