(Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton took another step towards a record-equalling seventh Formula One title on Sunday with a dominant lights-to-flag victory in the Belgian Grand Prix.
The Briton, who had started from pole position after an inspired qualifying display, was at the front for every single lap as he led team mate Valtteri Bottas across the line for a Mercedes one-two.
Hamilton looked to be in perfect control in the lead after retaining his advantage at the start and down the long flat-out blast to the Les Combes chicane despite a snap of oversteer.
The durability of his tyres, which stirred memories of his winning three-wheeled limp to the line at his home British Grand Prix, raised some concern for the champion.
But even those worries, which injected a hint of jeopardy into the otherwise straightforward race, proved unfounded as he crossed the line a comfortable 8.4 seconds clear of his Finnish stablemate.
“I know it’s not necessarily what everybody always wants to see, a Mercedes at the front,” said Hamilton, who now has a 50-point lead in the championship over Bottas and is 47 ahead of Red Bull’s third-placed finisher Max Verstappen.
“But no matter how much success we have, we just keep our heads down.”
Hamilton’s win was the 89th of his career, putting him ever closer to matching Michael Schumacher’s seven title triumphs and leaving him just two short of the German’s record tally of 91 race victories.
It was also the champion’s fifth win from seven races so far this season and the fourth of his career on the Spa-Francorchamps track.
Bottas, winner of the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix but now effectively two whole race victories behind Hamilton, said: “I think Lewis was faultless today.”
Verstappen, the only non-Mercedes winner so far this year, took his sixth consecutive podium but dubbed the race “boring.”
“I ran out of tyres at the end, so I was just stretching it out, saving the front tyres,” said the 22-year-old, who had a lonely afternoon after a first-lap battle with former team mate Daniel Ricciardo.
“It was not enjoyable out there today.”
Ricciardo finished fourth for Renault, while also taking the extra point for fastest lap. Team mate Esteban Ocon rounded off a strong weekend for the French manufacturer by snatching fifth on the last lap from Red Bull’s Alexander Albon.
Lando Norris, the sole McLaren in the race after team mate Carlos Sainz failed to make the start due to an exhaust issue, was seventh while Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly took ‘Driver of the Day’ honours in eighth.
Ferrari, winners in Belgium for the last two years, finished out of the points as their lack of speed was laid bare on Spa’s long straights.
Sebastian Vettel, leaving Ferrari at the end of the year, was 13th, a place ahead of last year’s pole-sitter and winner Charles Leclerc, whose race was further hampered by slow pitstops.
“We need to work and find something because like this it’s very difficult,” Leclerc said of the Italian team’s form that even drew a shake of the head from Vettel’s replacement Sainz.
The race was interrupted by an early safety car, sent out after a crash involving Antonio Giovinazzi and George Russell.
The Italian lost control of his Alfa Romeo at the exit of the Fagnes chicane.
Russell, running behind Giovinazzi in his Williams, collected a loose wheel that came off the car, leaving debris strewn across the track.