Leclerc scores maiden victory at Spa

Charles Leclerc held off a late challenge from Lewis Hamilton to score his maiden Formula 1 victory and secure Scuderia Ferrari’s first win of 2019 in the Belgian Grand Prix.

Leclerc missed out on victory in Bahrain because of an engine problem and Austria after a late fight with Max Verstappen, but suffered no such repeat as he finally did it on his third attempt.

The Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas completed the podium after Leclerc’s Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel slipped back from second position following tyre struggles and an extra pitstop.

Hamilton rapidly closed on Leclerc in the final laps but crossed the line 0.9 seconds adrift.

The Belgian Grand Prix was almost immediately placed under the safety car after Verstappen’s race ended in the barrier at Eau Rouge on the first lap.

Verstappen had a slow start and was passed by Kimi Raikkonen and Sergio Perez on the run to La Source, but dived inside both under braking.

The Red Bull driver passed Perez cleanly but hit Raikkonen as The Iceman swept across to the apex of the corner, pitching the Alfa Romeo into the air – and the two made contact again on the exit of the corner.

The front left of Verstappen’s Red Bull was damaged in the accident and broke completely as he entered Eau Rouge, which caused him to slide helplessly into the barriers on the outside.

Raikkonen continued after a trip to the pits, as did Daniel Ricciardo, whose Renault picked up some floor damage in a separate incident behind.

The safety car was due to return to the pitlane on lap three but was stayed out on track before making it back to the pits, because Carlos Sainz stopped at the exit of the Bus Stop chicance after a loss of power in his Renault-engined McLaren.

When the race did resume on lap five, Leclerc was gifted an immediate advantage as Vettel locked up at La Source.

Leclerc remained in control through his first stint, surviving a minor scare when he locked up at Les Combes and took to the run-off.

That incident was noted by race officials, after a pre-event instruction to drivers to obey specific instructions if they went wide there, but Leclerc ended up escaping investigation.

Vettel kept Hamilton at bay despite coming under pressure through the first half of the race, and the Ferrari driver was first to stop on lap 15.

Leclerc, Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas stayed out for many more laps, and by the time the race leader pit on lap 21 he had lost too much time to Vettel to maintain the position.

Vettel’s efforts on new tyres handed him a five-second margin when Leclerc emerged from the pits, but Leclerc reduced that time difference with fresh rubber.

Leclerc was within DRS range with 18 laps still to go and Ferrari instructed Vettel to let his teammate by, which he did after a short delay in order to give Leclerc a tow on the Kemmel Straight and minimise the time loss.

Ferrari’s strategy call gives Leclerc the win but it left Vettel vulnerable to the Mercedes drivers, and he soon slipped to fourth as his medium tyres fell away.

Leclerc seemed safe until Hamilton closed rapidly in the closing laps, but the championship leader was unable to mount an attack – and in any case, second place extended his lead over Bottas in the championship to 65 points.

After being passed by Hamilton, Vettel was told to stay out if he could keep Bottas behind but reported “negative” almost immediately and dived in for fresh tyres, in order to set the fastest lap and gain a bonus point.

New Red Bull recruit Alex Albon recorded a surprise fifth place on his debut with the team after a fine charge from the back of the grid.

He was promoted to the best result of his F1 career after last-lap drama, as Lando Norris retired to hand Albon sixth and then nabbed fifth from Racing Point driver Sergio Perez.

Norris was on course to be rewarded with his own career-best finish, after leaping up the order on the dramatic first lap.

The McLaren rookie passed his midfield rivals with ease but reported a sudden loss of power as he was starting his final lap, and pulled over on the start-finish straight.

That promoted Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat to seventh late on, before further drama occurred when Antonio Giovinazzi crashed out of what would have been eighth position.

Nico Hulkenberg thus finished eighth after passing teammate Ricciardo during a late charge, while Pierre Gasly battled to ninth in his first start since being demoted from Red Bull to Toro Rosso.

Lance Stroll completed the top ten as Ricciardo’s badly-worn tyres meant he slipped to P14 behind the two Haas drivers, who ran sixth and seventh early on but faded badly as the race progressed.

