Huge opening corner crash as Vettel wins Belgian GP
- Vettel wins Belgian GP
- Huge crash on first corner wipes out five drivers
- Hamilton and Verstappen complete the podium
But the race at Spa will be remembered for the scary and spectacular opening-corner crash which brought the safety car out and forced five drivers to retire.
Nico Hülkenberg’s brakes locked up on the approach to the first turn, causing him to slam into the back of Fernando Alonso and send the Spaniard’s car flying over the top of Charles Leclerc’s Sauber.
It meant the first four laps of the Belgian Grand Prix were led by the safety car and the trio involved in the crash were all forced to retire along with Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen, whose car was irreparably damaged in the smash.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was also involved and rejoined the race a lap down after extensive repairs were made to his rear wing.
It was a case of deja vu for Alonso, who was involved in a near-identical incident at this track in 2012.
With the carnage on the track behind them, Vettel and Hamilton kept their cool to vie for first place and some stunning driving from the German saw him take the lead inside four corners and it was one he never looked like relinquishing.
“I had a great start, I’m not sure Lewis saw me,” Vettel told reporters after the race. “He pushed me quite far to the left, I knew my chance would be up the hill and I timed it well.
“It was better this year, we had less wing but timing is crucial. With the safety car it was the other way around (Hamilton hunting Vettel) but after that it was a very smooth race — Lewis pushed very hard.”
Verstappen eager to please
Though Hamilton showed all of his skill and class in tricky conditions on Saturday to take pole ahead of championship rival Vettel, the story in qualifying came from Force India.
Drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez took third and fourth respectively — the team’s best position for several years — after their gamble to stay on the slicks paid off as the heavy rain subsided.
It was a huge change in fortunes from the last race weekend in Hungary, during which Force India went into administration and had to be saved by a consortium fronted by Lawrence Stroll, the father of Williams driver Lance.
But Max Verstappen, who is always given a rock star’s at Spa welcome by thousands of compatriots who make the short journey from the neighboring Netherlands, was desperate to impress the vast swathes of orange shirts in the stands.
Born in Belgium to a Belgian mother, Verstappen also enjoys plenty of support from the locals in Stavelot.