Lewis Hamilton won his 89th Formula 1 race with a comfortably margin over Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas at the Belgian Grand Prix.
Hamilton led every lap from pole, his launch out of La Source strong enough to prevent Bottas from slipstreaming him into Les Combes. By the end of the first lap his lead was almost 1.5s, which he built on through the first stint of the race.
A safety car on Lap 11 — called for a crash by Antonio Giovinazzi that also collected George Russell — offered Bottas an opportunity to challenge for the lead a second time, but a perfect restart by Hamilton prevented a change of position, and the Mercedes drivers took the checkered flag in one-two formation.
“I know it’s not necessarily what everyone always wants to see, to see the Mercedes out front,” Hamilton said. “But no matter how much success we have, we just keep our heads down. We continue to lean about ourselves, the car, how we develop and improve weekend in, weekend out.”
Hamilton’s triumph extended his championship lead to 47 points over Max Verstappen and brought him to within two wins of Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of 91 race victories.
“Honestly, it’s crazy to think I’m 35 and going towards 36, but I feel better than ever, so that’s a positive,” he said.
Bottas’s ability to challenge the title leader was muted by the need to manage tire wear in the second half of the race after the Lap 9 safety car triggered a mass migration onto the hard compound to make it to the end of the 44-lap race.
By the final five laps Bottas was being told to avoid using the curbs to preserve tire integrity, and it was all the Finn could do to brig the car home second and fall to 50 points off the title lead.
“Of course at the start you know it would’ve been a good opportunity, but I think Lewis played it pretty well,” he lamented. “It was tricky but I tried.
“I think Lewis was faultless today, and yesterday he was quick. At least it was a clean weekend for me. I’m just happy there’s an opportunity next weekend again.”
Verstappen trailed home third, the Red Bull Racing driver 7s behind Bottas, to complete the podium. The Dutchman tried to take advantage of Bottas’s slipstream out of Eau Rouge at the start but came under fire himself through Les Combes by a fast-starting Daniel Ricciardo. The former teammates ran each other wide through the chicane, but both rejoined safety and in qualifying order. Verstappen didn’t have the pace to join the leading pair thereafter and finished another lonely race to third.
“It was pretty boring, to be honest,” he said. “Not really interesting, not much to do.
“I couldn’t really keep up with them when they were pushing, and from my side I ran out of tires in the end. It was not really enjoyable out there today.”
Ricciardo equaled his best result for Renault with a strong fourth place. Although his straight-line speed wasn’t enough to mix him into the podium fight, it allowed him to finish comfortably fourth, 3s behind Verstappen but 21s ahead of teammate Esteban Ocon. The Australian also took the bonus point for fastest lap on the final tour of the race.
Ocon pipped Red Bull Racing’s Alex Albon for sixth down the Kemmel Straight. The Frenchman had jumped the Thai for fifth at the start until a slower pit stop reversed their positions, and though Albon had Ocon’s measure for much of the rest of the race, the Red Bull Racing car’s medium tires faded badly in the final laps, allowing the Renault to take back the place on the final lap.
Albon was left to claim sixth barely a second ahead of Lando Norris, the sole McLaren of the race after teammate Carlos Sainz was withdrawn with a power unit problem after the reconnaissance lap.
Pierre Gasly was a standout performer of the afternoon. The Frenchman started on the hard tire, which allowed him to push hard early in the race and scythe up eighth at the safety car. AlphaTauri then made the astute decision to leave him out on his wearing rubber despite the pace disadvantage, leaving his sole stop until Lap 26. He fell to 17th, but with a new set of medium tires he sliced easily through a field busy trying to conserve rubber to take home four points.
Racing Point scored the final points of the race, with Lance Stroll leading Sergio Perez to the flag, ending an underwhelming weekend for the pink team.
Daniil Kvyat finished 11th for AlphaTauri ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen, the highest-placed Ferrari-powered car at the flag. Raikkonen beat both Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc in a dreadful performance by the Scuderia, painfully underpowered at a circuit that rewards horsepower.
Leclerc offered the team hope at the start by rising to eighth, but the Monegasque could do nothing to retain the place, slipping back out of the points by Lap 5 and ultimately finishing behind his teammate.
Romain Grosjean finished 15h for Haas ahead of Nicholas Latifi’s Williams and teammate Kevin Magnussen.
Giovinazzi and Russell both crashed out after the Italian smacked the barriers at Fagnes and Russell was unable to avoid a stray tire from the Alfa Romeo, sending his Williams into the barrier as well.