So congratulations to Ferrari and Charles Leclerc in winning their first race of the season. The straight-line speed helped on this Spa-Francorchamps circuit. Such a nice gesture from Charles to dedicate this victory to Anthoine Hubert, who lost his life in the Formula 2 race during the Belgian Grand Prix weekend. Respect to the motorsport community in putting on a good show with a popular winner.

Belgian Grand Prix, race results:
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:23:45.710
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 0.981
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 12.585
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 26.422
5 Alex Albon Red Bull-Honda 1:21.325
6 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes 1:24.448
7 Federation Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Honda 1:29.657
8 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:46.639
9 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso-Honda 1:49.168
10 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 1:49.838
11 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault –
12 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1 lap
13 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1 lap
14 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1 lap
15 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1 lap
16 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1 lap
17 Robert Kubica Williams-Mercedes 1 lap
18 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari
19 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren-Renault –
20 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda –

6 thoughts to “Leclerc scores maiden victory at Spa”

  1. Belgian Grand Prix race review as reported by

    Charles Leclerc claimed the first Formula 1 victory of his career and Ferrari’s first in the 2019 campaign in the Belgium Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, less than 24 hours after his friend Anthoine Hubert passed away after a crash in Saturday’s F2 feature race.

    The Monegasque, who immediately dedicated his win to Hubert, who he grew up racing, was in a league of his own all weekend, topping two of the three practice sessions and all three segments of qualifying on his way to his third pole position.

    Come race day, Leclerc led away from P1 and though he lost track position to team mate Sebastian Vettel during the pit stops, Ferrari instructed Vettel to move aside for the flying polesitter. From there Leclerc led reasonably comfortably, though he had to coolly hold off a late attack from Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton to clinch victory.

    It was Ferrari’s first victory since Kimi Raikkonen triumphed in last year’s United States Grand Prix, with Leclerc the Scuderia’s 39th winner and Monaco the 23rd nation to win an F1 race. The 21-year-old also became the third-youngest winner in F1 history.

    Hamilton hunted down and passed Vettel, who was struggling with tyres after pitting early, to move into second and extend his championship lead, with team mate Valtteri Bottas completing the podium.

    Vettel was forced to pit for a second time to take the soft tyres, which gave him the opportunity to take the fastest lap and a bonus point, but he could finish no better than fourth.

    McLaren’s Lando Norris was set to finish in fifth place, in what would have been the best result of his rookie season so far, but he retired on the final lap with suspected engine failure. That position was inherited by Red Bull’s Alexander Albon, who passed Sergio Perez via the grass on the final lap to take a superb fifth from 17th on the grid in his first race with his new team.

    Racing Point’s Sergio Perez equalled his best result of the season in sixth, though the Mexican is under investigation for forcing Albon off the track, with Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat seventh. Antonio Giovinazzi was set for the best result of his career in eighth, but he crashed at Pouhon on the final lap, thankfully climbing out unscathed.

    Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg crossed the line eighth, ahead of Pierre Gasly, who was visibly emotional on race morning follow the passing of his friend Hubert, in his first race back with Toro Rosso. Lance Stroll made it two Racing Points in the top 10 by rounding out the points.

    Red Bull’s Max Verstappen failed to finish in the top five for the first time since last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix, more than a year ago, after he collided with Kimi Raikkonen at Turn 1 on the opening lap and then crashed at the top of Eau Rouge to the disappointment of a huge travelling contingent of Dutch fans.

    On the 19th lap of the race, fans were on their feet for a round of applause in memory of Hubert, who carried the number 19 on his F2 car.

    Leclerc made a perfect getaway from pole position to lead into Turn 1, but his Ferrari team mate Vettel came under attack from Hamilton who slipped by. The German quickly regrouped, slipped into the slipstream and then sauntered by on the Kemmel Straight to reassert Ferrari’s one-two.

    Further back, Verstappen had a slow getaway from fifth and then as he dived up the inside at Turn 1 trying to make amends, he left his braking a little late and collided with Kimi Raikkonen, lifting the Alfa Romeo briefly up onto two wheels.

    Verstappen continued, but had damage and as he tried to navigate the steep uphill Eau Rouge, he realised he couldn’t turn and went straight on into the barriers, very narrowly avoiding a second contact with Raikkonen, who recovered to the pits and returned to the track, but had signifcant damage to the floor.

