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2018 F1

Race Analysis: 2018 Belgian Grand Prix

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Sebastian Vettel won the 2018 Belgian Grand Prix with a comfortable lead of 11.501s over his title rival and pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton. The German claimed the 52nd victory of his career surpassing Alain prost’s record often total number of victories. Hamilton finished second after he lost lead of the race at the start itself and was followed by Max Verstappen who finished with third at a circuit with grandstands full of his Dutch fan. The three together complete the podium of the Belgian race, which had a chaotic start, one safety car period and five retirements.

As the lights went out Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg who started P17 on the grid, hit the brakes late and locked up his wheels, resulting in punting Fernando Alonso off the track. Alonso’s airborne McLaren clipped a part of the rear wing of Daniel Ricciardo’s car, and the whole rear wing of Charles Leclerc’s car sending him flying onto the gravel trap. Ricciardo as a reaction of the incident braked and made contact with the right rear of Kimi Raikkonen’s car, as a result of losing control after the incident. The Finn suffered damage which included a right rear tyre puncture and an end plate flying off from the back of his car. On the other hand, Valtteri Bottas hit a Williams’ car damaging his front wing, in an attempt to avoid the carnage. While Ricciardo, Raikkonen and Bottas pit, Hulkenberg leclerc and Alonso had to retire immediately. The incident brought out the safety car which last till the end of lap 4.

The incident was a similar one to the first corner pileup at the same corner at the 2012 Belgian Grand Prix, where Grosjean caused the incident taking out four cars including that of Alonso and Hamilton. The incident then cost Alonso the world title and is often a memorable reminder of the chaotic starts at this circuit. Bottas went on to complete the race and finish fourth, but was handed a five second time penalty and was reprimanded with two penalty points. Hulkenberg has been penalised with a 10 place grid drop for the next race and three penalty points.

Raikkonen continued the race, but problems with his DRS made and lack of grip from his tyres made him pit twice, and finally he retired on the second pitstop at Lap 9. Red Bull on the other hand fixed Ricciardo’s rear wing and sent him out to race, as he rejoined the track almost a lap down on the other cars. Unable to post the same times as Verstappen and struggled to un-lap himself and surge further up the grid. The team took the risk assuming there would be another safety car period where the Australian could catch up in case there were more incidents. The strategy did not pay off and they asked him to retire after running the car for 31 laps.

The mid-field was chaotic due to the start however pole sitter Hamilton’s lead was challenged by Vettel, who stuck behind the Briton at Eau Rouge and overtook him on the Kemmel Straight, just in time before the Safety Car period commenced. At the restart, post the Safety Car period, Hamilton tried to retake his position by overtaking the German, but Vettel managed overtaking him again into the next corner and securing his lead.

Hamilton was the first to pit at lap 22 and it dropped him to third place behind Max Verstappen. By the time Vettel pit at lap 23 the gap between him and Verstappen was more than 27 seconds and he rejoined comfortably at the position he was. That was the only time his lead reduced to two seconds, and he was vulnerable to both Verstappen and Hamilton. Although Hamilton passed Verstappen at the start finish straight and tried overtaking the German, he remained unsuccessful and the former was able to increase the lead. After trying to get past Vettel, despite being 3.5 seconds behind, it seemed that even his soft tyres couldn’t be pushed more than their limit and risked delamination. For the last 15 laps of the race, the reigning world champion did not push enough to close in on Vettel and was seen backing away instead.

The two Racing Point Force India cars of Esteban icon and Sergio Perez who started third and fourth on the grid respectively had their own tussle in the chaotic start. Perez overtook Ocon at the start, and a surging Verstappen who was running fifth by then managed overtaking the two by lap 9, ending their chances of a podium. However, at one point at the start, if Ocon’s onboard was correct, he was within range of snatching lead from Hamilton on lap 1. The Mexican finished in fifth place while the Frenchman finished sixth, however for a team that joined the season as a new entrant, these points mean they have now surpassed Williams’ in the standings.

Haas drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen finished seventh and eighth respectively, collecting another double points finish for their team. Toro Rosso driver Pierre gassy finished ninth while Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson finished tenth to complete the points finishes of the race.

At a circuit where Ferrari showed tremendous straight-line speed prowess, effective tyre management aided Vettel further. His first stint with the super-soft tyres was 23 laps long, and the tyres weren’t blistering as badly as those on the Mercedes, where a lap more and Hamilton’s left rear would have delaminated. The German only pit after his rival pit, after ensuring he was out of risk of being in his pit window and could rejoin the grid where he left off. Vettel’s current win reduces Hamilton’s lead in the championship by 7 points and the Briton leads by 17 more points. However when it comes to the number of wins and number of retirements, both equal each other.

As far as engine supremacy is concerned, Mercedes Ferrari and Renault brought upgraded engines to this circuit, however Ferrari’s upgrade seemed to have worked the best at this circuit and can only foreshadow their potential for the Italian GP at the Monza circuit next weekend. Honda on the other hand seemed competitive with Gasly bringing out the best of its performance and abilities. Carlos Sainz’s Renault engine on the other hand did not seem great and they weren’t able to get past Ericsson’s Ferrari powered Sauber, making them finish outside the points.

The next race on Ferrari’s home ground at the Monza circuit in Italy, where Ferrari should ideally be targeting a 1-2 finish, to not just secure more points in the Constructor’s title but to take more points off Hamilton. Ideally a factor missing from the race was Vettel’s gunman Raikkonen who is titled the ‘King of Spa’ for the maximum number of victories at this circuit. The Finn’s strong from around this circuit coupled with the pose dominant Ferrari would helped in pressuring Hamilton towards the closing stages of the race.

In the Constructor’ title Mercedes lead with a total of 375 points and are trailed closely by Ferrari who have a total of 360 points. While Raikkonen is still third in the drivers’ title with a total of 146 points, with the current retirement he is now trailed closely by Bottas who now has a total of 144 points. Racing Point Force India who lost all their points they earned prior summer break due to the name change and mid-season entry now have a total of 18 points and have overtaken Williams’ who have a total of four points and are one point behind Alfa Romeo Sauber who have a total of 19 points.

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