Sebastian Vettel eats into Lewis Hamilton’s championship lead with great win at Belgian Grand Prix

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Sebastian Vettel celebrates a dominant victory at Spa Francorchamps. (AFP)
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Updated 26 August 2018
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Sebastian Vettel eats into Lewis Hamilton’s championship lead with great win at Belgian Grand Prix

  • German reduces Hamilton's lead in world title race to 17 points after brilliant win in Belgium.
  • Fernando Alonso involved in horror crash at start of famous race.

Sebastian Vettel made a crucial early overtaking move on Lewis Hamilton to win the crash-marred Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday and trim his rival’s overall lead.
Hamilton started from pole position for a record fifth time at Spa, and a record-extending 78th in Formula One, with Vettel second on the grid.
But Vettel has a knack for quick starts, and nudged his Ferrari past Hamilton’s Mercedes on the first lap with a smart move down the left.
“I had a great start. I knew my chance would come,” Vettel said. “Timing is crucial and I managed that perfectly I thought.”
It came moments after Fernando Alonso’s McLaren flew through the air and landed on top of Charles Leclerc’s Sauber. Leclerc, unharmed, was likely spared a head injury by the protective halo device surrounding the cockpit area of F1 cars.
Vettel finished about 12 seconds clear of Hamilton, with Red Bull driver Max Verstappen an impressive third after starting seventh.

Fernando Alonso was at the center of a horror crash at the start of the race. 

Vettel’s 52nd career win closes the gap to Hamilton to 17 points heading into next weekend’s Italian Grand Prix at Monza — Ferrari’s home.
Moments after his victory, Vettel removed his steering wheel and held it aloft, almost like a trophy, as he stood on his car to celebrate. Then he jumped into the arms of his mechanics and grabbed a Ferrari flag. With eight races remaining, it was a crucial win to halt Hamilton’s momentum.
It also moved Vettel one ahead of four-time F1 champion Alain Prost for third in all-time wins behind Hamilton (67) and Michael Schumacher (91).
“He drove past me like I wasn’t even there on the straight,” Hamilton said, expressing concern for Ferrari’s greater speed. “Congratulations to Seb.”
Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas, starting near the back after being penalized for too many engine changes, overtook Sergio Perez late on to place fourth.
Vettel’s Ferrari teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo both retired.
Hamilton initially held his lead, but Vettel overtook him sharply as they headed onto the Kemmel Straight. Vettel then held off Perez, who had jumped up from fourth to third by overtaking his Racing Point Force India team teammate Esteban Ocon.
The heavy crash at the start happened when Hulkenberg bumped into the back of Alonso, sending Alonso’s McLaren spinning and then flying up in the air.
It led to a safety car coming out on track.
Under safety car rules, drivers have to hold position and are not allowed to accelerate.
Starting from sixth place, Raikkonen lost his rear right tire after being clipped by Ricciardo — who retired later after running a lap down because of time he lost while his team repaired the damage on his car picked up during the chaotic start.
Vettel has been sloppy recently, crashing in the rain while leading the German GP and then losing position in qualifying for the Hungarian GP, once again in the rain.
This time the rain stayed away, and Vettel looked more composed.
When the race re-started, on lap four of 44, the German driver smartly blocked an overtaking attempt by Hamilton.
“I had a great re-start, I kept it clean,” Vettel said. “After that it was a very smooth race.”

It was a dominant performance from the German, who is now only 17 points behind Lewis Hamilton in the race to be world champion. 

Verstappen, meanwhile, displayed his usual slick overtaking by getting past Ocon and making light work of catching Perez to move into third — delighting the orange-clad Dutch fans congregated around the seven-kilometer Spa track nestled in the Ardennes forest.
Raikkonen was the previous Ferrari driver to win here, back in 2009, but his quest for a first F1 win since the season-opening Australian GP in 2013 ended with a mechanical failure on lap 9 — the third time the Finnish driver has failed to finish this season.
Up ahead, his teammate led Hamilton by 3.5 seconds at the halfway stage, when Hamilton pitted for new tires.
Vettel came in moments later and his stop was clean enough to see him regain the lead, but only a narrow 1.3 seconds ahead of Hamilton.
Ferrari’s greater speed on the straights helped him pad that advantage out within a few laps, and he coasted home.
Both drivers have five wins this season as they seek to win a fifth F1 title and move level with Argentine great Juan Manuel Fangio, and move within two of Schumacher’s all-time record.


Bert Van Marwijk only has one thing on his mind: getting the UAE to the 2022 World Cup

Updated 37 min 41 sec ago
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Bert Van Marwijk only has one thing on his mind: getting the UAE to the 2022 World Cup

  • Former Saudi Arabia coach wants to guide the Whites to their first World Cup since 1990.
  • "If I didn’t see the potential, I wouldn’t sit here," Dutchman says of his new job.

LONDON: Bert van Marwijk has told the UAE he only has one thing on his mind: Getting the side to the 2022 World Cup. 

The former Saudi Arabia boss was unveiled as the new coach of the Whites before watching his new team beat his former team 2-1 in a friendly in Dubai (see right). While he was in the stand rather than the dugout — interim boss Saleem Abdelrahman took charge — he would have liked what he saw as he set himself the challenge of leading the UAE to their first showpiece since 1990. 

“I’m here for only one thing, and that’s to qualify for the World Cup,” the Dutchman said.  

“It takes a long time and the first thing we have to deal with is the first qualification round. That’s why I’m here.”

Van Marwijk was celebrated after he led the Green Falcons to last year's World Cup before calling it quits. (AFP) 

Van Marwijk guided Saudi Arabia to last year’s World Cup — the Green Falcons’ first appearance at the showpiece for 12 years — during a two-year stint which ended in September 2017.

That was one of the key reasons the UAE fought hard for the 66-year-old and while it is never easy getting through Asian qualifying — 46 teams going for just four direct slots at Qatar 2022 — the Dutchman claimed his experience, combined with his knowledge of the UAE, will stand him in good stead. 

“The Saudis and the UAE are about the same level. With the Saudis we qualified for Russia, so we will do really everything to go to Qatar in 2022,” Van Marwijk said. 

While he is fondly remembered in the Kingdom — only a contractual dispute regarding backroom staff meant he did not stay on as Green Falcons coach for the Russia tournament — it is his time as the Netherlands coach that really stands out on his managerial resume. Van Marwijk coached the Oranje to within minutes of the World Cup trophy, with only an Andres Iniesta extra-time winner preventing him from tasting ultimate glory against Spain in 2010. 

So why did he return to the Gulf for another crack at World Cup qualification in a tough, crowded race? 

“One of the reasons is the feeling. I have to have the right feeling when I sign a contract,” Van Marwijk said. “We analyzed the UAE, we played four times against each other with Saudi, so I can see the potential.

“I have had the experience to go to the World Cup twice. The first time we were second in the world, the second time was with Australia (which he coached last summer) and we were a little bit unlucky — we played very well. 

“So to go to the World Cup for the third time is the goal.”

Van Marwijk is all too aware his task will be difficult. The “Golden Generation” of Emirati footballers, spearheaded by Omar Abdulrahman, tried and failed to make it to football’s biggest tournament, and a lot of the next three years’ work will likely depend on a new generation.

“I heard there were some young talents, so I’m anxious to know how good they are,” the Dutchman said. “I know the team has a few very good players — the UAE has a few weapons. 

“That’s the most important thing. If I didn’t see the potential, I wouldn’t sit here.”