Charles Leclerc claimed his first Formula 1 victory at the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps.
Leclerc Reaches the Summit
A well-excuted strategy from Ferrari allowed Leclerc to hold off a late charge from Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.
After the race, he dedicated the win to longtime friend Anthoine Hubert, who sadly passed away following a crash yesterday’s Formula 2 race.
"This one is for Anthoine"
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 1, 2019
Leclerc: “On the one a hand a dream I’ve had since I was a child has been realised, but on the other it has been a very difficult weekend.”
“I grew up with Anthoine and I want to dedicate my win to him.”
Team-mate Sebastian Vettel looked poised to win, after an amazing undercut catapulted the German into the lead at the half-way mark.
Vettel unfortunately struggled with tyres during the latter stages and was instructed by his team to let Leclerc through for the lead.
Afterwards, Vettel then held up Hamilton for multiple laps he was called in for a second pit-stop, subduing the German to a fourth place finish.
As consolation, the Scuderia driver did manage to take home the bonus point after registering the fastest lap.
Vettel: In the end it was a tough race, and from quite early on it was clear that I wouldn’t be in the fight so all I could from then was serve the team.”
“For the team I’m happy, but obviously not for myself. I didn’t have the pace ultimately, and I was struggling to stay on top of the tyres, which normally is not a problem at all.”
Verstappen’s Early Exit
Elsewhere, it was a tough day for Max Verstappen after his failure to finish.
At the start, Verstappen made contact with Kimi Raikkonen at La Source, damaging his steering column.
Subsequently, the Dutchman was unable to control the car and ended up in the barriers at Eau Rogue.
The retirement brought an end to his impressive run of consecutive top-five finishes which began at Hungary last year.
Ferrari also found themselves under pressure at start as Vettel found himself Lewis Hamilton after Turn 1.
Luckily he was able to salvage his poor start, re-passing the Silver Arrow into Turn 4.
A safety car was then deployed so the marshalls could recover Verstappen’s car. Additionally, Carlos Sainz Jr’s McLaren also had clutch issues forcing the Spaniard to retire.
Lewis Hamilton was unable to pass Charles Leclerc at the end, with the multiple world champion taking second.
Hamilton: “I gave it absolutely everything I had… It was a really difficult race today: Ferrari were just too fast on the straights.”
“Congratulations to Charles for his first win, he’s had it coming all year, so I’m really happy for him.”
Valtteri Bottas came home in third, taking his tenth of the season for Mercedes in the process.
Bottas: “It’s a decent result, but the race didn’t quite work out exactly how we wanted – Ferrari were very fast on the straights and I didn’t have much of a chance to fight for the lead today.”
Albon Fights Back on Red Bull Debut
Rookie Alexander Albon claimed an amazing fifth place on his Red Bull debut after starting from 17th.
Albon had to fight until the very end though, having passed Racing Point’s Sergio Perez on the final lap.
However, it was McLaren’s Lando Norris who ran in fifth place for the majority of race.
The Briton suddenly slowed as he crossed the line to start his final lap with a power unit problem which forced an anti-stall.
As a result, Norris dropped outside of the points and was classified in 11th.
Antonio Giovinazzi was also on course for a much-needed points finish Alfa Romeo. He also suffered bad luck on the last lap, slamming into the barriers at Pouhon on the last lap.
Perez was sixth, ahead of Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat and Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, in seventh and eight respectively.
On his return to Toro Rosso, Pierre Gasly finished ninth for the Italian based team, while Lance Stroll rounded out the top for Racing Point.
Daniel Ricciardo got caught up in contact at Turn 1. Ricciardo’s pace fell away towards the end after an odd strategy saw him race most of the race on one set of tyres.
The Aussie finished in a distant fourteenth, behind the Haas duo of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen.
After Lap 1 contact with Verstappen, Kimi Raikonnen limped home to a somber seventeenth. George Russell and Robert Kubica came home last of the finishers for Williams.
A Fitting Tribute to a Lost Colleague
The motorsport world was in shock yesterday, after F2 driver Anthoine Hubert passed away following a crash at Spa-Francorchamps.
As a result, thousands of drivers, teams and fans paid tribute to the former GP3 champion, who lost his life at just the age of 22.
Despite much progress to protect the safety of the drivers in recent years, dangers still remain and sadly, we were reminded of that grave fact.
Once again, we would like to extend our condolences to the friends and family of Anthoine Hubert. May he Rest in Peace.