Hamilton holds off Vettel to win landmark Belgian Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton held off Sebastian Vettel to win on his 200th Grand Prix start at Spa-Francorchamps and halve his rival's advantage in the battle for the Formula One title.
The Mercedes driver took pole to match Michael Schumacher's record of 68 on Saturday and fended off Vettel to claim victory in the Belgian Grand Prix for a third time a day later.
Hamilton was disgruntled when a safety car was deployed late in the race following a collision between Force India team-mates Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez, but stayed out in front on a second set of soft tyres with Vettel unable to catch him on ultrasofts.
Hamilton trails Vettel by only seven points after taking the chequered flag 2.358 seconds in front of the Ferrari driver, who was unable to celebrate his new three-year deal with a win in the first race after the mid-season break.
Daniel Ricciardo took third place ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, who was given a 10 second stop-go penalty after failing to slow for double yellow flags.
Valtteri Bottas finished fifth after dropping back following the restart, while Max Verstappen endured more misery as he retired for the sixth time this season.
Hamilton got off to a good start, not allowing Vettel a look-in when the German made a move on the outside, with Bottas holding on to third spot.
The Brit gradually increased his advantage as Verstappen retired on lap nine after losing power in what has become a season to forget for the Red Bull driver, who was backed by an army of Dutch supporters.
Vettel clocked the fastest lap before Hamilton was the first of the top four to pit for a switch to softs during the 13th lap, returning in fourth place.
Two laps later Vettel went in for a set of softs and Hamilton wasted no time in getting past Raikkonen when Ferrari would have been hoping for the Finn to hold the three-time world champion up.
Raikkonen dropped to eighth after stopping for his penalty, while Vettel hunted down Hamilton as he closed the gap to within a second.
There was a twist when the safety car came out on lap 30 after Ocon and Perez clashed, leaving the latter without a rear tyre and debris on the track.
Ferrari called Vettel in for ultrasofts in a throw of the dice, but Hamilton's second set of softs enabled him to finish off the job and get his rewards for a controlled drive with a 58th Grand Prix win. His colleague Bottas lost two places after the race got under way again, Ricciardo passing him on ultrasofts and Raikkonen also overtaking his compatriot, who paid the price for running wide at Les Combes.
TENSION BUILDS AT FORCE INDIA
Ocon and Perez collided in Baku earlier this year and they were at it again at Spa. The team-mates rubbed wheels on the opening lap, with Ocon also making contact with the wall.
That was the sign of things to come, as another incident on lap 30 resulted in the safety car coming out after Perez squeezed Ocon towards the old pit wall before stronger contact was made between the pair. Perez was left with a punctured right-rear tyre, while Ocon lost a section of his front wing but was able to take ninth spot.
VERSTAPPEN FUMES AT 'UNBELIEVABLE ' EARLY EXIT
A huge contingent from the Netherlands crossed the border to support Verstappen, but did not get the outcome they were looking for. Quite the opposite, in fact, as the teenager's race came to an end on lap eight when his Red Bull lost power. Verstappen's car came to a stop in front of the hordes of his compatriots dressed in orange and let his feelings be known over the radio following his latest retirement. "Unbelievable, I can't believe this," he said.
'NO MORE RADIO' - MORE WOE FOR ALONSO
Fernando Alonso also vented his fury after another day to forget for the Spaniard. Alonso showed what he is capable by moving up from 10th to seven in a blistering start, but soon dropped back due to a lack of pace. The McLaren driver retired on lap 28 after some forthright comments over the radio to colleagues back in the garage. "No more radio, the rest of the race," the Spaniard ordered prior to his retirement. He also stated: "Every car I overtake, they pass me on the next lap. I have no protection now...anyway, it doesn't change my life."
IN THE POINTS
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +2.358 seconds
3. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) +10.791s
4. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) +14.471s
5. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +16.456s
6. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) +28.087s
7. Romain Grosjean (Haas) +31.553s
8. Felipe Massa (Williams) +36.649s
9. Esteban Ocon (Force India) +38.154s
10. Carlos Sainz (Toro Rosso) +39.447s
1. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) - 220
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) - 213 (-7)
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) - 169 (-51)
4. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) - 132 (-88)
5. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) - 128 (92)
1. Mercedes - 392
2. Ferrari – 348 (-44)
3. Red Bull – 199 (-193)
4. Force India – 103 (-289)
5. Williams – 45 (-347)
Vettel can count of the backing of the passionate Ferrari fans at the Italian Grand Prix next weekend, but Hamilton has won three of the last five races at Monza.