Hamilton cruises to victory in Spa
Cuts Vettel's championship lead
Lewis Hamilton held off a spirited challenge from Sebastian Vettel to cut the German’s lead at the top of the Drivers’ Championship to just seven points.
On the 25th anniversary of Michael Schumacher’s first Grand Prix win, Hamilton set about emulating the racing legend in style.
To mark the occasion, Schumacher’s son, Mick, drove his father’s 1994 title-winning car around the track at Spa before the drivers battled it out around the famous circuit.
Just as Schumacher did in his 200th race, Hamilton put in an imperious performance to reach the checkered flag first.
The Brit has now won 58 of the 200 Grand Prix he has competed in, including three in Spa.
“It’s been a strong weekend for myself and the team,” Hamilton told Mark Webber after stepping off the top step of podium. “The team have done a great job and I’m really grateful for all the hard work.
“Sebastian put a great fight on but this is what I said I was coming to do, so I did it.”
After Force India teammates Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon collided on lap 30, the safety car was called out for debris on the track, a move which blew the race wide open.
Just five seconds separated the top five drivers, before Hamilton and Vettel pulled away from the pack.
The German then began to put the pressure on Hamilton, but a faultless drive meant a real challenge for first place never really materialized.
“It was really intense. I was waiting for Lewis to make a mistake but he didn’t,” Vettel said after the race. “I was too close at the restart.”
Despite plenty of squandered points in Spa, Force India’s fourth place in the standings doesn’t look under threat but Chief Operating Officer, Otmar Szafnauer, confirmed he would no longer be allowing Perez and Ocon to race, confirming they will from now on follow team orders.
An indignant Ocon told Sky Sports he will now hold talks with Perez.
“He just squeezed me into the wall at 300 kph, risking my life, for no reason. He’s supposed to be a professional,” the Frenchman said.
“I will tell him the truth, I will not be scared of him. If it needs to be man words it will be.”
A visibly frustrated Max Verstappen was forced to retire for the sixth time in 12 races this season, causing him to question the reliability of his car.
Born in Belgium, the Dutch driver waved to hoards of fans decked in orange who had traveled full of optimism from neighboring Holland.
That optimism soon disappeared – as did Verstappen’s pre-race “goosebumps” – as the teenager’s car gave up after just nine laps.
Verstappen told Sky Sports he couldn’t take “too many” more retirements before considering his Red Bull future.
“Frustrated, disappointed and just really not happy,” he said. “For a top team, this can’t happen. At the beginning you can say bad luck, these things happen.
“But if it’s happening again for the sixth time this year, you can’t call it bad luck any more. The fans buy very expensive tickets to come and watch the race and then after eight laps it’s finished.
“Also it’s just really demotivating because you work hard all weekend, you have a great qualifying and you’re looking forward to the race but then you retire after eight laps. I don’t know what to say - it’s just a very tough year.”
However, it was a different story for Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo, who made a scintillating restart after the safety car to leap from fifth place to third and take the final podium place.
Beaming from ear to ear, the Aussie orchestrated the fans watching below, leading the crowd in a series of Mexican waves.
“I knew we’d been given a bit of an opportunity so it was good to take advantage of that with Valtteri on the restart,” he said.