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Vettel wins in Belgium

NEWS STORY
26/08/2018

If there were any justice in the world, far less F1, this afternoon's podium will comprise Kimi Raikkonen, Esteban Ocon and Stoffel Vandoorne.

Each, in their own way, is being treated shabbily at present, albeit to varying degrees and for various reasons.

While Ferrari makes a mistake in calculating the amount of fuel Kimi needed in Q3 - it just so happening at Spa, a circuit where the Finn has won four times before and was clearly looking good for pole - Esteban could be in a McLaren - a bloody McLaren - as early as next week, while Stoffel's last race could be in said McLaren driving to last place, ironically sporting a helmet echoing the Woking team's rich history.

You couldn't make it up, as they say.

Back to reality, and first off it's best to deal with the weather. While most believe that talking about the weather is a preoccupation of the British, when it comes to Spa the weather - or climatic conditions as race control would have it - is vital, for conditions can change alarmingly in a matter of moments.

Today's race is expected to take place under much cloud and unseasonably cool temperatures but with no threat of rain.

So that's that out of the way.

Of course, Lewis Hamilton can thank the changeable conditions for pole position, for had Q3 taken place in sunshine or even cloud it is highly likely that one of the Ferraris would have taken pride of place.

Courtesy of Valtteri Bottas' demotion to the back of the grid, Hamilton has the ominous task of holding off the two Ferraris this afternoon, a task that will be particularly tough on the opening lap, not so much on the run to La Source but that long climb up the Kemmel Straight to Les Combes. One can almost envisage the Ferraris sweeping either side of him much like Mika Hakkinen and Michael Schumacher passed a startled Riccardo Zonta back in 2000.

Up against two very quick Ferraris, with nobody to ride shotgun, Hamilton faces a tough task this afternoon, though the Briton - as ever - doesn't seem unduly bothered.

While Vettel needs a win to close the points gap, Raikkonen, who adores the track, is looking good and will surely be fired up after the frustration of yesterday. Then again, should he help his teammate, the Finn could well find himself confirmed for another season at Maranello over the Italian GP weekend next week.

Both Mercedes and Ferrari have engine upgrades this weekend, which is bad news for the rest, particularly Red Bull.

Starting seventh and eighth, Verstappen and Ricciardo both lost out in the madness of Q3, the Australian having a particularly difficult weekend.

Due to their poor grid positions, the Bulls find themselves caught up in what should be a titanic midfield battle this afternoon, with the Force Indias and Romain Grosjean ahead, and Magnussen, the Toro Rossos and Saubers behind.

While we are not expecting the carnage of 1998, let's not forget that Spa has history... just ask Romain.

For the Williams and McLaren pairs it's going to be a long afternoon, and while Lance Stroll can comfort himself with the thought that this could be his last outing in the Williams, poor old Vandoorne may well be contesting his last Grand Prix.

Not that it matters, but overnight McLaren opted to change the engine in Vandoorne's car meaning that he is demoted from the back of the grid to the... back of the grid. Carlos Sainz suffers a similar fate after Renault opted to change the engine in his car, having changes the engine in teammate Nico Hulkenberg's at the start of the weekend.

In terms of tyre strategy, the quickest option is a one-stopper featuring one stint on supersofts for 16 laps then one stint on softs to the flag. If starting on softs however, change after 28 laps to supersoft. If the temperatures rise, or there's blistering on the supersofts, there are two possible alternative strategies: a one-stopper featuring one stint on supersofts for 12 laps plus one stint on mediums, or: one stint on softs for 25 laps plus one stint on mediums. A two-stopper (two stints on supersofts for 13 plus 13 laps, then softs) would be more than 15 seconds slower.

While we don't expect Bottas to make it to a podium position, the right tyre strategy, that engine upgrade and some arms-out, ballsy driving could should see him well up the order.

The pitlane opens and the drivers head out one-by-one.

"The balance is on the nose," reports Hamilton. "There's a headwind and I'm sliding around on the rears." And that's on his way to the grid.

Vettel asks for his steering to be checked, the German feeling it is not centred, while Bottas complains his pedals are slippery.

Ahead of the warm up lap, with the air temperature a very, very cool 12 degrees C, and the track temperature 29 degrees, race control reveals that there is a 20% chance of rain.

All are starting on the supers bar Hartley, Leclerc, Ericsson, Alonso, Sirotkin, Stroll, Bottas, Hulkenberg and Vandoorne, who are on softs, while Sainz is on mediums.

The field heads off on the warm-up lap with Ricciardo warned that there's a headwind into T12 and a tailwind out of T15.

They're away. Hamilton and Vettel get away cleanly as Perez moves across to cover Ocon's rear. Into La Source, Hamilton has the inside, as Vettel does wide to prevent Ocon moving through behind the Mercedes.

Further back there's smoke and debris and suddenly there's a McLaren flying through the air over the top of a Sauber. Hulkenberg is also involved in what is a very nasty accident and typical of what we've seen here over the years.

"Come on, what the ****," says Leclerc, who literally doesn't know what hit him.

Replay shows Hulkenberg going too deep into the corner as he makes up for that back of the grid start position and locking-up. He hits Alonso who is launched over Leclerc... ironic when one considers that in 2012 it was Grosjean going over the top of the Spaniard.

In a separate incident Ricciardo is hit from behind - possibly by Alonso - and subsequently understeers into an innocent Raikkonen, while Bottas also goes too deep into T1 and hits a Williams

As they head up the hill, Vettel and Hamilton are side-by-side with the Panthers in close attendance. Almost four abreast, what with the Panthers, Vettel passes the Mercedes with ease into Les Combes but then the safety car is deployed.

Raikkonen has a puncture, in fact he has no right-rear tyre and is slowly heading back to the pit. Ricciardo also pits, the Australian taking on a new rear wing. Changing the wing is no easy task and as the car is pushed back into its garage, Ricciardo waits patiently.

The stewards are to investigate the incident after the race.

Behind the safety car it's: Vettel, Hamilton, Perez, Ocon, Verstappen, Grosjean, Magnussen, Gasly, Ericsson and Sirotkin.

Raikkonen has switched to mediums as has Vandoorne, while Bottas is now on supers.

As Ricciardo leaves the pits, two laps down, Raikkonen is setting an impressive pace as he attempts to catch up with the leaders. He's currently 14th.

The safety car is withdrawn at the end of lap 4, Hamilton makes an early attack but locks-up at the chicane.

That mistake costs Hamilton who is unable to challenge Vettel on the run up the Kemmel Straight.

Verstappen is shadowing the Panthers, while the Haas pair shadow the lone Red Bull.

A great re-start for Sirotkin who nailed Ericsson to take ninth.

Bottas has passed Raikkonen to take 15th.

Meanwhile, the stewards have noted that other first lap incident, that involving Raikkonen and Ricciardo.

Posting a fastest lap (48.923), Vettel has a 2.2s lead over Hamilton who is 3s clear of Perez and Ocon who is under pressure for Verstappen.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Spa, here.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by PhilLC, 27/08/2018 6:02

"basically the race was over after Lap 1, which also was the most exciting of the race. Apart from Botta's race through the field what else noteworthy was there? "

Rating: Neutral (0)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

2. Posted by PhilLC, 27/08/2018 6:02

"basically the race was over after Lap 1, which also was the most exciting of the race. Apart from Botta's race through the field what else noteworthy was there? "

Rating: Neutral (0)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

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