Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel cruised to an easy victory at the 2013 Belgian Formula One Grand Prix in Spa last weekend, opening his points advantage in the world championship to 46 points over his closest rival, Fernando Alonso.
Saturday qualifying was an unusual affair as the typical changeable weather in the Eifel Mountains took hold.
The first qualifying session began in the wet with the drivers struggling to find grip through the daunting Eau Rouge, Pouhon and Blanchimont corners. The rain let up towards the end of the session, however, meaning the pace was to get much faster.
By the final Q3 session the rain returned, meaning the Tarmac was still treacherous, tyre choice was crucial and the drivers had to be inch perfect with placing the car.
It was Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton that got the drop on his competitors, managing the conditions the best and putting his Silver Arrows car on pole by less than two tenths of a second.
Vettel followed him, with teammate Webber in third. The second Mercedes of Nico Rosberg finished fourth on the grid, while Brit Paul di Resta was shuffled down the order in the dying moments of qualifying while sitting on provisional pole.
Race day was completely dry and by the end of the second lap Vettel had built up a lead of 2.8 seconds – the afternoon for the rest of the field was all but over.
From there he continued to manage the pace of the race and his Pirelli tyres brilliantly to bring the car home for what was an easy win.
There was more drama behind the lead man, however. Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen retired after a helmet visor tear-off got stuck in his car’s brake duct, reducing the cooling levels and causing his braking system to overheat and eventually fail at the end of a 200mph braking zone. Scary stuff.
Alonso moved up to second place from ninth on the grid, turning around a poor qualifying display, turning around what looked to be a dismal weekend for Ferrari in leaving Belgium with some useful points.
Hamilton dropped one place from his starting slot, finishing on the bottom step of the podium in third. His teammate Rosberg crossed the line where he started, with Webber slipping two places from his grid position, coming home in fifth.
A special mention to McLaren driver Jenson Button who came home in sixth spot – the team’s fortunes are looking up, not least because of the hard work, effort and dedication our local F1 outfit has put into improving this year’s car. Even Button himself was more buoyant this weekend, admitting McLaren could have been in with a sniff of a podium.
The biggest incident of the race came when Maldonado and Gutierrez battled around the flat-out Blanchimont corner and into the final chicane. Sauber driver Gutierrez got the better of the Williams man, with the pair of Force Indias behind – driven by Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta – picking up the pieces after Maldonado got out of shape at the tight right-left complex.
Sutil skipped round the outside of Maldonado, but the Venezuelan’s front wing clipped the back of Sutil’s car. Deciding he wanted to pit immediately, the Williams driver veered across the track aiming for the pit entry just as Paul di Resta was rounding him on the outside.
Both cars were on a collision course, with Maldonado smashing into the second Force India, destroying its left rear suspension and putting di Resta out of the race – a disappointing end to a decent weekend from the Scot.
Vettel now sits on 197 points heading into the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, with his closest rival, Ferrari driver Alonso, sitting on 151 points.
Hamilton, who insisted Vettel is still the fastest man in the field this weekend lies in third on 139 points, just five ahead of Kimi Raikkonen – the Finn’s retirement last weekend really hurting his championship charge.
Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg lie in fifth and sixth respectively on 115 and 96 points.