“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. The incident brought out the safety car.
Vettel finished about 12 seconds clear of Hamilton, with Red Bull driver Max Verstappen an impressive third after starting seventh.
“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 fears Ferrari has speed Mercedes is unable to match, which could play into Ferrari’s hands in Monza and in the following race at the Singapore GP — which is another quick track.
“In the end he was doing times that I wasn’t able to equal,” said Hamilton, who added that he eased up near the end. “It got to a point where it was just sensible to save the engine.”
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.
“I had a great restart, I kept it clean,” Vettel said. “After that it was a very smooth race.”