    The Safety Car was called into action, neutralising the race while they recovered Verstappen’s Red Bull. Its presence was extended when Carlos Sainz retired his McLaren on the run-off at the Bus Stop chicane with a loss of power.

    On the restart, Leclerc comfortably led away, with Vettel locking up and coming under significant pressure from Hamilton at La Source. That mistake ultimately led to Ferrari pitting him earlier than planned, as his lap times were suffering.

    On rejoining on the mediums, Vettel lit up the timesheets, lapping at times around two seconds quicker than his rivals. That kind of pace meant he was able to assume the lead once Leclerc, Hamilton and Bottas had pitted.

    But the early stop had reprecussions later in the race as he soon lost tyre performance, and after dutifully allowing Leclerc to pass for the lead and losing a place to Hamilton at the top of the Kemmel Straight, he pitted for softs.

    His pace was impressive on returning, but the gap was too big to close and he ended up fourth, albeit with the fastest lap. Hamilton had supreme pace in the final stint of the race, taking tenths of a second per lap out of Leclerc but he ultimately ran out of time to really get close enough to launch an attack.

    Bottas completed the podium, ahead of Albon, who scored a career-best finish. Perez finished in the top six at Spa for the fourth time in the last five years while Kvyat finished seventh.

    Hulkenberg, who found out last week that he would not be retained by Renault next season, took only his fourth points finish in the last 12 races, capitalising on a couple of retirements in the closing stages to finish eighth.

    Gasly scored for the eighth time in the last nine races with ninth while Stroll gave Racing Point their second double points finish of the season with 10th.

  2. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc commented that this first Formula 1 win “difficult” to enjoy after Anthoine Hubert tragedy. has the details.

    Charles Leclerc says he cannot “fully enjoy” his first victory in Formula 1, after dedicating his Belgian Grand Prix win to the late Anthoine Hubert.

    Leclerc had started his karting career alongside Hubert, the Renault F1 junior who lost his life in a Formula 2 crash at Spa on Saturday.

    After ending his wait for a maiden F1 win with a fine drive on Sunday, Leclerc immediately dedicated the victory to the 22-year-old Frenchman.

    “On one hand I have got a dream I’ve had since being a child that has been realised,” said Leclerc.

    “On the other hand it has been very a difficult weekend since yesterday. We have lost a friend first of all. It is very difficult in this situation.

    “I would like to dedicate my first win to him. We have grown up together. My first ever race I did with Anthoine when we were younger, there was Esteban [Ocon], Pierre [Gasly].

    “It is just a shame what happened yesterday. I can’t enjoy fully my first victory but it will definitely be a memory I will keep forever.”

    Leclerc qualified on pole and led early on, before briefly slipping behind Sebastian Vettel after his teammate benefitted from an early stop for fresh tyres.

    However, Ferrari reversed the decisions once Leclerc had pit, and he looked as though he was on course to win comfortably before Hamilton slashed the gap late on. 

    “It was a very difficult race, we were struggling quite a lot with the tyres at the end,” said Leclerc. “But a lot happier than what I’ve done in Budapest, I managed the tyres better.

    “The end of the race was definitely not easy, he [Hamilton] was catching very quickly. I had quite a bit of pressure, but happy I kept him behind.”

    Hamilton missed out on another win by 0.9s, but said Leclerc was a deserving winner.

    The young Monegasque was robbed of his first win by an engine issue in Bahrain and was overtaken late on in Austria.

    “I gave it absolutely everything that I had,” said Hamilton. “A really difficult race today, the Ferraris were too fast on the straights, and it was very, very hard to keep up with them.

    “I got as close as I could at the end, maybe we needed a few more laps today.

    “But nonetheless, congratulations to Charles, his first win. He has had it coming all year so I am really happy for him.”

  3. Alexander Albon and Sergio Perez have been summoned to the stewards over their late battle in Formula 1’s Belgian race.

    Red Bull driver Albon was attacking Perez’s Racing Point as they ran up the Kemmel Straight towards Les Combes on the last lap of the race.

