The whole world is excitedly awaiting the sound of those beautiful V8s as they fire up for the Belgium Grand Prix after a three-week summer break.
The Ferrari fans will be hoping the Scuderia have found a few tenths, Red Bull fans will praying Lotus haven’t made any significant gains, and McLaren and Mercedes will hope to at least stay in touch in race trim.
On a personal note, I was a little disappointed with the Belgian Grand Prix leading up to the race, as the weather wouldn’t allow for an accurate assessment as to the teams true pace. The capricious nature of the Ardennes’ weather created an enthralling final 10 minutes of qualifying, especially for Force India’s Paul Di Resta.
And it did look like the Brit would take pole until the rain eased off in the dying moments, creating a dry line. As the cars managed to get their laps in, Di Resta finally found himself in fifth.
In the remaining 30 seconds, Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg, followed by Red Bull’s Mark Webber and teammate Vettel, all found pole until Lewis Hamilton smashed it. This was the Brit’s fourth consecutive pole, a statistic not achieved since Damon Hill in 1995.
Hamilton had both of the Red Bulls behind him, followed by teammate Rosberg and then Di Resta.
McLaren’s Jenson Button joined Di Resta on row three, followed by the Lotus’ of Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen. It didn’t go Ferrari’s way, which saw Fernando Alonso in ninth and Felipe Massa 10th.
Come race day and the weather was fair but no sign of rain – great conditions for understanding just exactly where the teams all stand with each other.
Lewis Hamilton made a perfect start, maintaining his lead over Sebastian Vettel into La Source. Mark Webber bogged down and dropped well down the grid. Nico Rosberg also did well and took third, whilst Felipe Massa struggled to slow his car down and locked up his brakes. On a circuit renowned for its first corner contact, the whole field make it round unscathed.
After a few more corners, Sebastian Vettel got a great run and good momentum and slipped past Lewis Hamilton for the lead. The ‘never say never’ Fernando Alonso used his brilliant start to climb from ninth to fifth in half a lap, setting his sights on Jenson Button just up the road.
By lap 4 Vettel had pulled out a 3 second gap over Hamilton. After a few lunges at the back of Button, Alonso used the DRS and flew past Button on the outside. Now in forth, Alonso started hunting Rosberg’s Mercedes.
On lap 8 Sergio Perez put a brave move on Grosjean along the straight, and as the McLaren drifts left under braking, it catches the Frenchman out. The Lotus is forced to cut a corner at Les Combes. Perez eventually received a drive through penalty.
Vettel looked comfortable in the lead, with Alonso in second and Mark Webber third. Lewis Hamilton managed to pass Grosjean for eighth place but the Frenchman managed to gets back past on the straight.
Lap 17 saw Grosjean make a mistake on the exit of Turn One, which allowed Webber to make a move down the straight. The Red Bull used DRS and eased past the Lotus for sixth place. At the head of the pack, Vettel led Button by four seconds, with Fernando Alonso two seconds further back.
Nearing the halfway point and the second round of pit stops,
Vettel’s lead was up to eight seconds over Alonso, with Hamilton 2.6 seconds adrift. Nico Rosberg remained in battle with Webber in the battle for fifth, with Jenson Button chasing Grosjean for sixth.
Lap 26 and it looked bad for Kimi. Previously in the race his front right brake smoked badly – it turned out a rip-off visor had jammed into the system. He tried to put a move on Massa at the Bus Stop, but he can’t stop the car in time and runs off and then has to pit. The Finn was wheeled into the garage – this was his first retirement since his return to F1.
Lap 38 and Red Bull’s Vettel looked so comfortable up front with an 11 second lead over Alonso. Ferrari’s Massa passed Lotus’ Grosjean at the top of the straight into Les Combes for seventh place.
Lap 43 and the penultimate lap of the race and Vettel did his usual job of cruising at the front, as his lead was a massive 16.9 seconds. Alonso knew this and made sure his second place was secure.
Sebastian Vettel saw the chequered flag first, and 16 seconds later, Fernando Alonso let the rear end slip out as he hit the power out of the final corner before crossing the line to take second – considering he started ninth, Ferrari fans will be happy, plus he takes second in the championship back after Kimi’s retirement. The last step on the podium went to Brit Hamilton.
Apart from Vettel’s dominance it was an entertaining race with lots of overtaking. We just need someone to put Vettel in his place for a few races…
World Championship Standings
1 Sebastian Vettel – Red Bull – 197
2 Fernando Alonso – Ferrari – 151
3 Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes – 139
4 Kimi Raikkonen – Lotus – 134