The world champion Lewis Hamilton took a lights-to-flag win, Mercedes’ first at Spa for three years, extending his lead to a formidable 47 points over Max Verstappen.
The 35-year-old now finds himself two wins away from what used to be considered an unachievable all-time record wins tally by Micheal Schumacher.
In a race that had the threat of rain and a mixed-up grid, the action on the track didn’t live up to expectations. The race was mostly uneventful and concluded with the top four in the same order they started.
Ferrari embarrassment continues
Most of the wins of Schumacher’s career were taken with the Scuderia. Indeed, the Italians had triumphed at this track two years on the bounce. But those heady days are gone, and Ferrari drivers found themselves from the front of the grid in what proved to be an unmitigated disaster, and one that will have highly embarrassed the team going into their home race at Monza next week.
The most excitement on track for fans of the red cars came in lap 19 as Sebastian Vettel defended 13th from his teammate going into turn five. They almost took each other out going into the chicane.
The Ferrari drivers are ultimately leaving Belgium with no points having brought their cars home in a lowly 13th and 14th, with no chance of breaking into the top ten. They even finished behind a customer car on pure pace for the first time in living memory.
Flying French take 4th and 5th
Daniel Ricciardo proved that the pace of the Renault cars on Saturday qualifying was no flash in the pan, taking a massive 4th for himself and the French team. Eventually he saw the chequered flag just 3.4s off Max Verstappen’s Red Bull, and achieved the fastest lap to boot.
Esteban Ocon backed up the team’s fortunes by coming home in a fantastic 5th, having overtaken Alexander Albons Red Bull in the closing stages of the race.
The yellow and black cars will take great confidence going into the similarly fast and low downforce nature of Monza next week as they look to fight back in the constructors, in the battle for third.
Safety again a talking point
Another crash, another errent wheel on the track. The previous incidents this year have been attributed to freak angles of impact against the barriers. But once again we witnessed a wheel rip free of the tethers that are supposed to prevent such incidents.
Instead of seeing a lone wheel at the side of the track, chilling without its three other friends on the chassis, Antonio Giovinazzi’s wheel decided to wander across the track and slam into the oncoming George Russell’s Williams, breaking his front right suspension and sending him into the barriers, bringing out a safety car.
It wasn’t just the fact the wheel came off that will have given those in charge of safety at the FIA pause for thought. It was the fact that it still had half the Alpha Romeo’s suspension attached to it as it hurled into another car.
The halo device would certainly stop a wheel from entering the cockpit had it bounced before impact, but it wouldn’t have stopped the suspension. If it had hit at just the wrong angle, it could have caused a fatal accident. In a sport that has done much to rid itself of the deadly early 90’s 80’s and preceding decades, something may need to change sooner rather than later.
Party time over
Next week we are off to Monza for the first of three races to be held in Italy this season, famous for its sea of red fans that turn up to cheer on the Ferrari team. The Italians may be thankful that they won’t turn up with what is increasingly looking like the 7th fastest car on the grid to face the venom of their fans.
With the FIA bringing in the “anti-Mercedes” rule change for next week, all cars will have to pick an engine mode to use throughout qualifying and the race. No more party mode to try and bump further up the grid on Saturdays. Williams may be the worst team affected, as they have been regularly out of Q1 this season with Russell. But will we see the gap at the top close on a Saturday, and extend on a Sunday?
Whatever happens, Hamilton is sitting pretty at the top in his championship hunt this year. The party may not have even started yet.