SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium — A look at the main talking points from the Belgian Grand Prix, where Sebastian Vettel claimed a third career victory at Spa to reduce Lewis Hamilton’s lead at the top of the drivers’ championship to 17 points.
Vindication for the Halo: The incident at the start of the race looked eerily similar to the one that cost Fernando Alonso the 2012 world championship. This time, Alonso played the role of Romain Grosjean in the way his car flew violently over another, but he was powerless to stop the incident after being thumped from behind by Nico Hulkenberg.
A note here about the Halo: Although the marks left on top of the device mounted to the top of Charles Leclerc’s cockpit were at the front, and away from his head, its presence successfully deflected Alonso’s car away from what used to be the most vulnerable part of a Formula One car. Without it, it is uncomfortable to imagine what could have transpired if Alonso’s car had followed the same trajectory during such a violent and uncontrolled moment.
Paint the town orange: There weren’t as many travelling Dutch fans here as there were last year — or as many as those who made the trip to Austria in July — but Max Verstappen left those who had made the short trip across the Netherlands-Belgium border very happy indeed with his first Spa-Francorchamps podium. The shuffled-up grid ultimately helped his cause, but Verstappen is in a fine run of form right now, a far cry from the man who was struggling so badly for consistency just a few months ago.
A drab affair: Ahead of the race there was a lot of excitement about the potential for a race-long Hamilton-Vettel fight. That never materialised in the way most expected, with Ferrari clearly holding the edge over Mercedes in clear air and in race spec.
Force India back on the board: Force India dropped down the order as soon as the mixed-up grid reset itself to normal, but it was a very impressive performance from the newly rebooted team. Having had its old points wiped off the championship board ahead of the weekend following the takeover from Lawrence Stroll and the need to effectively “re-enter” as a new team, it means “Racing Point Force India” can now proudly boast 18 points. Given the strength of its car here, it can expect to add quite a few more before the end of the season.
Overtake of the race: Valtteri Bottas’ pass on Brendon Hartley through Eau Rouge/Raidillon on Lap 8 was as gutsy as they come. He completed at the top of the hill, while off the racing line. You can always credit a superior car in that sort of incident but regardless of performance advantage, it was a great piece of driving.
The golf buggy award: A new addition to this feature, Stoffel Vandoorne wins the award for the race’s slowest or most uncompetitive driver. The McLaren looked out of sorts all weekend, but finishing at the bottom of the order in a field that included two Williams is another dismal chapter in this disappointing 2018 season.
Driver of the day: It’s got to be Vettel. A flawless race and a lovely pass on Hamilton at the key moment of the race. This year’s championship is wide open.