Ferrari's Charles Leclerc held off championship leader Lewis Hamilton to claim his maiden grand prix win on Sunday. The 21-year-old dedicated his win to his friend Anthoine Hubert, who died on the track on Saturday.
Charles Leclerc had mixed feelings after winning his first grand prix the day after the death of Anthoine Hubert on the same Belgian Grand Prix track. "It feels good but it’s difficult to enjoy it on a weekend like this," the 21-year-old from Monaco said.
Leclerc started from pole and after a dramatic start that saw Max Verstappen retire following a collision with Kimi Raikonnen, managed to outmaneuver his opponents before being allowed to pass teammate Sebastian Vettel late in the race.
"On one hand, I’ve got a dream since being a child that has been realized but on the other hand, we have lost a friend first of all and it’s very difficult in these situations," Leclerc said before an emotional and somber podium ceremony.
"I would like to dedicate my first win to him [Hubert], we have grown up together – my first ever race was with Anthoine – and it is just such a shame what happened yesterday. I can’t enjoy fully my first victory but I will keep this memory forever."
Lewis Hamilton pushed Leclerc hardest but couldn't quite get close enough to pass the Ferrari driver. Nevertheless, finishing ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas and the retirement of Verstappen means the Brit extends his lead in the drivers' championship and comes close to winning a third straight title. Leclerc stays fifth in the standings with teammate Sebastian Vettel fourth after finishing just below the podium.
"It was a really difficult race – the Ferraris are just too fast in this race – and we needed a few more laps in the end," said Hamilton. "Congratulations to Charles on his first win, it’s been coming all year." Valtteri Bottas, who finished in third, adds: "There was no chance for me but I was trying as hard as I could."
Next week sees the F1 circus move to Italy, in the penultimate European race of the season at Monza.
Leclerc enjoyed a strong, maiden win - and for Ferrari it might have been more had it not been for a disappointing finish by Sebastian Vettel
As it happened:
Lap 44 of 44 - More from Leclerc on Hubert: “I would like to dedicate my first win to him, we have grown up together – my first ever race was with Anthoine – and it is just such a shame what happened yesterday. I can’t enjoy fully my first victory but I will keep this memory forever.”
Lap 44 of 44 - "It feels good but it’s difficult to enjoy it on a weekend like this," says Leclerc, referring to the tragic death of Anthoine Hubert on Saturday. "But thanks for everything guys.”
Lap 44 of 44 - Hamilton got to within a second but couldn't challenge the man from Monaco, who records his first win and Ferrari's first of the season. Hamilton extends his lead by coming second ahead of Bottas with Vettel some way back in fourth.
Lap 44 of 44 - It's over. Charles Leclerc wins the Belgian Grand Prix! It's the first career F1 win for the Ferrari man.
Lap 43 of 44 - The Brit is still cutting the gap but Leclerc should hold on.
Lap 42 off 44 - Hamilton is a second quicker per lap at the minute. Are we in for a big finish?
Lap 41 of 44 - The lead down closer to three seconds now. Can Hamilton get a crack at the leader? Is it worth the risk for the runaway championship leader?
Lap 40 of 44 - The gap from Leclerc to Hamilton stands at five seconds. If the Ferrari driver can hold his nerve, he's in for a maiden win.
Lap 38 of 44 - Barring something totally bizarre, Vettel's chances of a first win this season are over. He's nearly 20 seconds off leader Leclerc and 12 away from Bottas in third. But the German does hold the fastest lap as it stands.
Lap 36 of 44 - Ricciardo is passed by Albon and the Aussie is down in ninth.
Lap 34 of 44 - Vettel heads back in to the pits and comes out behind Bottas. He's got the chance to go hard for the podium places but the chances of winning look lost.
Lap 32 of 44 - The battle for second is the most intriguing right now. Hamilton has been sensing blood for a while but can't quite strike.
Lap 30 of 44 - Ferrari seem to be a little confused about their strategy. Vettel now doesn't seem to think his tires will make it but his team may disagree. The Mercedes look quicker at the minute.
Lap 28 of 44 - More irritating news for the German driver, who has just been told his tires won't make it to the end and he'll have to come in again.
Lap 27 of 44 - Vettel allows his teammate Leclerc pass him, following team orders. The German surely won't be overjoyed by that but Ferrari are looking very much in charge here.
