Hamilton on Vettel Spa F1 battle: ‘That’s what racing is all about’

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Lewis Hamilton was full of praise for Formula 1 title rival Sebastian Vettel after a close battle throughout Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix, believing the Ferrari driver to have enjoyed better race pace at Spa.

Hamilton edged out Vettel by 2.3 seconds at the checkered flag following a race-long fight, the pair running side-by-side on two occasions.

Vettel was unable to find a way through, allowing Hamilton to grab his fifth victory of the season and cut the gap at the top of the drivers’ championship down to just seven points.

“The Ferraris I think genuinely had the upper hand particularly on race pace throughout the weekend,” Hamilton said.

“He was very, very strong today, and I was towing him around everywhere, so they were getting a good tow down the straights.

“On the restart the safety car was driving so slow, it was I guess to let the other people catch up, so keeping tyre temperature, given I was on the harder tire, was very, very difficult. I came to the restart, Sebastian was very, very close, the front tyres weren’t switched on initially. He got a good tow.”

Vettel was able to tuck in behind Hamilton’s car after the safety car period, only to get too close and force himself to back off a bit, losing straight-line speed.

“I think he was a little bit too close on the run out of Turn 1, so I think he had to lift off as he would have otherwise come by potentially before Eau Rouge, which perhaps was a good thing for me because he lost a little bit of performance,” Hamilton said.

“He did a great race, he was very, very consistent throughout. It was fun to be racing against another team and Sebastian really at his best and the car at his best, battling within half a tenth every lap.

“That’s what racing is about. I think they’re able to keep up and follow quite closely for a long, long time, so I think they had the better pace today.

“But fortunately I was able to do just enough to stay ahead.”

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.