It was a somewhat bittersweet moment for Charles Leclerc at Spa-Francorchamps, with the Monte Carlo born driver securing his maiden career victory in F1 less than 24 hours after friend Antoine Hubert died in the F2 feature race.
Leclerc had been in supreme form during practice and qualifying, something he took into the race, immediately dedicating his victory to the late Hubert.
A Long Time In The Making
Leclerc’s F1 victory, which was Ferrari’s first since Kimi Raikkonen’s win in the USA last year, saw the Monegasque lead virtually all the way. From pole, Leclerc got off to a terrific start, and only found himself behind when teammate Sebastian Vettel overtook him during pit stops. Vettel, however, was instructed by the team to let Leclerc pass, with the only other stumbling block hit by the 21-year-old being a late challenge from defending world champion Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton, who started third on the grid behind the two Ferrari’s, first chased down and made it past Sebastian Vettel. The German was struggling with his tyres after deciding to pit early, and this provided Hamilton with the perfect opportunity to make it past his fierce rival. The Brit had Leclerc in his sights, as he looked to steal a victory late on, by Leclerc did well to fend off his challenge to secure the win.
The Runners Up
Hamilton, therefore, had to make do with a second-place finish, which was enough to extend his lead at the top of the F1 Driver standings. Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas also managed to make it past Vettel, which saw him take the final place on the podium. Vettel had to settle for fourth following a second pit to change tyres but did go on to record the fastest lap of the day as a result.
McLaren So Close
It was agonisingly close to being a day to remember for the right reasons for rookie Lando Norris. The McLaren driver looked set to finish in fifth before the achievement was snatched from his grasp on the final lap due to engine failure. Instead, Alexander Albon, who began the race in 17th position; managed to secure both a fifth-place finish and his maiden victory for his new team.
Albon had to pass Sergio Perez on the final lap to take fifth. And he did so with aplomb, as well as a bit of help from the grass. Perez, currently driving for Racing Point, equalled his best finish of the season by coming 6th. But question marks remain as he appeared to force Albon onto the grass in a desperate attempt to hold on the fifth place.
Red Bull Misses Out
Elsewhere, Daniil Kvyat of Toro Rosso finished 7th, Antonio Giovinazzi was desperately close to a career-best but crashed out on the final lap; while Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg took 8th. It proved to be a difficult race for Red Bull’s Max Verstappen; as he finished outside the top five for the first time in over a year.