Lap 26 of 44 - Bottas rattles round Spa to reclaim the fastest lap point.
Lap 24 of 44 - Hamilton is in. His pit stop is not quite as slick as Leclerc. Then Bottas follows and it's a little better from Mercedes. So, with the top four all having stopped, Vettel leads from Leclerc, then Hamilton and then Bottas. Could the German pick up his first race win of the season, a d his first since this same Grand Prix in 2018?
Lap 22 of 44 - Leclerc is out very, very quickly but not quite quick enough to stop Hamilton passing him and taking the lead. He's down to fourth but neither Mercedes has pitted.
Lap 21 of 44 - It sounds like Leclerc is about to come in. Could be a key moment in the race this.
Lap 19 of 44 - The Mercedes duo staying out for now, with the team telling Hamilton that this time is "critical". He informs them his tires are " still ok" for now.
Lap 17 of 44 - The German is now up to fourth, he's looking a little quicker already.
Lap 16 of 44 - Vettel hits the pits, earlier than those around him. It's a rapid stop and he emerges in fifth. Leclerc now leads from Hamilton.
Lap 14 of 44 - And Leclerc takes back the fastest lap. Elsewhere, Verstappen has had his say on that stat: "I just braked maybe a little later than the two cars ahead of me and Kimi probably didn’t expect me to be there.”
Lap 12 of 44 - Bottas is now the current owner of the fastest lap point, laying down 1m 49.342 seconds to take the top spot from Leclerc.
Lap 11 of 44 - Hamilton fancies getting past Vettel, it surely won't be long before the championship leader makes his move.
Lap 9 of 44 - Race leader Leclerc locks up momentarily but gets away with it and stays in front.
Lap 7 of 44 - Leclerc leads his teammate by 1.8 seconds, with Hamilton a further 1.2 behind. Here's a look at the biggest incident of the race so far, Raikonnen's car is the one partially in the air, with Verstappen's tight against the bend and almost underneath it.
Lap 6 of 44 - After that initial battle, where he overtook Vettel before the German fought back, Hamilton is making ground on the Ferrari. "Vettel's not that quick," we hear over the Brit's team radio.
Lap 5 of 44 - And we're racing again. It's as you were at the front, with Leclerc leading from Vettel, Hamilton and Bottas. Raikonnen is the back marker now after that early collision with Verstappen.
Lap 4 of 44 - Sainz Jr. has given up the ghost. That's two drivers out already and the safety car will be off on the next lap.
Lap 3 of 44 - Raikonnen seems to have got away from that after a quick pit stop, while Ricciardo has also pitted. The safety car is soon to leave the track, I think. Also worth noting that Sainy Jr stalled on the grid and is miles back.
Lap 2 of 44 - It looks Verstappen was cut off on the first bend by Raikonnen. The Dutchman had no way out and then seemed to lose power and steering before crashing, at low speed, in to the wall. After a second and first place in the last two races, there'll be no points for the Red Bull man today.
Lap 1 of 44 - Chaos early on, Verstappen is out! Leclerc holds on to his lead while Vettel just about stops Hamilton getting past him after a toe-to-toe battle.
15:11 - Just a note before we start, this is the longest course in the calendar with plenty of overtaking opportunities early on.
15:08 - There's just been a deeply emotional minute's silence in memory of Hubert followed by the Belgian national anthem. The drivers are just about to make their way round on the formation lap, we're nearly there.
15:00 - Hello, and welcome to the 13th race of the 2019 season. Ferrari's Charles Leclerc starts on pole today ahead of his teammate Sebastian Vettel. Behind that pair are Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, who sit atop the driver's championship on 250 and 188 points respectively.
Hamilton was one of several drivers who paid tribute to Anthoine Hubert, who died tragically in an F2 race on this track yesterday. Every car today will carry this special marker.
Hamilton wrote on Instagram: "If a single one of you watching and enjoying this sport think for a second what we do is safe your hugely mistaken. All these drivers put their life on the line when they hit the track and people need to appreciate that in a serious way because it is not appreciated enough.
"Not from the fans nor some of the people actually working in the sport. Anthoine is a hero as far as I'm concerned, for taking the risk he did to chase his dreams. I'm so sad that this has happened. Let's left him up and remember him. Rest in peace brother."