Charles Leclerc claimed his maiden Formula 1 victory in Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix after fending off Lewis Hamilton in the closing stages of the race, ending an emotional weekend on a high for Ferrari.

Racing under a cloud following the death of Formula 2 driver Anthoine Hubert on Saturday, Leclerc swept to a superb first win for Ferrari following near-misses in Bahrain and Austria earlier this year.

Leclerc led the opening stages before passing Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel after his pit stop, but came under heavy pressure from Hamilton in the final few laps.

But the Ferrari driver held on to secure victory for the first time in F1, quickly dedicating it to Hubert.

Leclerc was able to retain his advantage from pole on the run to La Source, leaving teammate Sebastian Vettel to contend with the Mercedes drivers behind. Vettel ran wide at Turn 1, allowing Lewis Hamilton to jump ahead, only for the Ferrari driver to sweep back past on the run along the Kemmel Straight with his superior top speed.

The race was put behind the Safety Car on the opening lap after Max Verstappen crashed out at Eau Rouge, having made contact with Kimi Raikkonen at La Source. A poor start dropped Verstappen back before he ran into the side of Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo, popping it briefly into the air, and leaving him with a broken track rod that caused him to go straight on at the right-hander, marking his first DNF in over a year.

The race resumed on Lap 5 as Leclerc pulled clear once again, with a mistake from Vettel easing the pressure on the race leader. Vettel was able to keep second place ahead of Hamilton, who reported to his Mercedes team that the Ferrari was not as quick as expected, giving him hope of challenging the top two.

While Hamilton was able to sit within DRS range of Vettel, the boost failed to neutralise the Ferrari’s better pace along the straights, causing the gap to remain stable through the opening stint of the race.

Ferrari blinked first in the pits, bringing Vettel in for a fresh set of Medium tyres at the end of Lap 15, but Mercedes opted against responding immediately, believing there was more to be gained with fresher tyres later in the race for Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas in fourth. Ferrari made the same call with Leclerc, covering off the Mercedes drivers.

Leclerc came in six laps after Vettel, who had lapped quick enough on his fresh tyres to get the undercut on his teammate and move into the net lead, sitting five seconds clear. Hamilton and Bottas responded on consecutive laps following Leclerc’s stop, but both sat too far adrift from the Ferrari to cause any concern.

Despite losing track position to Vettel, Leclerc quickly found himself catching his teammate thanks to his fresher tyres. The five-second gap was wiped away in just five laps, prompting Ferrari to give Vettel the call to allow Leclerc through. Vettel moved aside at the start of Lap 27, handing the lead back to his teammate, before being told that his fight now lay with Hamilton behind.

Vettel immediately aired concerns with the Ferrari pit wall as his pace continued to fade, asking if he required a second pit stop. After being told he was not expected to pit again, Vettel warned that Hamilton would “walk all over us”, the silver Mercedes growing larger and larger in his rear-view mirrors as the gap fell to less than a second.

Hamilton got close enough to try a move on Vettel into the Bus Stop chicane on Lap 31, only for the Ferrari driver to defend on the inside, forcing his rival to back down. Hamilton got a better run out of La Source on the next lap before getting DRS and tucking into Vettel’s slipstream, allowing him to sweep through into second place into Les Combes, six seconds back from Leclerc.

Vettel’s attention soon turned to Bottas behind, who gained at a similar rate of knots to Hamilton, forcing Ferrari to bring the German driver in for a second time at the end of Lap 33. Vettel took a set of Softs that would see him to the end of the race, emerging from the pits in fourth.

Leclerc’s advantage over Hamilton began to drop away through the closing stages of the race, giving Hamilton and Mercedes hope of snatching victory away. Hamilton routinely gained more than a second through the middle sector alone on the final few laps, leaving Leclerc sweating entering the final lap.

But Leclerc was able to hold on and clinch his first F1 win, and Ferrari’s first since last year’s United States Grand Prix, becoming the 108th different race victor in the sport’s history.

Leclerc said upon crossing the line: “My first victory in F1. This one is for Anthoine. It feels good, but difficult to enjoy a weekend like this.”

Hamilton was left to settle for second place for Mercedes ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas, while Vettel struggled to make inroads after his second pit stop, ultimately finishing 13 seconds off Bottas in P4.

Alexander Albon put in an impressive display on debut for Red Bull to charge from 17th on the grid to finish fifth with a fine Medium-Soft strategy. Albon picked off Pierre Gasly, Daniil Kvyat, Daniel Ricciardo – a particular highlight with a brave move around the outside at Turn 9 – and Sergio Perez in the closing stages before inheriting P5 on the final lap when Lando Norris was forced to park up at the side of the track with an issue.

Norris had been on course to score his best F1 finish after rising from P11 to P5 on the opening lap and holding station for much of the race, only to report a power loss that forced him to retire one lap from home.

This gave Perez P6 ahead of Kvyat and Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, who took eighth ahead of Pierre Gasly and Lance Stroll, both of whom benefitted from Norris’ issue and a penultimate-lap crash for Antonio Giovinazzi at Pouhons. The Alfa Romeo driver had been running P9.

Norris was ultimately classified 11th ahead of Haas drivers Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean, while Daniel Ricciardo faded to 14th for Renault in the closing stages. George Russell took P15 for Williams ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, who was compromised by damage from the Verstappen clash at Turn 1. Robert Kubica was the last finisher in P17 for Williams.