Belgian GP 2018: Glorious win for Sebastian, unpredicted setbacks for Kimi!

Finally, the 4-week summer break is over! The F1 circus moved to the legendary Spa Francorchamps, which is known as one of Kimi's favourite tracks. Weather played a key role in the qualifying, as it often does in Belgium. The conditions stayed dry in the first two sessions, as Kimi "The King of Spa" set the pace in Q1 and teammate Sebastian in Q2. The battle was extremely tight between the top three. Sebastian, Kimi and title contender Hamilton were all within eight hundredths of a second. It seemed that the red-suited drivers had a slight upper hand in terms of the shootout for pole, as Hamilton was struggling with his pace, especially in the final sector. But then came the rain! Everyone headed out on the dry tyres as Q3 kicked off, but the heavens opened already on the out lap. As the rain intensified, all drivers came in, sooner or later, to switch to the intermediate tyres. When there were about three minutes in the clock, Sebastian had his hands on the provisional pole, pipping teammate Kimi by two tenths only. The rain stopped as quickly as it had started, and the track conditions kept improving lap by lap towards the end of the session. Sebastian managed to improve his lap time by 1.2 seconds, but the Red Team didn't get their timing right this time. Hamilton, who made his second run in the dying moments of the final session, edged Sebastian by massive seven tenths! Unfortunately, Kimi suffered from an even more fateful strategic mistake by the team. Unbelievable but true, the team failed to fuel Kimi sufficiently to allow the Iceman more than one run after he had initially set the pace in the segment. However, Ferrari wasn't the only team to make such a mistake, as Red Bull's Verstappen had run out of fuel as well, and the Dutchman had to settle for tame P7. On the other hand, Force India managed to time their runs to perfection, and the pink cars were outstanding P3 and P4, Ocon having the upper hand on teammate Perez. Haas' Grosjean made it impressive 5th, as fuel-lacking Kimi dropped down to P6 at the end of the session.

Belgian GP 2018

The top ten all started to the race on the red-walled super-soft compound. Mercedes' Bottas was starting from the back of the grid on P17, as the Finn had been given a penalty for multiple power unit element changes. Lights out was the magical moment, when everything was wide open. Already on the opening lap the race was over for three drivers. Hamilton dived into Turn 1 first, followed by Sebastian and the pink cars of Ocon and Perez. However, at Turn 5 the tables turned. Sebastian attacked his title rival and made it past the Briton with style! At the same time Ocon was very close to challenging both of them for the lead. However, Ocon's move proved costly, as teammate Perez managed to overtake him due to the Frenchman's attempt.

Further down in the midfield there was a fateful chain reaction caused by Renault's Hulkenberg, who had also started to the race from the back of the grid due to an engine penalty. Hulkenberg missed the braking point badly, going into Turn 1 and ended up hitting the rear of Alonso's McLaren. The Spaniard's orange McLaren got air-born and flew over Leclerc's Sauber. It was a dramatic-looking incident, but thanks to the new halo device, Leclerc got away from the shunt unharmed. Hulkenberg's foolish mistake ruined the race for all three. The collision affected also Red Bull's Ricciardo, who ended up crashing into the rear of Kimi's SF71-H. Ricciardo got damage to both his front and rear wings, and Kimi suffered a rear-right puncture. The Iceman had also severe damage to the end plate of his rear wing and the DRS system. Both of them had to limp into the pits. Kimi switched to the medium Pirellis and the team sent him out. Due to the safety car Kimi didn't lose time catastrophically. Bottas had an incident of his own, hitting the rear of Sirotkin's Williams, also on the opening lap. The Finn, too had to pit for a new nose. What an action-packed opening lap indeed!

Belgian GP 2018

As the safety car came in on lap 5, the battle was on. Sebastian defended his lead like a lion, and Hamilton had no choice but to settle for playing the second fiddle to the German. Poor Kimi faced more setbacks. He pitted for the second time already, and the team took a closer look at his rear wing. Kimi was sent out again, but he drove into the pits a lap later to retire the car. What a frustrating DNF for Kimi, who had been stamping his authority at Spa in all free practice sessions and in qualifying (before he ran out of fuel)! My heart ached to see Kimi among the retired drivers.

Bottas in his Silver Arrow put up a staggering overtaking show, and in no time the Finn had made his way among the top ten already. Mercedes tried to benefit from the undercut by taking Hamilton in, but the Red Team reacted right away. Sebastian's pit stop was close to perfection, and his lead was never jeopardised. Both drivers opted for a fresh set of yellow-marked middle compound. Meanwhile Red Bull's Ricciardo became another big-name casualty, as the team asked him to drive into the pits and retire the car.

Belgian GP 2018

With ten laps to go, Sebastian had the race perfectly under his control. The gap to Hamilton was already over five seconds. Verstappen in P3 was far behind, as he had proved unable to match the top two's pace. With five laps to go, Bottas had already chased down Perez, and made a successful overtaking move on the Mexican. Having started from P17, Bottas had already climbed up to P4. Sebastian crossed the finish line as the race winner for the fifth time this season. I felt absolutely over the moon to see him stand on the top step of the podium! Hamilton seemed very confused about Ferrari's pace after the race. Verstappen completed the podium after driving a flawless race. Force India took valuable points, as Perez finished 5th and Ocon 6th. Haas made an impressive job as well, Grosjean being 7th and teammate Magnussen 8th.

More importantly, Sebastian decreased the gap to Hamilton into 17 points in the championship standings. Now it's time for back-to-back races, as the F1 circus moves to Italy, the home soil of the Red Team, already this week! Ferrari definitely can't afford to make similar mistakes next weekend. If I'm asked, it would definitely be Kimi's time to win again! It's looking so good for the Red Team at the moment... Forza Ferrari!

With passion for racing red,

Iina Huhmarniemi

Aug 28, 2018