IT WAS a tight and tense Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps. Not pretty, but two drivers right on the edge for the full 44 laps, from the moment the lights went out.
Making his 200th Formula One start, the Briton hung tight to notch his fifth win of the season and 58th overall, shaving Vettel’s title lead to just seven points.
Both men agreed it had been a tough duel on the longest circuit in the world championship.
"I was waiting for Lewis to make a mistake and he didn't," Vettel said after finishing two seconds back.
“We were both pushing every single lap and there was no room for error or mistake,” said Hamilton
"It is fun to be racing against another team and Sebastian at his best and the car at its best," the Mercedes driver added. "That's what racing's about."
At a circuit expected the favour the Mercedes cars, Ferrari stepped up, pushing Hamilton through qualifying and in the race. On Saturday, Hamilton raced to a glorious pole – his 68th, equaling Michael Schumacher’s all-time record.
Hamilton looked to have Vettel covered until the safety car was deployed in the latter part of the grand prix to allow officials to clean debris from the track, triggering a wholesale rush to pit lane for fresh tyres for the sprint home.
When racing resumed, Vettel, on grippier ultra-soft Pirellis, moved his Ferrari alongside Hamilton on the long straight. Hamilton, prevailed though.
Further back, Ricciardo brilliantly pounced on Hamilton’s teammate, Valtteri Bottas, to take third position. Kimi Raikkonen followed him into fourth, making some progress after earlier having to serve a pit lane penalty for ignoring double waved yellows.
Ricciardo actually pulled away from Raikkonen and Bottas, but didn’t have the speed to get involved in the dice between Hamilton and Vettel.
It was Ricciardo’s sixth podium for Red Bull Renault and the season, ahead of Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen, with Hamilton's teammate Valtteri Bottas fifth.
“It’s always nice to get a podium for sure,” said Ricciardo, the smile back again after his recent Hungaroring downer. “Max had a problem and then Kimi made his mistake with the yellow flag so we gained a few positions but I think after the first stint our pace improved a lot.
"We showed a more respectable [race] pace and then we had an opportunity under the safety car with the re-start and took the most of that, so I’m really happy with the result. I definitely feel for Max. He’s had a pretty up and down season and most of the time it was out of his control so of course that’s frustrating especially for this to happen at his home race.”
Verstappen’s race ended on lap eight when his Red Bull lost power, leaving legions of orange people in the crowd bitterly disappointed.
"I'm not happy at all," Verstappen said after what his sixth car failure of the year. "I am very disappointed for the fans who buy an expensive ticket to watch and I retire after eight laps. No words."
Oh, that debris on the track came when warring Force India drivers Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon clashed again heading down the hill to Eau Rouge, flinging broken carbonfibre bits high into the air.
Showing an irresistible attraction for one another, they’d also made contact soon after the start. Their bosses will be reading the riot act. Again.
They’re becoming serial offenders having a memorable push and shove at the Azerbaijan GP in June.
Up next is Monza, next weekend.
Dovizioso and Ducati take MotoGP at Silverstone
Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso yesterday grabbed a hard-fought win in the British MotoGP at Silverstone to retake a narrow lead in the 2017 world championship, while Honda’s Marc Marquez suffered his first mechanical non-finish of the year.
It was the second victory in a row and fourth of the season for Dovizioso, who won a fortnight earlier in Austria.
At the start, Dovizioso got away well from the second row and finished the opening lap in sixth place. Battling with a group made up of Yamaha pair Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales, Marquez and Honda’s Cal Crutchlow, Dovi then overtook the two Spanish riders to move into second behind Rossi. With the laps running out, Dovizioso used the Ducati’s superior grunt to power past his ageless fellow countryman and then held off a hard-charging Viñales by a mere 0.1sec at the chequered flag. Rossi was a further 0.6sec back.
Local hope Crutchlow wasn’t far away either but had to settle for fourth ahead of Ducati’s Jorge Lorenzo.
“It was a really tough race because all of our rivals were on top form,” commented Dovizioso afterwards. “Today Marquez was unlucky, but we did a perfect race because, even though we were probably not the quickest outright, we were able to interpret it in the best possible way and go on to win.”
Having made a strong start from pole, Marquez was in the lead group from the start, setting a new race-lap record of 2min 01.560sec on lap 10. Then, while closely chasing eventual winner Dovizioso and Rossi, he suffered a problem with his bike’s engine. It was his first DNF caused by a technical failure since he entered the MotoGP class with the Repsol Honda Team in 2013.
Australia’s Jack Miller finished just out of the points in 16th.
Dovizioso now leads the championship by nine points, from Marquez.
The next round of the MotoGP World Championship will be at the Misano circuit on the weekend of September 10.
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