    As he approached the rear of his rival’s car, Albon moved right to squeeze by, but in doing so he put the wheels on the right-hand side of this car on the grass.

    Albon was able to get ahead of went on to finish fifth in his first race for Red Bull.

    Both drivers have been summoned to the stewards to explain the incident, with “Alleged forcing another driver off the track between Turn 4 and Turn 5 by car 11 [Perez] on car 23 [Albon]” listed as the reason by the FIA in the respective official bulletins.


  4. UPDATE: No further action over Perez, Albon incident. provides the details.

    Belgian Grand Prix stewards have deemed no action was necessary following the incident between Sergio Perez and Alex Albon late in the Belgian Grand Prix.

    Red Bull driver Albon was attacking Perez’s Racing Point as they ran up the Kemmel Straight towards Les Combes on the last lap of the race.

    As he approached the rear of his rival’s car, Albon moved right to squeeze by, but in doing so he put the wheels on the right-hand side of this car on the grass.

    Albon was able to get ahead of went on to finish fifth in his first race for Red Bull.

    Both drivers were summoned to the stewards to explain the incident, with “Alleged forcing another driver off the track between Turn 4 and Turn 5 by car 11 [Perez] on car 23 [Albon]” listed as the reason by the FIA in the respective official bulletins.

    However, it was decided that no further action was necessary after both drivers agreed it was just “hard racing”.

    “The Stewards reviewed video evidence, heard from the driver of car 11 (Sergio Perez), the driver of car 23 (Alexander Albon) and team representatives,” the stewards said.

    “PER said he had not realized ALB was moving to overtake on the right as earlier he thought he would overtake on the left. ALB achieved an initial overlap with all four wheels on the track, but as PER moved to his right ALB put two wheels on the grass verge.

    “ALB kept on with his overtaking move. PER said when he knew he was on his right he moved to his left. ALB successfully overtook PER. Each driver described it as hard racing and agreed there was potential danger.

    “In view of the explanations and the successful overtaking move it was considered there should be no further action.”

    Speaking about the incident before the stewards’ meeting, Albon told Sky Sports F1: “We were playing the DRS game [at Turn 1, to be behind through the detection zone] – obviously Sergio wants DRS and the Racing Point was [strong on the straights]. So it was like a VSC restart.

    “The Racing Point was so quick down the straight all weekend – it was just kind of ‘after you’, ‘no, after you’ [in terms of accelerating out of Turn 1 on the last lap].

    “We were catching Sergio at quite a good rate [after Eau Rouge] and hopefully he’s in the naughty seat. DRS is almost too good in some respects, so whoever gets DRS you pretty much overtake the car in front and with that in mind – even in [the past at this track] – you always fight for DRS when you know you’re going to lose the position.

    “It was good fun and we had a laugh about it afterwards.”

  5. Renault Formula 1 driver Daniel Ricciardo says he had doubts about racing in the Belgian Grand Prix, following the death of Formula 2 racer Anthoine Hubert on Saturday.

    Hubert, who had been part of Renault’s junior programme, perished in a crash in the F2 support race during F1’s Spa-Francorchamps weekend, leading to an outpouring of grief and emotion all throughout the grand prix paddock.

    Ricciardo, who drove his car to 11th place in the race after sustaining damage in the opening-lap incident, admitted he was glad to see the back of the Belgian GP.

    “I’m glad today is over,” he said. “I’m glad the race is over. I know, weirdly enough, the best way we can kind of show our respect was to race today, but I don’t think any of us actually wanted to be here, or wanted to race – at least, I’m speaking for myself, but I’m sure I’m not the only one.

    “It was tough, it was certainly tough to be here and try and put on a brave face for everyone. I know a lot of people in the paddock are hurting after yesterday.

    “I think everyone’s relieved it’s done and we can move on from here and hopefully it’s the last time this stuff happens.”

    Asked by whether he’d thought about not racing, Ricciardo said: “Yeah, last night, absolutely.

    “You question, ‘is it really worth it?’, for sure. Because at the end of the day, it’s a simple question but it’s a pretty honest one as well.

    “Yeah, it’s our job and it’s our profession and it’s our life, but also it’s still just racing cars around in circles.”

