5 things we learned from an eventful Belgian Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton’s championship lead has been reduced to 17 points following Sebastian Vettel’s victory in Belgium on Sunday.

Ferrari’s Vettel passed his Mercedes rival on the opening lap of the Spa-Francorchamps race before winning by 11 seconds.

Here, Press Association Sport looks at five things we learned from the 13th round of the season.

1. Safety campaign vindicated following ‘halo’ save

When Formula One trialled its new cockpit protection device, the ‘halo’, in pre-season testing last year, Lewis Hamilton described it as the “worst-looking modification” in the sport’s history. Hamilton’s popular statement was echoed by many within and outside of the paddock. The three-pronged design, which sits above the driver’s head, was deemed as ugly, and the polar opposite view to the traditionalists that felt F1 should remain an open-cockpit series with danger part of the sport’s appeal. Hamilton later pledged his support for the halo, but his boss Toto Wolff said at Mercedes’ car launch in February that he wanted to use a chainsaw to remove the device. F1’s governing body, the FIA, were undeterred by the detractors, and at the 13th race since its introduction they’ve now been vindicated. The chilling black scuff marks of Fernando Alonso’s McLaren on Charles Leclerc’s halo was proof that the rookie driver may have been killed without the device . “I’ve never been a fan of the halo, but I have to say that I was very happy to have it over my head today,” a relieved Leclerc, 20, said.

2. Hamilton up against it as Ferrari hold advantage

Vettel could be forgiven for thinking that the world championship was slipping out of his grasp after watching Hamilton head into the summer break with consecutive wins and establishing a 24-point lead. But the German is now firmly back in the title hunt following his commanding win at Spa-Francorchamps on Sunday. Mercedes had been second best to Ferrari all weekend, and only Hamilton’s brilliance in the wet enabled him to take pole position. In the dry, however, Hamilton had no answer for his championship rival. Ferrari now have the quickest car in Formula One, and with another high-power track to come in Monza on Sunday – followed by Mercedes’ bogey circuit in Singapore – there is a real danger that Hamilton’s championship lead could evaporate altogether.

3. Vettel provides star quality reminder

Vettel’s title challenge has been littered with mistakes, but the Ferrari driver went some way to answering his critics with the 52nd victory of his career which moves him above Alain Prost and into a standalone third on the all-time winners’ list behind only Michael Schumacher and Hamilton. While question marks remain over Vettel’s race craft (he’s never won a grand prix from further back than third on the grid) and his decision-making process in high-pressure situations, there are few better than the German in seizing a lead and delivering from the front. Vettel knows he can ill-afford to make any errors in the second half of the year, and his win in Belgium was the perfect start.

4. Force India celebrate after whirlwind month

Plunged into administration. Rescued from administration. Four hundred jobs saved. New owner. New name. Stripped of their constructors’ championship points. It’s been a crazy four weeks for the Silverstone-based Force India team, but back on the track they recorded their best combined result of the season after Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon finished fifth and sixth in Belgium. While McLaren have demanded a budget cap, despite having the fourth-biggest budget on the grid, Force India have shown that it’s not all about how much you spend, but rather how you spend it. Canadian fashion billionaire Lawrence Stroll, whose consortium pulled Force India out of administration, will now pour his financial muscle into the team, and whose to say that if the right people are retained they cannot continue to impress?

5. Worst weekend of Vandoorne’s career set to spell the end

Practice 1: Last. Practice 2: Last. Practice 3: Last. Qualifying: Last. Race: Last. Stoffel Vandoorne’s home race in Belgium was a disaster, and even his biggest supporters must realise that his time at McLaren is coming to an end. While some have suggested he could be replaced as early as this week’s Italian Grand Prix, his stay of execution is likely to last until the end of the year. Can he now save his F1 career? Toro Rosso, Sauber and Haas might be options, but they will need some convincing with the Belgian driver’s confidence at absolute rock bottom.

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