Motor racing-Leclerc scores bittersweet first F1 win in Belgium

Motor racing-Leclerc scores bittersweet first F1 win in Belgium
By Reuters

01/09/2019 at 16:45Updated 01/09/2019 at 16:46

* Hamilton finishes second, extends championship lead

* F1 pays tribute to Hubert who died in F2 crash on Saturday

By Abhishek Takle

SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium, Sept 1 (Reuters) - Charles Leclerc fended off a charging Lewis Hamilton to claim a bittersweet first Formula One win on Sunday as the Belgian Grand Prix brought the curtain down on a dark weekend for the sport after the death of French racer Anthoine Hubert.

Monegasque Leclerc, who had started from pole, crossed the line less than a second ahead of Mercedes driver Hamilton, who nevertheless extended his lead in the overall standings to 65 points over team mate Valtteri Bottas, who finished third.

Sunday’s victory must have felt like a long time coming for Leclerc, after engine problems denied the 21-year-old victory in the second race of the season in Bahrain in March.

It was also Ferrari’s first win this year.

But he took little joy in it after French racer Anthoine Hubert, 22, was killed in a high speed crash in a Formula Two race at the Spa-Francorchamps track on Saturday.

“One hand I've got a dream since being a child that has been realised, on the other hand it has been a very difficult weekend since yesterday,” said Leclerc, who dedicated his win to Hubert.

“We grew up together, my first ever race I did it with Anthoine, Esteban (Ocon), Pierre (Gasly).

“I can't fully enjoy my first victory, but it will definitely be a memory I will keep forever,” added Leclerc. (Reporting by Abhishek Takle; editing by Ken Ferris)