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Hamilton reigns in Belgium

Mercedes star cuts Vettel's lead to seven points

Lewis Hamilton celebrated his 200th Formula One race by reducing Sebastian Vettel's lead at the summit of the championship following his victory at the Belgian Grand Prix yesterday.

Twenty-four hours after Hamilton equalled Michael Schumacher's all-time pole position record, the Briton led virtually every lap in the Ardennes to hold off a late challenge from Vettel, who crossed the line 2.3 seconds behind his title rival.

Hamilton's victory at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit takes him to within seven points of Vettel ahead of this week's Italian Grand Prix.

Daniel Ricciardo completed the podium for Red Bull, while Fernando Alonso's miserable season took yet another miserable twist following his seventh retirement of the year.

Hamilton's third victory in Belgium comes more than two decades after he visited the Spa-Francorchamps track for his first F1 race with his father Anthony.

"I came here in 1996 with my dad," Hamilton said.

"It was our dream to be here one day. We were nobodies. So, hopefully, this just shows that dreams do come true and you just have to keep striving for excellence and never give up.

"It has been a strong weekend for myself and the team.

"Sebastian put a great fight on, but this is what I said I was coming to do, and I did it."

Hamilton secured his 68th career pole with a blistering lap around the famous circuit on Saturday and looked on course for a straightforward win after an equally blistering start.

But, after dominating the majority of the race, the 12th round of this see-saw championship nearly turned on its head on lap 29 when the Force India teammates of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon collided for the second time in their last five outings.

Perez moved across to cover Ocon's move on the run-up to Eau Rouge and, in doing so, provoked a collision which saw him sustain a right-rear puncture, and his teammate a damaged front wing.

"Guys, what the f***?" an incandescent Ocon yelled over the radio. "Honestly. Idiot."

As the Force India duo limped back to the pits, the safety car was deployed to clear the debris.

Hamilton, while being kept honest by Vettel, was in control.

But, as the safety car was sent out, he dived in for a new set of tyres. Vettel followed his rival in, with the former taking on the supposedly quicker ultrasoft compound.

Hamilton took on the soft rubber, the more durable but slowest of the three tyres available over the weekend.

A flustered Hamilton clearly sensed danger from Vettel, and queried why the safety car had been deployed.

SAFETY CAR

"Why have they got the safety car out?," he asked.

"There is literally no debris anywhere. That's a BS (bulls***) call from the stewards."

Four laps later, the safety car peeled in and, Hamilton, as he did in Azerbaijan earlier this summer, began to bunch the pack.

On that occasion in Baku, Vettel hit Hamilton in the rear, and then drove alongside his rival before banging wheels.

There was no such repeat yesterday, but Vettel knew passing Hamilton at the restart was his best chance of winning the race.

Vettel was within centimetres of Hamilton's Mercedes as they sped up Eau Rouge and on to the Kemmel Straight at 200 miles per hour.

Vettel pulled to Hamilton's left, but the Briton placed his car in the middle of the track and the Ferrari man was unable to find a way past at Les Combes.

It was an expert piece of defensive driving from Hamilton, which - despite Vettel's best efforts in the closing stages - enabled him to win the race. - PA SPORT

Formula 1