Lewis Hamilton imperious in Belgium as a seventh title beckons

Defending world champion leads every lap from pole to secure fifth win of the season

Lewis Hamilton won the Belgian Grand Prix with another dominant performance from pole to flag. The world champion was unchallenged throughout at Spa-Francorchamps, leading, controlling and dictating the race with relentless efficiency.

Hamilton's Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas, was second but had not threatened Hamilton, while Red Bull's Max Verstappen was the only driver to stay with the two leaders in third. Daniel Ricciardo was fourth for Renault and his teammate, Esteban Ocon, in fifth. Ferrari's difficult season reached a low point with Charles Leclerc finishing 13th and Sebastian Vettel in 14th.

This was another clinical win from Hamilton who once again confirmed he is in the form of his life, with his 89th career win and his fourth at Spa, ending the run of Ferrari victories at the circuit. He is in touching distance of Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 wins, a tally he could equal at Mugello in two weeks time. He now has five wins from seven races this season and is also well on course to match Schumacher’s record of seven championships.

Hamilton enjoys a very comfortable advantage in the title race, leading the championship with 157 points, in front of Verstappen on 110 and Bottas on 107.

Mercedes had targeted the race as one they had hoped to prove the steps they had made in delivering on the power-dependent circuits this season with the team principal, Toto Wolff, describing their recent defeats here as leaving them with unfinished business. They successfully delivered in Spa demonstrating they were once more the best of the field on the high-speed blast through sectors one and three. The step up in their power unit definitively proven.

For Ferrari, who have won the last two races here in Spa, with dominant victories delivered through their straightline speed advantage, the meeting has been a traumatic, sobering experience. Their engine is down on power after the FIA clarified specific engine regulations to Ferrari late last season and they feared being under the cosh in Spa with their power deficit and so it proved. Way down from the leaders in practice, and struggling in the first and third sectors, they lack speed, and struggled with making the tyres work leading to a lack of grip. After qualifying in 13th and 14th, the race offered no respite, nor improvement in positions.

Hamilton made a clean start into La Source with Bottas maintaining second place, while Verstappen held off a spirited charge by Ricciardo on the first lap. Bottas was tentative through Eau Rouge and any chance he had of mugging his teammate on the opening lap had gone by the time they emerged on to the Kemmel straight.

Just as he had at the last round in Spain, Hamilton immediately hared off in front, putting over a second on Bottas within two laps. This was clearly the same calm, focussed control he has repeatedly demonstrated. Bottas can just about keep his teammate honest but Hamilton always has more in his pocket.

Ferrari meanwhile, having hoped for an improvement in race pace, were once more left wanting. Their lack of pace left them vulnerable on the straights and they failed to move up through the field. With five seconds on Verstappen in third the two Mercedes were already in a race of their own and it was one of ominous familiarity. Hamilton with an almost two-second advantage over his teammate by lap nine.

On lap 10 George Russell and Antonio Giovinazzi were in a major accident. Both emerged unhurt after Giovinazzi lost the rear of his Alfa Romeo exiting the Fagne chicane. He hit the wall with such force it broke his wheel from the car and the tethers designed to stop wheels careering across the track. The wheel impacted on Russell's Williams, taking him out.

The incident caused the safety car to be deployed and it prompted the field to take their pit stops, with the leaders putting on the hard rubber, for what was expected to be and was their only stop. Racing resumed on lap 15 and once more Hamilton had the measure of the restart, with Bottas holding off Verstappen again.

Normal service swiftly resumed. Hamilton’s technique was metronomic, he once more opened up two seconds on Bottas within five laps and edged out the gap to Verstappen by four seconds. The three were alone in the lead while erstwhile rivals Ferrari faced no little ignominy. Vettel was passed by the customer Ferrari-engined Alfa Romeo of Kimi Raikkonen on lap 16. The Scuderia’s drivers were in a fight but only with each other, as Leclerc went for an ambitious pass on the outside of Les Combes only for Vettel to bluntly close the door. Then Leclerc’s second pit stop was slow, compounding his first tardy stop as simply nothing would go right for the team.

The contrast to the Mercedes could not have been more stark. Hamilton had the same advantage the Scuderia enjoyed here last year when Leclerc cantered to his debut win from pole. Hamilton had pace in hand and ground out the remaining laps with ruthless efficiency, managing his tyres to ensure they made it through, wary of the delamination that beset him on the final lap at Silverstone. His lead was eight seconds by the flag.

Hamilton’s sights are set on another title, nothing at Spa suggested the world champion can be diverted from securing it sooner rather than later.

Alex Albon was sixth for Red Bull, Lance Norris seventh for McLaren, Pierre Gasly eighth for AlphaTauri. Lance Stroll and Sergio Pérez were ninth and 10th for Racing Point. - Guardian

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