Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc ended his wait for a first Formula 1 race victory as he held off Lewis Hamilton to win the Belgian Grand Prix. The 21-year-old Monegasque driver, who had claimed five podium finishes in the opening 12 races, including a second place behind Max Verstappen in Austria, had set the pace when claiming pole position at Spa Francorchamps on Saturday. But, this time Leclerc managed to convert his place at the front of the grid into a win as Ferrari also got off the mark for the 2019 campaign.
However, he was made to work hard for the chequered flag as championship leader, Hamilton, moved to within under a second of him in his Mercedes at the finish. Speaking immediately after the race, Leclerc dedicated his win to Formula 2 driver Anthoine Hubert, who was killed in a crash on Saturday. He said: “Yeah on the one hand I’ve got a dream since being a child that was been realised and on the other hand it has been a difficult weekend since yesterday.
“We have lost a friend and I would like to dedicate my first win to him, I grew up with Anthoine, we raced together. I can’t enjoy my first victory. “It’s been a very difficult race, we were struggling with the tyres towards the end it was better than Budapest I managed the tyres better but again it’s a good weekend performance-wise with pole position and my first victory. “At the end of the race was not easy [Lewis Hamilton] was catching quickly.”
Hamilton’s second place keeps him 65 points clear at the top of the Drivers Championship standings while team-mate Valtteri Bottas’ finished third to extend his lead over Verstappen to 22 points after the Red Bull driver crashed out on the first lap.
Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel had to settle for fourth place with Alexander Albon impressing as he finished his Red Bull debut in fifth after McLaren’s Lando Norris suffered engine failure on the final lap. Racing Point’s Sergio Perez claimed sixth ahead of Toro Rosso’s Danill Kvyat and Nico Hulkenberg of Renault. Pierre Gasly’s first run out for Toro Rosso after being dropped by Red Bull saw him claim ninth ahead of Lance Stroll’s Racing Point car.