Fernando Alonso’s McLaren, above, flies over Charles Leclerc’s Sauber after being rammed by Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg on the first corner of Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix. Picture: REUTERS
Fernando Alonso’s McLaren, above, flies over Charles Leclerc’s Sauber after being rammed by Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg on the first corner of Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix. Picture: REUTERS

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel sped away from first corner carnage to celebrate a commanding Belgian Grand Prix victory on Sunday and trim Lewis Hamilton’s Formula One lead to 17 points with eight races remaining.

Hamilton started from pole position but finished second for Mercedes, while Red Bull’s Max Verstappen gave his army of Dutch fans something to cheer about with third place.

Hamilton now has 231 points to Vettel’s 214.

"I had a great start. I’m not sure Lewis saw me as he pushed me to the left in the first lap, but after last year I ended up short, and this year it was the other way around," said Vettel of his decisive pass on Hamilton.

"As soon as I was ahead I relaxed. I had a good restart after the safety car."

The start provided most of the afternoon’s excitement, with Fernando Alonso’s McLaren flying over Charles Leclerc’s Sauber at the La Source hairpin after being rammed by Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg.

All three retired as the safety car was deployed for four laps but Leclerc had reason to thank the "halo" head protection system for allowing him to step away unscathed.

Television close-up images showed the structure heavily marked by the impact.

"The Halo was a very good thing to have today. I think for him, it helped," commented Spaniard Alonso, who will be leaving Formula One at the end of the season.

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo also collided at the start and retired after pitting, the Finn having to wait for his 100th career podium.

Reuters

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