    The Aussie said, however, that seeing Hubert’s family at the track on Sunday morning during the pre-race tributes to the fallen Frenchman helped his own mindset.

    “To be honest, seeing some of his family here today, that’s what gave me more strength than anything else,” he said.

    “Taking my hat off to them doesn’t do it justice. I don’t know what to say. I could not imagine being in their position, I felt they were a lot stronger than any of us today.”

    Belgian GP race winner Charles Leclerc dedicated his victory to Hubert, who he raced against in his first year of karting in 2005.

    Though he admitted it was not easy to get into the right mindset initially, he and his fellow podium finishers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas said that they had no concerns once they were on-track.

    Leclerc said: “I guess for everyone, but for me it was the first situation like that, where we lose someone on track and you need to race the day after.

    “It’s obviously quite challenging to then close the visor and go through the exact same corner at the same speed as the day before. But that’s what you need to do.”

    Hamilton said all the drivers had to do was to “compartmentalise it, move forwards, get in and do your job”.

    He said: “From a racer’s point of view and an athlete’s point of view you switch into a zone, and it’s quite easy to switch into that zone.”

    Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Bottas added: “When you put the helmet there’s not much in your mind and you’re really concentrating on the thing you love to do: driving.

    “Before and after it’s in the back of your mind, but when you go into the zone there’s no distractions.”


  6. Max Verstappen’s move on Kimi Raikkonen at La Source was “stupid” according to Fred Vasseur. has the news story.

    Alfa Romeo Formula 1 team boss Fred Vasseur has blamed Max Verstappen for the first corner collision with Kimi Raikkonen in the Belgian GP.

    erstappen made a poor start and both Raikkonen and Sergio Perez pulled ahead of him on the run to La Source.

    The Dutchman took the inside line and made contact with the Alfa’s right rear wheel, pitching Raikkonen onto the air, in an incident that was similar to one involving the same drivers in 2016.

    The contact led to Verstappen’s retirement immediately afterwards when suspension damage caused him to go straight on at Eau Rouge.

    Raikkonen was forced to make two stops under the safety car and, while he was able to rejoin the pack, his race was compromised by bodywork damage, and he eventually finished 16th.

    “I don’t know what happened with Verstappen,” Vasseur told “But he came from nowhere, he was even behind Perez before the braking.

    “He tried to get two cars in the first corner, and it’s stupid because in Spa you can overtake and you have room to do something. We are not in Budapest or in Monaco. The car was completely damaged, we were missing half of the floor.”

    The FIA stewards deemed that it was a racing incident, taking no action.

    “It was looked at,” said race director Michael Masi. “Obviously we had the safety car immediately but once that got cleared, looked at it and it was determined that it literally was Turn 1, lap one, racing incident. No further action.”

    Verstappen was adamant that he was not at fault, although he didn’t blame Raikkonen.

    “Well, first of all a bad start,” he said. “I don’t know why, but we had a little wheelspin. And after that I just tried to keep to the inside and I think Kimi just expected that he was completely in front of me.

    “Of course I braked a little later than the other two, but it was still very early. At one point he went on to do his normal line and I couldn’t go anywhere.”

    Asked if he saw it as a racing incident, he said: “Yes, I think so, in the end. He didn’t do it on purpose, of course.”

    Red Bull boss Christian Horner defended his driver, pointing his finishing record over the past year.

    “Max remarkably has had a run since Hungary last year where he’s finished top five in every grand prix,” he said. “Twenty-one races or whatever it’s been. It was almost an action replay of the incident here in 2016 with Kimi again.

    “Maybe it’s a blind spot for Kimi! It’s a racing incident. He’s gone in low, I don’t think Kimi knew he was there. The problem is we’d had a poor start. At that point you’re in the pack and unfortunately it’s bitten us today.”

    Speaking to the media before viewing a replay Raikkonen said he hadn’t seen Verstappen on his inside.

    “I was suddenly on two wheels,” said the Finn. “Obviously I haven’t seen it, so it’s a bit hard to say. I was concentrating on slowing down because the Mercedes took a tight line so I had to slow down a lot. Honestly I didn’t see him.”

    “It’s a shame because we would have had a lot of speed. There was too much damage. We still tried and finished the laps off.”

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