STAVELOT, Belgium – Charles Leclerc broke through for his first Formula One victory Sunday at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, snapping Ferrari’s winless drought in the process.
The victory comes less than 24 hours after the death Leclerc’s friend and Formula Two racer Anthoine Hubert at Spa-Francorchamps.
Leclerc started the Belgian Grand Prix from the pole and quickly escaped from the field with Sebastian Vettel battling Lewis Hamilton for second. Behind them Max Verstappen’s day came to a premature end after contact in turn one with Kimi Raikkonen.
Verstappen was able to continue from the initial contact, but when he reached the uphill Eau Rouge he realized his car couldn’t turn and he drove into the barriers, ending his day.
After a safety car period the race resumed with Leclerc still leading in his Ferrari while Vettel found himself being constantly hounded by Hamilton. A lockup by Vettel as he battled Hamilton forced him to the pits early, but it allowed him to put on fresh medium tires and he lapped significantly faster than the rest of the field as a result.
Once Leclerc, Hamilton and Bottas hit the pits, it was Vettel who found himself at the front of the field. However with his tires being older than those behind him, Vettel soon fell into the clutches of his Ferrari teammate Leclerc.
Vettel relented and let his faster teammate by, leaving him to defend against Hamilton. That defense didn’t last long as Hamilton quickly dispatched him and Vettel responded by hitting the pits again, this time for soft tires.
The pit stop dropped Vettel to fourth and though he was fast upon returning to the track, he was too far behind Valtteri Bottas to challenge for a podium.
At the front, Leclerc continued to hold the lead as Hamilton chipped away at the gap. Hamilton closed to within a second of Leclerc, but that was as close as he could get. Leclerc took the checkered flag .981 seconds ahead of Hamilton to earn his first Formula One triumph.
Leclerc immediately dedicated the win to Hubert after the race, admitting it was impossible for him to fully enjoy his first Formula One victory with Hubert on his mind.
“Obviously yesterday was a huge shock, not only for me, but for everyone,” Leclerc said. “I can’t enjoy the win fully today. I will probably realize it in a few weeks when once everything will calm down, but at the moment everything is so fresh that it is difficult.”
Bottas completed the podium in third, followed by Vettel in fourth. Alexander Albon, making his Red Bull Racing debut, finished a career-best fifth.
Sergio Perez, Daniil Kvyat, Nico Hulkenberg, Pierre Gasly and Lance Stroll completed the top-10.