Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix 2019

Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix 2019

The second half of the F1 season kicked off on a very sad note with the passing of F2 driver, Anthoine Hubert, who was killed in a race earlier in the weekend. The F2 race was immediately red-flagged and canceled, the second F2 race on Sunday was also canceled as a mark of respect for the tragic loss of the 22-year-old Frenchman. My condolences go out to Anthoine’s family, friends, and team members. We are so used to drivers walking away from major crashes, which makes Anthoine’s death all the more shocking.

The race produced a new F1 winner, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc took his maiden F1 victory after coming so close, twice this season, having to fend off a late challenge from the current world champion, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton. I believe that Leclerc is the first Monégasque (Monaco) driver to ever win an F1 race.

At the start, Leclerc, who started from pole, exited the first corner in the lead, while Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel found himself on the outside of the Mercedes of Hamilton, going wide at La Source, returning to the track between Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas in 3rd place. But, used Ferrari’s superior power to move back to 2nd place in the run down the Kemmel Straight towards the Les Combes chicane.

Meanwhile, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen made an ill-advised decision to dive down the inside of Kimi Raikkonen at La Source, making contact with the Finnish driver as the Dutchman attempted to make up for his bad start. This contact damaged the steering of Verstappen, which broke as he traversed the top of Radion, Raikkonen’s race was also effectively over with significant damage to his Alfa Romeo’s floor.

Nineteen-year-old Briton, Lando Norris made a brilliant start, making up six places, moving from 11th to fifth place, somehow avoiding the carnage at La Source. Norris stayed in fifth place as best of the rest behind Ferrari and Mercedes, but had his best-ever finish stolen away from him, one lap from the end, his McLaren coming to a halt with a Renault power unit issue as he started his final lap. Big disappointment for the young Briton, at least he has the consolation of being voted driver of the race.

The race was immediately put on hold, the safety car was deployed to recover Verstappen’s car, which was further extended to cover the recovery of Carlos Sainz’ McLaren which stopped on the outside of the bus stop chicane with a suspected power unit issue. The race restarted on lap five, with Leclerc creating a gap for himself before La Source, Vettel locked up, allowing Hamilton a sniff through Eau Rouge and Radion, but the Ferrari stretched its legs to be clear into the Les Combes braking zone.

Ferrari elected to pit Vettel, the first of the leading pack, on lap 16, for medium tires, while teammate and race leader Leclerc continued on for a further six laps, losing out to Vettel, who successful used the undercut. I questioned why Ferrari left Leclerc out for so long, after pitting Vettel, losing large chunks of time every lap to the German driver. But it all became clear later on, when Ferrari instructed Vettel to move aside for his young teammate, which happened on the start/finish straight on lap 27.

Vettel eventually ran out of tire performance as we entered the final third of the race, being passed by Hamilton on lap 32, before pitting for a second set of used soft tires, as he was about to be passed by the second Mercedes of Bottas. There was no point in Vettel staying out on worn tires as he was going to finish fourth anyway. Overall, it was a disappointing race for Vettel, starting second in the fastest car at Spa Francorchamps, only to finish behind both Mercedes, while his teammate took the victory.

Alex Albon, who was promoted to a Red Bull drive, at the expense of Pierre Gasly, during the mid season break, benefited from Norris’ misfortune to finish fifth, overtaking Racing Point’s Sergio Perez on the final lap. For which he was lucky to not get a penalty as he went off track to make the overtake happen. Daniel Ricciardo was given a 5 second time penalty for a similar move back at the French Grand Prix.

Speaking of Daniel Ricciardo, after getting a big clout from Lance Stroll during the first corner melee, the Australian pitted for medium tires on lap 2, suffering the ignominy of dropping continuously backward in the final third of the race, all the way down to 14th after running solidly in the top 10 earlier on. You really have to question the logic of keeping Ricciardo out for such a long stint, a set of soft tires late on would have been the better option, especially given Ricciardo’s reputation of being the last of the late brakers.

Belgian Grand Prix 2019 Results

1. Charles Leclec (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) +1:21.325
6. Sergio Perez (Racing Point) +1:24.448
7. Danill Kvyat (Toro Rosso) +1:29.657
8. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) +1:46.639
9.  Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso) +1:49.168
10. Lance Stroll (Racing Point) +1:49.838

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