Formula 1 is back. After a four week recess, nothing much seems to have changed. Lewis Hamilton dominated another fast track, Max Verstappen has apparently not found his rabbit foot as he continues to have mechanical problems, Fernando Alonso still can’t get much joy from his McLaren, and Daniel Ricciardo put more daylight between himself and his teammate by chalking up another podium finish.
The Belgian Grand Prix was an opportunity to see the gains made by teams during the August break but it was same ol’ same ol’. It was Lewis Hamilton’s weekend as he not only set a new course record at the Spa track, he also finally equalled Michael Schumacher’s all time record of 68 career pole positions. Not content with that though, Hamilton went on to lead the race from start to finish and in the process, halve his deficit to Sebastian Vettel in the title race. Safe to say it was a memorable weekend for the Briton. Here is how the Belgian Grand Prix panned out though.
Lewis Hamilton threw down the gauntlet from the start, breaking the track record twice on his way to equalling Schumacher’s pole record. He was particularly pleased to receive a congratulatory message from the German legend’s family, as Schumacher himself is still in a coma following an unfortunate skiing accident he suffered after retiring from racing.
Barely hanging on to Hamilton’s coattails was Sebastian Vettel who despite his best efforts could not match Hamilton for speed and had to settle for second position. At least, he could take solace in the fact that he kept Valtteri Bottas at bay and prevented a Mercedes front row lockout. Completing the second row with Bottas was Kimi Raikonnen, Vettel’s Ferrari teammate who has so far been unable to trouble the leaders this season.
Max Verstappen got one over his Red Bull teammate this time around, qualifying 5th in the country of his birth, pushing fellow driver Daniel Ricciardo to 6th. Nico Hulkenberg continued to boost his blooming reputation by claiming 7th in his Renault, while the two Force India cars came in after him and his teammate Jolyon Palmer was 10th.
Poor Fernando Alonso. Another qualifying, another inability to even make it into Q3. It’s like watching Pete Sampras play with a wooden racket.
On the occasion of his 200th grand prix and record 68th pole, Lewis Hamilton got off to a superb start and drove magnificently to maintain his position throughout, leading from start to finish. He was pushed all the way by Sebastian Vettel though. The German set the fastest lap of the race but it was not enough to overhaul Hamilton and just like in qualifying, he had to make do with second.
Hats off to Daniel Ricciardo. You would be forgiven for thinking he was in a Mercedes with the way he drove, reeling in first Ferrari’s Kimi Raikonnen, and then Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas to claim the third podium position. We all know what that means. A shoey.
His Red Bull teammate didn’t fare as well though. Max Verstappen must surely be considering that he’s being deliberately sabotaged now as he suffered a 5th DNF(Did Not Finish) in 12 races this year, his engine shutting down in the 8th lap right in front of the stand his supporters had packed into.
Further back, the Force India duo of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez seemed hell bent on killing each other as they crashed not once but twice, putting paid to the slim chance the team had at clocking points. At least, they get a mention in the back pages.
The day belonged to Hamilton though, victory on all fronts including injecting a new lease of life into the title race.
Believe it or not, this will go right back to the wire. A win for Hamilton halved the points difference between him and championship leader Vettel from 14 to 7 points, swinging the momentum in his favour and putting pressure on Vettel ahead of the next race at Monza, Ferrari’s home race.
Lewis Hamilton now has 5 race wins this season, one more than Vettel who can lay claim to being more consistent though having finished on the podium 9 times, as compared to Hamilton’s 7.
At this point, it is safe to say that it is now a two horse race for the 2017 Formula 1 drivers title, and what an engrossing race it is shaping out to be.
Mercedes’ procession to the 2017 constructors title continued, with Hamilton doing most of the contribution this weekend with Valtteri Bottas coming home a disappointing fifth.
No cause for alarm for Toto Wolff and his team though, as they continue to enjoy a healthy advantage over second place Ferrari.
There is no time to blink. It’s back to back Formula 1 weekends.
The train moves to Monza next for the Italian Grand Prix, home of the most successful Formula 1 team Ferrari.
Sebastian Vettel will be hoping for a change of fortunes though because even though he won at the Monza circuit in 2013, no Ferrari driver has won at its home race since Fernando Alonso in 2010. It’s a scenario Lewis Hamilton will be hoping can be replayed as a win will potentially see him surge ahead of Vettel for the first time this season.
Here is hoping no team or driver, looking at you Verstappen, will be dodged by reliability issues and we can enjoy some awesome racing at Monza.