Hamilton dominates Belgian GP to take fourth Spa victory from Bottas and Verstappen

Lewis Hamilton backed up his dominant qualifying performance at the Belgian Grand Prix to take his fourth victory at the famous Spa-Francorchamps circuit, winning from teammate Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen.

Daniel Ricciardo continued his resurgence at Renault by finishing an impressive fourth ahead of Esteban Ocon, Alexander Albon and Lando Norris, as Pierre Gasly, Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez rounded out the top ten.

Unusually, it transpired to be a rain-free Ardennes Sunday for once, but the race was not without incident, as Antonio Giovinazzi and George Russell thankfully emerged unscathed after a big incident at Fagnes that brought about a Safety Car.

The Mercedes driver’s fifth victory of the 2020 season now surely means that he will net a seventh world title and equal the great master of Spa, Michael Schumacher. An 89th career F1 victory also means he’s only two behind the German as he seeks to smash yet more records.

“It wasn’t the easiest of races, I had a lock-up into Turn 5 which started to give a bit of a vibration and then one into the last corner, I think,” said Hamilton after yet another victory. “The tyre temperatures were slowly dropping no matter how much we were pushing. I guess as you lose rubber, you start to lose temperature in the tyres, so it was a bit of a struggle, but nonetheless I think it was okay.

“I was a little bit nervous that we might have a scenario like Silverstone with that right front towards the end, so I was nursing it. It looked like the tyres had plenty of rubber so maybe it was fine and all worry for nothing.”

The only real threat to race victory appeared to be at the start, Bottas challenging his teammate through the iconic first series of corners before Hamilton pulled clear. Behind the Mercedes cars, Verstappen just managed to hold off the rejuvenated Ricciardo behind, both running wide through Turns 8 and 9 as the Dutchman just held position.

With the top three drivers on the grid setting their quickest times in Q2 on the yellow-banded medium compound Pirelli tyres, they always had the advantage of running longer than those behind until the crucial first series of pit stops, only Pierre Gasly opting to start on the hardest compound white tyre.

Then, on lap 11, a worrying moment as George Russell took evasive action to avoid hitting Antonio Giovinazzi’s Alfa Romeo, who lost control into Fagnes. Both drivers thankfully emerged unscathed, but the debris on the circuit gave others the ideal opportunity to pit for the hardest compound of Pirelli rubber.

Upon resumption, Hamilton again put the hammer down in an attempt to escape the clutches of Bottas, but he then reported a lack of power that Mercedes put down to energy regeneration. Behind the leading protagonists, moves were being made, Ricciardo and Albon passing the back-peddling Perez, the Mexican remaining on the softest tyre but pitting later to have the fresher hards by the finish.

All of the action in the closing laps revolved around those behind the leading trio, a three-car battle for fifth eventually won by Ocon, the Renault passing Albon’s Red Bull on the final lap with Norris’ McLaren just behind. Ferrari’s woes continued, former driver Kimi Raikkonen amazingly finishing 12th in his Alfa Romeo ahead of both Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc.

But the final say must go to the incredible Hamilton, who also put out an ominous warning to the competition that he is far from done yet and hungry for more victories, perhaps for years to come.

“I know it’s not necessarily what everyone always wants, to see the Mercedes at the front, but no matter how much success we have, we just keep our heads down,” added Hamilton. “When I go back into the office now, there’s no guys celebrating, they’re like ‘how can we win the next race’, it’s an incredible mentality to work around, environment to work around and we continue to learn about ourselves, about the car, how we develop, and improve weekend in, weekend out.

“It’s hard to believe I’m 35, going on 36 but I feel better than ever, so that’s a positive and I’m really, really grateful to the team and everyone back at the factory. Thanks for their continued support.”

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.