Belgian GP Wrap: Leclerc claims maiden F1 victory

Charles Leclerc in Parc Ferme Belgian GP 2019

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc claimed an emotional maiden Formula One victory at the Belgian Grand Prix on a weekend overshadowed by the death of F2 driver Anthoine Hubert.

Hubert, 22, died on Saturday after he was involved in a multi-car collision during the feature F2 event at Spa, the news prompting a host of tributes from the world of motorsport.

Sunday's F1® race was preceded by a minute's silence in honour of the young Frenchman, while there was a standing ovation 19 laps into the race in reference to the number of Hubert.

Leclerc, a year younger than Hubert, started on pole as part of a Ferrari 1-2 and ultimately finished first ahead of the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, with Sebastian Vettel forced to settle for fourth.

Hamilton closed in quickly over the final laps, but Leclerc, racing with 'RIP Tonio' on his helmet, was a deserving winner by 0.981 seconds.

The race winner pulled clear of Vettel following an early stint under the safety car brought about by Max Verstappen's first-lap retirement.

Vettel benefited significantly from the fact he pitted six laps earlier than Leclerc, the German briefly taking the lead from his Ferrari colleague.

However, Leclerc boasted much greater pace in the laps that immediately followed his stop and was allowed to retake first place as Vettel followed team orders by allowing his faster team-mate through on lap 27.

Leclerc duly re-established a comfortable advantage and his hopes of victory were boosted as Vettel held up a surging Hamilton for a few laps before being passed.

Ferrari opted to bring Vettel in for a second stop soon after, lifting Bottas on to the podium, and Hamilton's late charge was not enough as Leclerc held on.

LECLERC CLAIMS OVERDUE WIN

Leclerc has impressed in his first season with Ferrari and should have won only his second race with the team, only to dramatically lose power in the closing laps of the Bahrain GP.

The Monegasque driver was again second in Austria following a controversial late pass from Verstappen, while team orders in favour of four-time world champion Vettel have also hampered the youngster.

There was no stopping Leclerc on this occasion, though, as he delivered an assured display to triumph comfortably.

VERSTAPPEN'S REMARKABLE RUN COMES TO AN END

In 21 races since last year's Hungarian Grand Prix, Verstappen had not finished lower than fifth.

Yet his stunningly consistent run was brought to an almost immediate halt on Sunday as he retired on the first lap.

The Dutchman collided with Kimi Raikkonen at the first corner after a poor start and the damage to his car resulted in him sliding into the wall at Eau Rouge.

ENCOURAGING START TO ALBON'S RED BULL CAREER

Alexander Albon enjoyed an impressive debut for Red Bull following his mid-season promotion from Toro Rosso.

Having started well down the field in 17th due to grid penalties, the 23-year-old had to be patient as he made limited progress in the early stages of the race.

However, Albon was gradually able to cut through the field and claim fifth position, passing Pierre Gasly - the man he has replaced at Red Bull - in the process.

Albon was seventh with a lap remaining but passed Sergio Perez on the final lap and also benefited from the late retirement of teenager Lando Norris, who was fifth for almost the entire race.

Like Norris, Antonio Giovinazzi was also denied a points finish as he crashed on his penultimate lap.

IN THE POINTS

1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +0.981secs
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +12.585s
4. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +26.422s
5. Alexander Albon (Red Bull) +1 min, 21.325s
6. Sergio Perez (Racing Point) + 1 min, 24.448s
7. Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso) +1 min, 29.657s
8. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) +1 min, 46.639s
9. Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso) +1min, 49.168s
10. Lance Stroll (Racing Point) +1min, 49.838s

DRIVER STANDINGS

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 268
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 203 (-65)
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 181 (-87)
4. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 169 (-99)
5. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 157 (-111)

CONSTRUCTOR STANDINGS

1. Mercedes 471
2. Ferrari 326 (-145)
3. Red Bull 254 (-217)
4. McLaren 82 (-389)
5. Renault 51 (-420)

WHAT'S NEXT?

Ferrari are expected to display good pace once again when Monza hosts next week's Italian Grand Prix.

Follow the Action