Vettel had no issue playing ‘roadblock’
Sebastian Vettel said he had no issue “playing roadblock” to help his teammate Charles Leclerc take his maiden win at the Belgian Grand Prix. The Monacan comfortably outpaced the former world champion in qualifying and outran him again in the race.
Vettel had to make an early stop to cover Lewis Hamilton then allowed his teammate back passed, then followed team orders managing to keep the Mercedes behind. This allowed Leclerc to extend his lead and just hang on to beat the Mercedes and score his first win.
Vettel had to make a second pit stop that left him a distant fourth. He told Motorsport.com, “I didn’t have the pace, I didn’t feel comfortable with the car. I was going through the tyres way too quick. I was struggling to feel the grip, to stay on top of the tyres, I was sliding too much.”
“It was quite a tough race for me. And obviously, from that point where we came in quite early, it was clear that we won’t be there until the end. I guess I was sliding more [than Leclerc] but I don’t know why.”
Vettel said the race was about the team, and after the first couple of laps he felt he was unable to look after his tyres. Then his focus shifted to help Leclerc and the team. He struggled throughout the race, but he said he did his best to delay Hamilton in order to help Leclerc
“I was struggling in the corners, so that allowed him to get close. I couldn’t hold him off for a very long time. I tried to obviously make him lose time in order to give Charles a cushion, and in the end, it was just enough, so it did the job.”
Ferrari’s team principal Mattia Binotto, has no explanation for why Vettel struggled to match the pace of his teammate. Asked about the “big gap” between his two drivers, Binotto downplayed the scale of the gap but conceded that the team didn’t understand it.
He added “First, I will not use the word ‘big’. But certainly, Sebastian suffered more with degradation this weekend, on Friday and today during the race. It’s certainly down to the set-up as well. Seb is normally very good at managing the tyres. Especially in the very first laps, somehow to use the tyres later in the stint.
Ferrari just too fast at Spa – Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton has admitted that Ferrari was just too fast for Mercedes after he was unable to catch Charles Leclerc at an emotional Belgian Grand Prix.
Ferrari topped all three practice sessions and qualifying segments with Leclerc taking pole position. The Monacan went onto secure the team’s victory since Austin in October last year, in difficult circumstances following the death of Anthoine Hubert in the F2 race on Saturday.
The Frenchman came in for his tyre change exactly halfway through the 44-lap race, putting Hamilton in front. But Mercedes called Hamilton in on the very next lap and made a slow stop of 3.6 seconds which may ultimately have cost him the win.
Hamilton told Sky Sports, “They were rapid today, and they’ve been so quick on the straights all weekend. It was just the gap from my slightly longer pit stop when I came out around nine seconds behind him so it was so hard to catch that up.”
“In qualifying, we were losing over a second a lap, and you can’t gain that back anywhere else. Today, in the race, they were quicker than we thought they would be. Seb (Vettel) dropped off from him on the long runs, so he wasn’t really going to be in contention, but Charles was doing great times”
Hamilton believes that his longer pit stop was the reason he re-joined nine seconds behind, which was hard to close the gap. But he is pleased that he was only nine-tenths behind when the race finished. He admitted Spa was not the best track for Mercedes, but happy with the damage limitation.
The Englishman extended his championship lead because his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas was third, finishing ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
Leclerc dedicated his win to Hubert, who lost his life in an F2 accident at Spa on Saturday.
Reflecting on the weekend, “It was obviously not the best of weekends for the sport, and yesterday was a very tough day. Just coming here today was hard but we all had to go out there and try to clear our thoughts and just try to race with Anthoine in spirit.”
Hamilton said that it was very hard to believe the sport had lost a great racing driver, and yet the world just continues.
FIA investigation into Hubert death begins
The FIA has begun an inquiry into the death of the F2 driver Anthoine Hubert on Saturday. The Frenchman was killed after being hit during the race through Raidillon at Spa, while Juan Manuel Correa, remains in intensive care after suffered leg fractures and a minor spinal injury.
There has been no information released as the investigation continues, which will be likely lead by race director Michael Masi along with Ross Brawn, F1motorsport and technical managing director, a former driver and team principal, as well as others.
Masi said “There is an investigation that started [Friday], and it will go from here. The FIA with our technical department, our safety department, and all of the various departments in the FIA commenced an investigation immediately.”
“The FIA, together with the RACB [Royal Automobile Club of Belgium], will work together with the authorities, and we will go from there. The investigation will be followed to look at all aspects of the incident.
The incident occurred after Hubert lost control of his car on a tarmac run-off area. After hitting a tyre wall he came back onto the race circuit into cars at racing speed. Masi denied the suggestion that a tarmac run-off area encourages a driver to keep the power down after going off the circuit.
“I don’t think it is a worry for the future. I think it is one of those where you need to look at every single circuit and every single circumstance on its own. That one [at Raidillon], it is not a bad run-off. It is actually the pit exit road for the other pit-lane, so I don’t think you can generalise like that.”
