SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium, Aug 26 – Sebastian Vettel trimmed Lewis Hamilton’s championship lead by seven points on Sunday as he steered his Ferrari to a convincing victory in a crash-hit Belgian Grand Prix.
Hamilton, who started from a Belgian record fifth pole position, came home a well-beaten second for Mercedes, having been unable to threaten his German rival, who notched his third win at the majestic Ardennes circuit and Ferrari’s first since 2009.
It was Vettel’s fifth win this season, equalling Hamilton’s tally, and the 52nd of his career, surpassing the 51 of four-time world champion Alain Prost, and achieved with reasonable ease as he came home 11.061 seconds ahead of the Briton.
“More wins than Alain? Whoah,” said Vettel. “I was lucky with the traffic today and I could see that Lewis eased off for the final 15 laps.”
“He drove past me like I wasn’t even there on the straight,” said Hamilton. “They’ve got some trick things going on in that car and we have got to just keep working.”
Local hero Max Verstappen finished third for Red Bull ahead of Valtteri Bottas, who started from the ninth row of the grid in the second Mercedes, and Sergio Perez in the leading ‘new’ Force India.
Frenchman Esteban Ocon, whose future is uncertain following Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll’s takeover of Force India, came home sixth ahead of Frenchman Romain Grosjean and his Haas team-mate Kevin Magnussen.
Red Bull-bound Frenchman Pierre Gasly of Toro Rosso finished ninth ahead of Swede Marcus Ericsson.
The race began with a dramatic first-lap collision involving German Nico Hulkenberg of Renault and the retiring Fernando Alonso, whose McLaren was sent spiralling airborne over the halo-fitted cockpit of Charles Leclerc’s Sauber.
None of the drivers were injured, but all were forced out of the race, along with Renault-bound Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull and luckless Finn Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari, who had also collided.