It’s been a long time coming this year, but Ferrari has finally won its first race of the 2019 Formula 1 season. Having shown impressive form in pre-season testing, the Italian just could not convert their early form to victory and rued missed opportunities throughout the season’s first 12 races.
Come the Belgian Grand Prix after the mandatory four-week summer break, Ferrari was top of the class as they sealed their first win of the season. Charles Leclerc, the 21-year-old who replaced Kimi Raikkonen at the start of the season, drove a superb race to seal victory ahead of the Mercedes-AMG duo of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas. His teammate, Sebastian Vettel, had to settle for fourth place after having a torrid race.
Keeping Hamilton at bay
Leclerc got off to a good start when the lights went out and quickly pulled out a gap over Vettel. Vettel got sandwiched between the Mercedes drivers, but soon retook second place from Hamilton. Meanwhile, Leclerc extended his lead at the front while Vettel had to pit early.
Clearly struggling, Vettel fell to fourth place but made it back to the front after the three drivers ahead of him made their respective pit stops. Unfortunately for Vettel, his car’s performance dipped like a rock in the water and could he do nothing as Hamilton sped past him for second place. The Mercedes driver then set off chasing after Leclerc, but the young Ferrari driver kept a cool head as Hamilton ate into his lead with every passing second.
With three laps to go, Hamilton was within pouncing distance, but the Ferrari’s pace in the straights was just too strong for the rest of the field to compete with. Aiding Leclerc’s pursuit of his first win was the backmarkers the leaders were about to overtake, as well as Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi crashing in the final moments of the race.
Leclerc’s victory was a team effort, as Vettel obeyed team orders to allow the young driver to pass him without a battle after both men had made their pit stops. Vettel knew he did not have the legs on Leclerc this weekend and played a crucial part in his team mate’s first F1 victory.
An emotional win
On Saturday, following qualifying for the Belgian GP, the Formula 2 raced commenced. On the second lap of the race, 22-year-old Anthione Hubert’s car crashed into the barricades, followed by another driver charging into him. The impact of the crash was so bad that it split Hubert’s car in two.
Sadly, Hubert succumbed to his injuries.
Leclerc dedicated the win to his friend and fellow racing driver, and was quite emotional afterward when embracing Hubert’s mom and relatives. For Leclerc and many of F1’s young racers, they’ve raced with and against Hubert in the junior categories, so having to deal with the loss of someone from their age group can’t be easy.
The last driver to succumb to injuries sustained in an F1 race was Jules Bianchi; who crashed into a recovery truck at the 2014 Japanese GP. He died nine months later whilst still in a coma. Ironically, Bianchi was Leclerc’s godfather and was also tipped for a potential racing seat at Ferrari.