Sebastian Vettel says he timed his overtake on Lewis Hamilton to perfection as he blasted past the Briton on lap 1 down the Kemmel Straight. The move would prove to be crucial as Vettel stayed in front of his rival all afternoon to take victory at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit.
The pair had an even getaway off the line, but Vettel hung back slightly to get a longer slipstream as they climbed up the hill. 12 months ago, Hamilton backed off heading into Eau Rouge to shorten the slipstream effect, which kept him ahead on the opening lap.
Vettel learned from the developments 12 months ago, and went on to finish 11 seconds ahead of Hamilton: "On the first lap, I had great start. I'm not sure Lewis saw me, he pushed me quite far to left," he explained. "But I knew my chance would be later on up the hill, and I think I timed it well. Obviously last year I was always ending up short. It was better this year, we had a bit less wing. Timing is crucial and I managed that perfectly I thought."
On the run down the Kemmel Straight, Vettel admitted that he received a slight scare when he saw the Force India of Esteban Ocon pulling alongside him. However, when he maintained the lead, he felt relieved and went on to control a "smooth" race.
"Then the Force India came as well, but as soon as I was ahead, I was relieved," Vettel said. "With the Safety Car then, it was the other way round. I thought, well I got that done and now I've got the Safety Car, but I had a good restart, very good exit of Turn 1, kept it clean.
"It was tricky with the headwind braking for the first turn. After that it was a very smooth race. Lewis pushed hard, especially the first stint towards the end, he was very fast. Second stint, could turn everything down and control the pace. Great weekend."
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing