MERCEDES scored yet another one-two victory in Belgium with Lewis Hamilton cruising home ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas, and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen third.
But the race on the 7km-long Spa Francorchamps circuit was glorious for Renault, the French brand claiming 4th and 5th for its best finish since returning to Formula 1 in 2010.
At the same time, it was a disaster for Ferrari, with the Italian stallions having their worst outing in a decade.
They failed to make the final qualifying sessions and ended up an embarrassing 13th and 14th.
Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo crossed the line three seconds behind Verstappen after setting the fastest lap, with teammate Esteban Ocon overtaking the Red Bull of Alex Albon on the last lap, and Albon just holding onto 6th from the McLaren of Lando Norris.
Pierre Gasly put in an impressive drive to take 8th for AlphaTauri, while the final points were taken by the Racing Point pair of Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez.
McLaren lead driver Carlos Sainz did not even start, his car emitting a plume of white smoke on the formation lap.
There was a massive crash on lap 10 of the 44-lap race when Antonio Giovinazzi crashed his Alfa Romeo heavily at the Fagnes chicane.
A rear wheel tore off the Alfa, bounced down the track and went straight into the path of George Russell in the Williams, whacking him into the trackside barriers.
The safety car came out and Daniel Ricciardo, who started on soft tyres and was sitting securely in 4th spot, dived into the pits for fresh harder compound rubber.
He rejoined in 6th place, behind the Mercedes of Hamilton and Bottas, Max Verstappen in the Red Bull, with Gasly and Perez, all of who stayed out on track.
By lap 12, Ricciardo had shot past Perez into 5th and by lap 22 he was back in 4th.
Meanwhile, Ferrari was having a dismal day at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.
Neither car managed to reach the top 10 in qualifying, and Vettel and Leclerc came within centimetres of taking each other out while battling for 12th spot, a very unusual situation for the Prancing Horse outfit.
Vettel said he was doing everything he could on track and feared for the results in Monza next week — and the following weekend at the maiden Tuscan Grand Prix.
“We have two important races coming,” he said.
“We also have to be realistic. You cannot expect miracles. The package is what it is.”
Charles Leclerc summed up his race as “extremely frustrating.”
“We need to find something because this is very difficult,” he said.
By contrast there was jubilation at Renault.
“What a race and definitely an excellent result for the team,” Ricciardo beamed.
“We had a lot of pace today and fourth is a strong result. It’s been a while since I’ve had the fastest lap of the race, so that was also nice.
“My engineer told me what the current fastest was and I thought ‘I got this’! It was a proper big lap; I used all the track and went for it. Maybe it was better than my qualifying lap yesterday!
“This was a good track for us last year and Monza was even better. We’ll see what happens, but we can go there with a lot of confidence.”
Ferrari, on the other hand, will be grateful for the Coronavirus, which means there will be no madly partisan crowd at Monza.
Race winner Lewis Hamilton described Spa as “such a special circuit.”
“I could just drive around here for lap after lap. It’s not always been an easy one for me, so to come here and get pole and the win this weekend is fantastic.
“I managed to keep Valtteri behind me on lap one and from there I had a strong race.
“Of course, I’d love to be able to win every race wheel to wheel, but today was a different kind of race.
“It was all about managing the tyres and the gap to the cars behind.
“No matter how much success we’ve had over the years, everyone just keeps their heads down and focuses on trying to improve.
“It’s an incredible mentality to have and it’s inspiring to be working in that kind of environment.”
As an aside, McLaren’s Lando Norris was forced to lay aside a special helmet livery that paid tribute to his Belgian heritage as the motif was deemed ‘potentially offensive.’
Norris, whose mother is Belgian, had a picture of his Belgian grand parents and a rampant black lion on a yellow background, the symbol of the Flemish community, on his helmet.
However, it is also a political symbol used by a nationalist movement in Flanders.
The representation coupled with the fact that the Belgian Grand Prix takes place in Wallonia, the French-speaking region of southern Belgium, was viewed as ill-inspired.
“I wanted a helmet design this weekend to pay tribute to my Belgian roots and my family, in particular my grandparents whose picture I put on the back,” Norris explained.
“I wasn’t aware of the connotations around the use of this particular motif, but as soon as I was, it was clear that it was inappropriate to continue using it.
“The helmet was never intended to be a political statement, for me personally it was simply a cool design that paid tribute to part of my heritage,” he added.
Norris, by the way, isn’t the only driver on the grid who is half-Belgian, with Max Verstappen and Lance Stroll both enjoying a Belgian heritage thanks to their mothers.
And another point of possible interest.
The change in elevation from the highest to lowest point of the Spa-Francorchamps circuit is 102.2m — the same as the height of London’s Big Ben clock tower.
Next race is the Italian Grand Prix at Monza from September 4-6.
|3||33||RED BULL RACING HONDA||44||+15.455s||15|
|6||23||RED BULL RACING HONDA||44||+42.712s||8|
|9||18||RACING POINT BWT MERCEDES||44||+52.603s||2|
|10||11||RACING POINT BWT MERCEDES||44||+53.179s||1|
|12||7||ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI||44||+71.504s||0|
|NC||99||ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI||9||DNF||0|
Note – Ricciardo scored an additional point for setting the fastest lap of the race.
CHECKOUT: Renault puts the brakes on appeal