Norris struggled with Huberts death
Lando Norris has admitted he has struggled to come to terms with the death of Anthoine Hubert who was killed in Saturday’s F2 feature Belgian Grand Prix.
The Frenchman was killed after losing control of his BWT Arden car and being hit at high-speed by another car during F2’s feature race on Saturday. The French driver, a member of Renault F1’s junior academy, was a rising star in the junior ranks and last year Norris raced in F2.
While the race went ahead and was won by Hubert’s close friend Charles Leclerc, many of the drivers admitted it was the most difficult weekend of there F1 careers. As they came to terms with the first fatally of a driver during a Grand Prix weekend since the deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna at Imola in 1994.
But most drivers have been through this with Jules Bianchi, who died following injuries at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, in July 2015.
Norris, who was robbed a career-best fifth position finish when his McLaren car suffered a failure at the start of the final lap, said it had been difficult to get himself into the right frame of mind. He told ESPN, “I didn’t feel great ahead of today’s race.”
“What happened here on Saturday could happen to any of us. It could have been me last year racing in Formula Two. When you think like that, it starts shaking you.”
“At the end of the day, my job is to race for the team. I still need to live my life, move on and do things that sometimes I don’t want to do. I wanted to race today, but at the same time, I felt so sorry for everyone involved. He was a racer like we all are but he was just the unlucky guy.”
A death in Formula Racing is very rare, but drivers always are aware that they could pay the ultimate price.
An investigation is underway and the other driver involved in the collision, Juan Manuel Correa, remains in intensive care at CHU Liège hospital having suffered leg fractures and a minor spinal injury.
A update on Monday morning said the American driver was awake and aware of the outcome of the accident and that he faces a “very lengthy rehabilitation program” whenever doctors clear him to return to the U.S.
Lewis Hamilton said the incident was a stark reminder of the dangers still involved in motor racing.
Hamilton posted to Instagram on Saturday evening: “If a single one of you watching and enjoying this sport think for a second what we do is safe you’re hugely mistaken. All these drivers put their life on the line when they hit the track and people need to appreciate that in a serious way because it’s not appreciated enough.
Verstappen not worried about penalties
Max Verstappen isn’t worried about the prospect of starting Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix from the back of the grid, as Red Bull are expecting to change his power unit to the Spec 4 Honda.
The Japanese manufacturer introduced the new engine in Spa, with Red Bull’s Alex Albon and Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat, the change sending both men to the back of the grid. Although Albon didn’t race the new power unit it remains in his pool for Monza, while Kvyat raced his to seventh place, gathering useful data on its performance.
Although it has not been officially confirmed, Verstappen is scheduled to take the new spec for Monza, meaning that he will start from the back of the grid.
Asked by Motorsport.com, about the prospect of a change for Italy, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said: “Most likely. We’ll make that decision during the week. But most likely we’ll discuss with Honda and see what their thoughts are.”
“I think it’s encouraging from what we saw on Friday, the data we got from Kvyat running the new engine, that progress is definitely being made and delivering what is expected.”
Meanwhile, Verstappen insists that even from the back he believes he would still be able to finish fifth or sixth, though he added that it not confirmed. He added, “We all know Ferrari is going to be really quick there, and if you start from the back you probably won’t catch the top four. Everything behind that I think it’s possible to catch up with.”
Red Bull and Honda are wanting to avoid penalties in Singapore and especially at Suzuka, the engine supplier’s home race, and as extra insurance for the latter the manufacturer could add more engines to the pool in Russia.
Horner impressed with Albon’s fifth
Christian Horner says that Red Bull’s new driver Alex Albon’s charge to fifth place from seventeen in the Belgian Grand Prix was impressive. On his debut for the team, he was forced to take a grid penalty after taking the Spec-4 Honda engine.
Expectations of Albon were low, having limited experience of his new car and being out of position, but Albon put in a well-judged performance to grab fifth place at the end. Horner says he was delighted by the job Albon did, especially the way that he muscled past experienced racers like Daniel Ricciardo and Sergio Perez.
Horner told Motorsport.com, “I think Alex has impressed me all weekend with his approach, his feedback, and his pace. In the race, I think he did a very mature job.”
“In the first half of the race we weren’t quite as competitive on the harder tyre as we were on the softer tyre but he didn’t make any silly mistakes or take any silly risks. He just dialled himself in.” Horner says the car as the team expected came alive in the second half of the race, which they expected.
He is hoping that Albon’s performance at Spa will give the British-Thai driver confidence going to Monza this weekend. Horner hoping that he can have a straight forward weekend this week in Monza.
Horner also reckoned that Pierre Gasly, who Albon switched places with, has made the best start possible on his return to Toro Rosso. Saying, “Having spoken to Pierre over the weekend as well, he seems to have exactly the right frame of mind getting into the Toro Rosso. He recognises there are still opportunities to him and he certainly seems to be approaching it with the right mindset.”