Over the years, Spa Francorchamps has provided us with many memorable races. Irish motorsports fans hardly need to be reminded of the incident-filled 1998 Belgian Grand Prix, which saw the Jordan team take its first-ever Formula one win, where Damon Hill crossed the line first, with Ralf Schumacher coming home second to make it a memorable one-two for the Irish team.
The 1998 edition of the Belgian Grand Prix was incident-filled, but Formula One’s latest visit to the legendary circuit didn’t manage to create the same level of drama. Right from the start, the outcome looked fairly predictable.
Carlos Sainz found himself out of today’s race before lights out after experiencing exhaust failure on his out lap to the grid this afternoon, leaving McLaren’s potential for points in the hands of Lando Norris.
From the off, Lewis Hamilton yet again quickly found himself comfortably in the lead, after fending off an early challenge from his Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas.
Daniel Ricciardo who started fourth on the grid in his Renault made a move on the Red Bull of Max Verstappen before settling into P4 on the always frantic first lap, but Verstappen had no issue keeping the Australian at bay.
On lap 10, Hamilton remained ahead of the second Mercedes of Bottas by 2 seconds while Verstappen was just 5.6 seconds off the lead while struggling with tyre grip.
Lap 11 saw the first and only safety car arrive when Antonio Giovanazzi lost control of his Alfa Romeo and spun on the exit of the Fagnes chicane.
One of the Alfa’s wheels ripped off in the incident and flew into the path of the Williams of George Russell. He quickly took evasive action but ended up hitting the tyre barrier in the process and the Williams was also out of the race.
The safety car exited the track on lap 15 after the cars and debris were cleared and racing resumed, with Hamilton in front, while Verstappen tried his hand at getting around the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas, but again the sheer pace of the Silver Arrow proved too much, even for the hard-charging Dutch driver.
Meanwhile, in the midfield tussle, the second Red Bull of Alex Albon was now in between the two Renaults, before Daniel Ricciardo began to make his way further up the order.
By lap 20, Hamilton held the lead by 2.7 seconds from his teammate while Verstappen was beginning to close the gap between himself and Bottas.
At this point, Ricciardo was closing in on Pierre Gasly, with just .4s between them, and on lap 21 the Australian Renault driver swiftly found himself up to 4th and just 12s behind the Red Bull of Verstappen.
With just three laps to go to the end of today’s 44 lap race, it became apparent that both Mercedes were experiencing tyre issues.
Hamilton and Bottas had to tread carefully over the closing stages to ensure the Pirelli rubber would go the distance.
For a moment, it looked as though a window of opportunity might open for Verstappen in third place, but the laps ran out too quickly for the Red Bull racer, who once again looked the only one likely to upset the ongoing Mercedes dominance.
The midfield was alight with action as today’s race came to an end. Daniel Ricciardo set the fastest race lap to finish just 3.4 seconds behind his old Red Bull teammate, while the battle between Alex Albon, Esteban Ocon, and Lando Norris continued right to the chequered flag.
The race proved an impressive result for the Renault team, with Ricciardo in fourth and Ocon in fifth, the team’s best result of the season so far, followed closely by the second Red Bull of Albon in sixth, Norris’ McLaren in seventh, while Pierre Gasly and the two Racing Points rounded out the top ten in 8th, 9th, and 10th respectively.
Following Hamilton’s fifth win of the season, he now has a 47 point advantage on Max Verstappen in the driver’s standings, with Bottas in third, 3 points behind the Dutch Red Bull driver.
Racing will resume next week in Italy at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza on September 6, 2020, for the eighth race of the season.