2019 Belgian Grand Prix Blog
The first Grand Prix after the summer break was marred by a tragic accident in the Formula 2 race on Saturday, which claimed the life of 22-year-old French driver Anthoine Hubert. Words cannot express the heartbreak felt by everyone at the circuit, and the millions watching around the world. It was a dark day for our sport. Too often we forget the dangers these drivers put themselves in every time they race.
Anthoine would have wanted the racing to continue and on Sunday that is what happened, albeit under a very sombre mood. Our thoughts and condolences are still with all those who were close to him. We also wish Juan Manuel Correa a speedy recovery from the significant injuries he sustained in the same accident.
‘Lights Out’ and there was action right from the start as Max Verstappen made an uncharacteristically poor getaway. The Red Bull had been fifth on the grid but both Sergio Perez and Kimi Raikkonen pulled ahead as they approached La Source. Verstappen took the inside line but appeared to go for a gap that wasn’t there, slamming into Raikkonen’s rear wheel and launching him into the air. It could have very nasty, but Kimi was able to regain control. Both cars were seriously damaged. Verstappen’s race ending immediately as damaged suspension caused him to go straight on at Eau Rouge, crashing into the barriers.
There were groans from around the crowd as the thousands of Dutch fans who had made the trip saw their hero out of the race after just two corners… This one has to go down as Max’s fault though and Alfa Romeo team boss Fred Vasseur later blamed Verstappen, saying: “He tried to get two cars in the first corner, and it’s stupid because in Spa you can overtake and you have room to do something. We are not in Budapest or in Monaco.”
With all the tussling going on behind, Ferrari had an ok start. Leclerc got away cleanly in the lead and Vettel managed to re-pass Hamilton after losing second at the first corner. With the Scuderia P1 & P2 after the safety car it was always going to be difficult for Mercedes to pass them, despite them having a slightly faster race pace and better tyre wear.
The speed of the Mercedes forced Vettel to pit on lap 15. Fresh tyres meant the German was leading when Hamilton & Leclerc pitted later on laps 21 and 22. But would his tyres hold out? No was the answer and Leclerc quickly closed him down. Team orders allowing the Monégasque past without any fuss. Vettel then did an excellent job defending against Lewis Hamilton in his slower Ferrari. By holding up the Mercedes for two laps or so he arguably made the difference between his team winning and losing the race.
When Lewis did finally get past, he was seven seconds behind Leclerc with 10 laps to go. By now the Ferrari was really struggling with tyre wear and on the final lap that lead had been eroded to 1.5 seconds. Leclerc kept his cool though, lapping several backmarkers in the process, and driving out his first Grand Prix victory. “This one is for Anthoine,” Leclerc said over team radio. “Feels good, but difficult to enjoy on a weekend like this.”
It was understandably a subdued podium celebration. But Ferrari will be delighted to have finally won a race in 2019. Lewis Hamilton was full of praise for Leclerc, saying afterwards: “He ultimately did a superb job… Even if we had different strategies it would have been hard to have beaten him. He deserved to win.”
Verstappen was off his game this weekend, but wouldn’t it be great to see a three-way battle between Lewis Hamilton, Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen? Monza is one of the Silver Arrows favourite hunting grounds, but Singapore perhaps could be the race where it all comes together. We hope so!
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