Sebastian Vettel beat Lewis Hamilton to win the Belgian Grand Prix after a massive crash involving Fernando Alonso at the start of the race.
Alonso was hit in the rear by Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault on the run to La Source on the opening lap, causing the McLaren to spin and clatter into the Sauber of Charles Leclerc. Alonso was sent airborne over the top of Leclerc — making contact with the Halo on the Sauber in an incident similar to Romain Grosjean’s crash at Spa-Francorchamps in 2012 — but all three drivers emerged unscathed.
After the chaos at the opening corner, Vettel got a run on polesitter Hamilton out of Eau Rouge and Raidillon, slipstreaming past on the run to Les Combes as Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez made it four wide at one stage before dropping in behind the two title rivals.
The move proved decisive as the Safety Car was then deployed just two corners after the German took the lead in order to clear the cars from Turn 1. Vettel was not troubled other than on the restart, with Hamilton getting close into the final chicane but being unable to stay in touch with Vettel on the opening lap.
As well as Alonso, Hulkenberg and Leclerc, Daniel Ricciardo was forced to pit with significant damage having seen the rear wing of his car wiped off by the flying McLaren. Amid that incident, Ricciardo hit the right rear of Kimi Raikkonen, giving the Ferrari a puncture and rear wing damage that ultimately proved terminal for both drivers.
Max Verstappen managed to avoid the contact at the start of the race to run fifth early on behind the two Force India drivers, and overtook Ocon with a late move down the inside into Les Combes – lifting from the outside when using DRS to get past the Force India – and later easing past Perez before the same corner.
By the time he moved into third place, Verstappen was over seven seconds adrift of Hamilton ahead of him and was unable to stay in touch with the leading pair who remained within four seconds of each other throughout the opening stint.
Hamilton pit first as a blister emerged on his left-rear tire on Lap 21, switching to soft tires and delivering an impressive out lap that put some pressure on Vettel. When the Ferrari stopped, Verstappen was between the two but Hamilton used DRS to overtake and ended the Kemmel Straight just one second behind the German.
Vettel had plenty of pace in hand, however, and eased away from that point on to win by 11 seconds and cut Hamilton’s championship lead to 17 points. Hamilton settled for second place with Verstappen 20 seconds behind in third.
Valtteri Bottas had his own incident at the start as he ran into the rear of Lance Stroll’s Williams, damaging his front wing and needing to pit. Bottas switch to supersoft tires and made good progress through the field — including a stunning pass on Brendon Hartley at Eau Rouge — to run fourth before a second stop dropped him behind the two Force Indias into sixth.
With 12 laps remaining, Bottas was able to use DRS to ease past Ocon and then set off after Perez who was over seven seconds up the road. On newer tires, Bottas was able to close up with four laps remaining and went around the outside on the run to Les Combes to secure fourth at the end of a strong recovery drive that extends Mercedes’ lead in the constructors’ championship to 15 points.
Perez and Ocon came home fifth and sixth to register Force India’s first points since being accepted as a new entrant named Racing Point Force India, putting the team one point behind eighth-placed Sauber in the constructors’ standings on 18 points.
Haas also enjoyed a productive afternoon with seventh and eighth with Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen respectively after an impressive start from the Dane. The result closes the gap to fourth in the constructors’ to just six points as Renault failed to score.
Pierre Gasly and Marcus Ericsson rounded out the top 10, with Ericsson losing touch with the Toro Rosso as a result of failing to clear Brendon Hartley after making his pit stop, with a close battle having emerged in the first half of the race.
Hulkenberg and Alonso have been summoned to the stewards after the race to discuss the Turn 1 incident.