Defending world champion Lewis Hamilton achieved his 89th Formula 1 victory at Spa-Francorchamps, finishing ahead of Valtteri Bottas while a scary crash for Antonio Giovinazzi also wiping out George Russell.
The Belgian Grand Prix was processional at the front, with Max Verstappen taking another third for Red Bull Racing, while the drivers trying a double stack pitstop strategy during the safety car providing most of the action in the pack.
At the start, Bottas made a fractionally better getaway compared to the his teammate but was obliged to go to the outside and tuck in closely behind Hamilton as they exited La Source hairpin.
Bottas ran very close to the leader but lost momentum going through Eau Rouge and was suddenly under more pressure from Verstappen in third.
But a helpful tow from Hamilton’s car meant Bottas was able to stay in front by the time they arrived at Les Combes, where Verstappen suddenly found himself under attack by the fast-starting Daniel Ricciardo.
They ran side-by-side through the second part of Les Combes and the next right – with Ricciardo and then Verstappen going right off the track at those two respective points – but the Red Bull was able to stay ahead, while the Mercedes drivers ran clear in the lead.
Hamilton led by 1.4 seconds by the end of the first lap and the gap to Bottas fluctuated slightly across the next few laps.
The Mercedes duo and Verstappen were the only drivers able to run in the one minute, 50 seconds, before the two Black Arrows dipped into the one minute, 49 seconds and the gap to the Red Bull quickly grew to over five seconds behind the leader.
Hamilton’s lead stood at 1.8 seconds on lap 10 of 44 when the race was suddenly paused following a huge accident for Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi, who lost the rear of his car all by himself as he exited Turn 14 and smashed into the barriers on the outside.
The following Kimi Raikkonen was able to get by unscathed but a wheel that had been ripped off the Alfa Romeo bounced back onto the track and left George Russell with nowhere to go.
The Williams driver struck the wheel and his suspension was broken, with his FW43 then going into the barriers on the left of the track, with the safety car deployed as the wreckage was cleared and a large amount of debris was swept clear of the track.
Hamilton, Bottas and Verstappen pitted at the first available opportunity on lap, with Mercedes double-stacking its cars to fit the hards.
This nearly let Verstappen get in front of Bottas as he accelerated away having taken on his own hards, but Valtteri stayed ahead and the order remained as it was before the safety car was called.
On lap 15 the race restarted, with Hamilton already pulling clear of Bottas after jumping away approaching the Bus Stop chicane on the previous lap.
That meant Bottas had no chance to attack for the lead and the race settled down again at the front, with Hamilton quickly re-establishing his lead as again the top three were able to lap at pace the rest could not match in the one minute, 48 seconds.
But the difference was that Verstappen appeared to be much happier on the hards than he had been on the mediums and he was able to stick closer to Bottas as Hamilton consistently edged further away in first.
Verstappen was able to track Bottas at 1.4 seconds adrift for several laps until both Mercedes turned the screw approaching the end of the race’s second third and Bottas ran clear.
Mercedes told Bottas to give it “everything you’ve got” as he and Hamilton set a series of times in the one minute, 47 seconds, but they did not come into the pits.
This meant they ran to the flag on a single stop and while it initially looked like a calm run to the flag for the leaders, they both had minor problems before the finish.
First Bottas reported a numbness in his left leg from the braking force, and then Hamilton became concerned about the state of his right-front tyre – with both Mercedes at separate points in the closing laps locking up at the Bus Stop and cutting the second part of the chicane.
But these issues came to nothing and Hamilton continued to pull away, finishing with a winning margin of 8.4 seconds at the flag, with Verstappen – who struggled with a vibration on his hards as the second stint wore on – seven seconds behind Bottas in third.
Ricciardo took fourth for Red Bull – making a key passes on Pierre Gasly, who did not stop during the safety car to leap up the order – setting a string of rapid laps at the end and clinching the fastest lap on the final tour.
Esteban Ocon stole fifth from Alex Albon on the final lap with a blast of DRS on the outside coming into Les Combes as the Red Bull driver tried to make a soft-medium strategy work.
Albon so nearly held on to fifth but did stay ahead of Lando Norris’s McLaren to finish sixth.
Gasly put in a series of passes – mainly with DRS on the Kemmel Straight – as he rose from the rear of the field following his green flag stop after he had taken the restart in fourth.
He battled back by Sergio Perez, who also did not stop under the safety car and had to make a long stint work on the softs as a result, eventually taking eighth.
Lance Stroll was ninth ahead of Perez, with Daniil Kvyat P11 in the second AlphaTauri.
The Ferrari drivers finished in a disappointing P13 and P14 – beaten by Kimi Raikkonen who had started in P16 – as both were exposed by the car’s lack of straight line speed.
Vettel finished ahead after another set of radio exchanges with his engineer, while Leclerc made two stops – with the second featuring a precautionary top up of pneumatic pressure – on his way to P14 after he had gained several positions at the start.
Carlos Sainz did not start after his McLaren developed a power unit problem that led to a broken exhaust on the laps to the grid.
So congratulations to Lewis Hamilton in winning the Belgian Grand Prix. His 89th Formula 1 victory and just two away in equalling Michael Schumacher’s achievement. This win also extend his championship lead. Monza is next. Mercedes looking strong thanks to a superior car and engine. Rival Ferrari are going to struggle at home.
Belgian Grand Prix, race results:
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:24:08.761
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 8.448
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 15.455
4 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 18.877
5 Esteban Ocon Renault 40.650
6 Alex Albon Red Bull-Honda 42.712
7 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 43.774
8 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 47.371
9 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 52.603
10 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes 53.179
11 Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri-Honda 1:10.200
12 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:11.504
13 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:12.894
14 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:14.920
15 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1:16.793
16 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 1:17.795
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1:25.540
– Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari DNF
– George Russell Williams-Mercedes DNF
– Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren-Renault DNS