Belgian GP 2017: Determined Sebastian couldn't quite challenge Hamilton for victory!

Finally, the torturing 4-week summer break is over, and F1 is back! What made the ending of the summer break even greater, was the news concerning Ferrari’s line-up for the 2018 season. Kimi Räikkönen’s one-year contract was announced already on Tuesday, and Sebastian Vettel’s three-year extension on his contract was confirmed just before the qualifying. I was absolutely over the moon that my two heroes will drive one more year for the red team together! They make the ultimate dream team indeed! 

Kimi had been absolutely flying in the free practice sessions - especially in the first and the third one, but when qualifying got underway, the Iceman complained about disturbing vibrations in terms of the rear of his car. Nevertheless, the pace of the red cars was quite promising. In the end, Hamilton proved untouchable in the shootout for pole. The Briton took his 68th career pole, equalling the all-time pole position record of the legendary Michael Schumacher. It was a remarkable achievement indeed. Sebastian made it on the front row after an impressive second run in Q3, lapping two tenths slower than pole-setter Hamilton. Kimi made a costly mistake on his second attempt, and the Iceman had to settle for P4. His compatriot Bottas qualified 3rd, but he hadn’t quite found the perfect set-up for his Silver Arrow, and was already half-a-second down on his teammate. The Red Bull duo of Verstappen and Ricciardo locked down the third row, but, to their disappointment, they were already a second off Hamilton’s pace. 

It was cloudy but dry when the race got underway. The top six all got an excellent start, and the pecking order remained unchanged. Hamilton held on to his lead, but Sebastian was right at the Briton’s tail. Sebastian seemed determined to challenge Hamilton on the Kemmel straight, but there was no chance to make a move. The two front runners started rapidly to pull a gap to their teammates. Verstappen in P5 was driving an excellent race, as his RB13 suddenly came to a halt on lap 8. It was already the 6th DNF for the unlucky Dutchman this season. What a bitter retirement for Max once again! 

Verstappen’s unlucky technical failure had a decisive effect on Kimi’s race as well. Kimi was taken into investigation by the stewards for not slowing down under the yellow flags. And the Iceman was given a 10-second stop-and-go penalty for ignoring the yellow flags! The penalty came right after the Finn’s pit stop, and dropped him down to P7. Kimi’s afternoon turned more demanding right away. Luckily the Iceman had no intention to give up! Kimi made a clean overtaking move on Force India’s Ocon, and after that he started to chase down Renault’s Hulkenberg. Kimi snatched P5 from the German on the Kemmel straight. Unfortunately, Ricciardo in P4 was already 28 seconds ahead of the Finn. 

After the first pit stops all top drivers were out on the yellow-marked soft Pirellis. Suddenly something unexpected happened. Coming to the legendary Eau Rouge, there were sparks flying from the pink cars! Ocon had already made it alongside teammate Perez, but the Mexican left no room for his teammate. Ocon’s front wing hit Perez’s rear-right tyre, causing the Frenchman a front wing failure and Perez a puncture. It was potentially a very dangerous situation, as they were driving 300 km/h. Luckily, both pinks made it into the pits. There was so much debris on the track that a safety car was deployed. (And even more cleaning up to do after the race!) 

All top drivers pitted for a fresh set of tyres. Ricciardo and the Ferrari teammates opted for a fresh set of ultra-soft Pirellis, whereas Mercedes’ choice was the soft compound (they had no fresh set of ultra-softs left). The re-start was most dramatic for Valtteri Bottas, who dropped from P3 down to P5. Ricciardo took an aggressive re-start and made it past the Finn on the Kemmel straight. Kimi smelled his chance at the same time, and made it past his fellow countryman as well. 

The final 10 laps were extremely intense, as Sebastian was just barely out of DRS distance from Hamilton. Sebastian put all the pressure he could on the Briton, waiting impatiently for Hamilton to make a mistake, which never happened. The battle for victory came down to these two, as Ricciardo and Kimi weren’t quite able to match the pace of the top two. Sebastian was passionate to get his chance to challenge Hamilton, but the Briton drove absolutely flawlessly. Hamilton claimed his 58th career victory in his 200th GP. Sebastian fought like a lion, but he had to settle for P2 at Spa Francorchamps. "The smiling avenger" Ricciardo completed the podium, with Kimi 4th and Bottas 5th. I couldn’t help but think about the 10-second stop-and-go penalty; without the penalty, Kimi would have made it on the podium! 

By winning the Belgian GP, Hamilton decreased Sebastian’s lead in the drivers’ championship standings to 7 points only. The battle for the championship is getting more and more heated! Luckily, the next round is just around the corner, as the Italian GP will take place already this week! I love these back-to-back races! Formula 1 is definitely the spice of my life! 

With passion for racing red, 

Iina Huhmarniemi

Aug 29, 2017