Scuderia Ferrari has taken its first official win of the season, thanks to a great performance from Charles Leclerc at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit. The Monegasque managed the 44 lap race to perfection, on his way to his maiden F1 win, the first also for a driver from Monaco. This fantastic result came at the end of what was a very difficult weekend for the world of motor sport, following the tragic death in Saturday’s Formula 2 race of young French driver Anthoine Hubert.
Charles Lelclerc got away well from pole position to keep the lead. Behind him, Sebastian Vettel was overtaken at the first corner by Lewis Hamilton but retook the place getting by again at the end of the Kemmel straight. Shortly after, the Safety Car appeared after Max Verstappen went off and then Carlos Sainz did the same. At the restart, Charles managed to pull away from the group, running at a consistent pace. Sebastian pitted on lap 15 to switch from Soft to Medium, while his team-mate stayed out for a further 5 laps.
The final ten laps were nail biting, as Charles managed his tyre degradation and fought off a hard-charging Hamilton, who never got quite close enough to use the DRS. Charles took the flag less than a second ahead of the reigning world champion and a further 12 ahead of Valtteri Bottas. This was Scuderia Ferrari’s 236th win, while Leclerc set two new records here in Belgium, becoming the youngest driver to take pole and the win at Spa-Francorchamps. He is also the youngest ever driver to win a Grand Prix at the wheel of a Ferrari.
Racing Point’s Sergio Perez equalled his best result of the season in sixth, though the Mexican is under investigation for forcing Albon off the track, with Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat seventh. Antonio Giovinazzi was set for the best result of his career in eighth, but he crashed at Pouhon on the final lap, thankfully climbing out unscathed.
Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg crossed the line eighth, ahead of Pierre Gasly, who was visibly emotional on race morning follow the passing of his friend Hubert, in his first race back with Toro Rosso. Lance Stroll made it two Racing Points in the top 10 by rounding out the points.
“It is difficult to enjoy a first victory on a weekend like this. I grew up with Anthoine, and we competed in our first karting race together with Pierre (Gasly) and Esteban (Ocon) in 2005. These are memories I will keep forever. Losing him yesterday was a huge shock, not only to me but to everyone in motorsport. In a way, I am satisfied having won today to remember him in the way he should be remembered. He was a champion, and this victory is for him.
The race itself was good and nothing would have been possible without the amazing car the team gave me. We made good improvements in terms of race pace and tyre management this weekend.
The last few laps weren’t easy. I saw Lewis coming closer and closer in the mirror, so I put my head down and tried to focus on the work I had to do in the car. At the end, I managed to cross the line in first place and I’d like to thank the team for the hard work they have put in to make this possible.”
It’s been a very difficult weekend for everyone in motorsport and today I raced with Anthoine in my thoughts. In general, it’s been a wobbly weekend but to have a solid Qualifying and then a solid race today, I’m really happy. Of course, you always want to win on a race day, but I gave it absolutely everything I had. Ferrari were a very strong force but for us to be that close at the end means there are plenty of positives to take. I’m happy for Charles, he did a fantastic job all weekend so congratulations to him. We’ve got a lot work to do to try to catch up to Ferrari on the straights in the next four days, but if anyone can do it it’s this team. Hopefully we can have another close race next weekend in Monza.
It’s been a tough weekend for everyone after yesterday’s sad news. I was trying as hard as I could out there but not many opportunities came my way. The race pace felt OK, but Ferrari were stronger on the straights as we expected. I was maybe lacking a bit at the end of the first stint with tyre drop off but the second stint was strong. However, there was no other opportunity for me to attack before the end of the race, so we decided to save the engine and the gearbox. Spa has normally been a difficult track for me, but we made up a position with better strategy and I actually think this has been my best performance here. Now we look to Monza where we expect Ferrari to be quick again, but we’ll push hard to fight them