Lewis Hamilton was in sublime form again on Sunday at Spa-Francorchamps as he secured his fifth victory in seven races, and the eighty-ninth of his illustrious career, to further extend his advantage at the top of the Drivers’ Championship to forty-seven points.
The Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team racer controlled the race from the front, with the Briton converting his pole position into an easy lead on the first lap. He survived the restart following the safety car period to again pull a gap on team-mate Valtteri Bottas, and ultimately took the chequered flag 8.448 seconds clear of the Finn.
It was Hamilton’s fourth victory around the legendary Spa-Francorchamps track and he had it all his own way all day long, and he thanked everyone at Mercedes for giving him the car that he could use to dominate the race.
“Spa is such a special circuit, I could just drive around here for lap after lap,” said Hamilton. “It’s not always been an easy one for me, so to come here and get pole and the win this weekend is fantastic.
“Huge credit to the team, both here and back home in Brackley and Brixworth. 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.”
Hamilton admitted he had concerns about his tyres late in the race that brought back memories of the puncture suffered on the final lap of the British Grand Prix, but ultimately the tyres held out long enough for him to see the chequered flag.
“The first lap can be a nightmare, because of the huge tow down the big straight, but I managed to keep Valtteri behind me on lap one and from there I had a strong race,” said Hamilton. “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.
“I was slightly nervous at the end that we might see a repeat of the tyre issue we had in Silverstone, but thankfully it held in there.”
Second Place in ‘Straight-Forward’ race for Valtteri Bottas
Team-mate Bottas is now fifty points behind Hamilton heading into next weekend’s Italian Grand Prix at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, with the Finn having hoped for a much different result in Belgium than he ultimately achieved.
Not since the opening round of the season in Austria has Bottas finished ahead of Hamilton, and now six races later he finds himself well adrift in the championship standings. He had hoped to use the tow down the Kemmel Straight on the opening lap to challenge Hamilton, but the Finn was unable to get close enough and was ultimately forced to settle for second.
“The race was pretty straight-forward today; I was hoping to really get some good opportunities today in the first lap and at the Safety Car restart, but I couldn’t use the tow going up to Turn 5 enough today,” said Bottas.
“I was actually really close to Lewis out of the first corner, but the tow effect was much smaller today than it was in previous years. I’m not quite sure why, maybe that’s because we had a tail wind going into Turn 5.”
Once the race got into a rhythm, Bottas felt Hamilton was always going to be out of reach, and the Finn was also forced into tyre conservation mode in the final stages following fears he could suffer much like he did at Silverstone.
“I don’t think there was really any other opportunity to catch Lewis; he was on pole, drove a good race and deserved the win today,” said the Finn. “Towards the end of the race, we had to really manage the tyres quite a bit; I was starting to get the same kind of vibration that I felt before the end of the race in Silverstone when I suffered the puncture.
“I had to reduce the pace quite a bit to save the tyres, but it worked out and I’m happy that this time I didn’t lose the points.
“I was just told that this was my 51st podium – the same number of podiums that Mika Häkkinen scored in his career. He was my idol growing up, so it’s great to equal him in that way, although he is obviously mostly known for his two titles.”