SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS • There is little doubt that Charles Leclerc will remember this year's Belgian Grand Prix, which was a bittersweet one for the Ferrari driver.
Yesterday, he held off five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton to win his first Formula One race - also his storied team's first since last October's United States GP - but it was shrouded in tragedy after the death of Frenchman Anthoine Hubert during Saturday's Formula Two race at the same Spa-Francorchamps track.
Moments after winning, the Monegasque pointed to the sky and then to Hubert's name on a sticker on the side of his car. There had been a minute's silence on the grid before yesterday's F1 race in memory of Hubert and Leclerc, 21, paid his own tribute.
He said: "On (the) one hand, I've got a dream since being a child that has been realised but, on the other hand, we have lost a friend first of all and it's very difficult in these situations.
"I would like to dedicate my first win to him, we have grown up together - my first-ever race was with Anthoine - and it is just such a shame what happened yesterday. I can't enjoy fully my first victory but I will keep this memory forever."
He had started on pole and showed tremendous maturity to hold off Hamilton's Mercedes, who finished less than a second behind.
Teammate Valtteri Bottas was third, finishing ahead of Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel with Thai driver Alexander Albon fifth on his Red Bull debut having been promoted to the team from Toro Rosso.
Leclerc got away cleanly but Vettel, who is 21 races without a win since last season's Belgian GP, was overtaken by Hamilton at the first turn. Max Verstappen, winner of two of the past four races and a narrow second behind Hamilton at the Hungarian GP, went out on Lap 1.
BELGIAN GRAND PRIX
1 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari 1hr 23min 45.710sec
2 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes +0.981sec
3 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes +12.585
4 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari +26.422
5 Alexander Albon (Tha) Red Bull +1min 21.325sec
6 Sergio Perez (Mex) Racing Point +1:24.448
7 Daniil Kvyat (Fin) Toro Rosso +1:29.657
8 Niko Hulkenberg (Ger) Renault +1:46.639
9 Pierre Gasly (Fra) Toro Rosso +1:46.168
10 Lance Stroll (Can) Racing Point +1:49.838
1 Hamilton 268pts 2 Bottas 203 3 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 181 4 Vettel 169 5 Leclerc 157
1 Mercedes 471pts 2 Ferrari 326 3 Red Bull 254 4 McLaren 82 5 Toro Rosso 51
Verstappen had finished in the top five of every other race this season but suffered his first retirement since the Hungarian GP in July last year.
Leclerc said: "It's been a very difficult race, we were struggling with the tyres towards the end but it was better than in Budapest."
He came in for his tyre change exactly midway through the 44-lap race, putting Hamilton in front. But Mercedes called Hamilton in on the very next lap and made a slow stop of 3.6 seconds - which may ultimately have cost him the win.
Bottas came in one lap later as Ferrari regained the race lead with Vettel ahead of Leclerc. The German obeyed team orders to let Leclerc go past him on Lap 27, and then twice held off Hamilton before Hamilton passed him on Lap 32 to take second place.
The Briton, who extended his lead in the overall standings to 65 points ahead of Bottas, said: "I gave it absolutely everything. It was a really difficult race - the Ferraris are just too fast in this race - and we needed a few more laps in the end. Congratulations to Charles on his first win, it's been coming all year."