Lewis Hamilton closes on Schumacher’s record after winning Belgian Grand Prix

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  • Mercedes driver leads every lap from pole position to win race
  • Valtteri Bottas second and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen third

Giles Richards at Spa-Francorchamps –  The  Guardian

Lewis Hamilton gestures on the podium in tribute to the Black Panther actor Chadwick Boseman, who died on Friday. Photograph: François Lenoir/AFP/Getty Images

If the challenge of the glorious 19 corners and sweeping high-speed elevation changes of the Spa‑Francorchamps circuit are beloved by fans and drivers alike, Lewis Hamilton tamed them almost to the point of mundanity in winning the Belgian Grand Prix.

The world champion’s victory was another masterclass in dominant control and flawless execution, operating on a level rapidly suggesting this season at least he is untouchable. Spa is a classic track, a drivers’ circuit testing bravery and judgment. Hamilton made it look easy.

He was unchallenged throughout, leading and dictating the race with relentless efficiency from pole. His Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas was second but never threatened, while Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was the only driver to stay with the two leaders and took third.

Ferrari’s difficult season reached a low point with Sebastian Vettel finishing 13th and Charles Leclerc 14th. The Scuderia were left flailing in the forests of the Ardennes and face intense pressure going into what amounts to two home grands prix in two weeks at Monza and Mugello. The absence of massed ranks of the tifosi may turn out to be a blessing.

Hamilton, however, had been in consummate control from the off. So much so that he was largely in a race of his own. Indeed he felt almost apologetic afterwards as he returned his fifth win of the season. The similarity to his authoritative victory in Spain at the last round was notable. Hamilton conceded the level at which he and his team are operating is making these races seem almost as series of fait accompli.

“I know it is not what everyone wants to see, a Mercedes at the front,” Hamilton said. “But no matter how much success we have we just keep our heads down. Back at the office, there are no guys celebrating. It is all about how we can win the next race.”

Verstappen, once more unable to challenge for the lead but a country mile clear of the rest of the pack, had another lonely race in third and gave a blunt assessment of how the pecking order in F1 pans out on one of the greatest race tracks in the world. “It was pretty boring. Not much to do. I couldn’t keep up with them when they started pushing,” he said. “It was not really enjoyable out there today. It was a bit lonely.”

Part of the issue here is Mercedes have emerged this season with a car and engine combination that has once again given them a definitive edge over their rivals. But in Hamilton’s hands it is proving to be a devastating weapon that is setting him apart. He was half a second clear of Bottas in qualifying, bringing a finesse to the single lap that is proving unmatchable. Then in race pace he has too much for his nearest rival, his teammate in the same machinery.

The Finn has few chances and in Spa he had two and could not capitalise on either. Verstappen in turn is extracting the maximum but Red Bull are yet to close to the pace of that Mercedes out front. The world champion does not chase numbers but he has them adding up this season like never before. His 89th career win and his fourth at Spa, ended the run of recent Ferrari victories at the circuit and put him in touching distance of Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 wins, a tally he could equal at Mugello in two weeks’ time. He is also well on course to match Schumacher’s record of seven championships, enjoying a very comfortable advantage in the title race, leading the championship with 157 points, in front of Verstappen on 110 and Bottas on 107.

 

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