Five star Vettel dominates at Spa: Belgian GP review

By on Sunday, August 25, 2013
Red Bull/Getty Images

Sebastian Vettel cruised to victory. Red Bull/Getty Images

It was all about the weather, apparently. Would it, wouldn’t it? After all, this was Spa-Francorchamps. Nearby towns such as Verviers or even Spa itself can be bathed in sunshine while the circuit is drenched. Radars can be deceptive while the best forecasts can be inaccurate. “It's not clear what the weather will do but that's normal for Spa,” said world champion Sebastian Vettel. Several others were in agreement. Ultimately such rain failed to materialise and that played into the hands of the German, who cruised to a fifth win of 2013.

But perhaps pole sitter Lewis Hamilton would have a say in proceedings? The Mercedes driver led away from pole position as he attempted to secure back-to-back victories for the first time in several years. The rest of the field filtered through behind him and fortunately there was no repeat of the carambolage of 2012. Several drivers locked up approaching La Source, but no-one came to any serious grief.

Alas, for the watching world, Hamilton’s lead lasted mere seconds. He took slightly too much kerb at Eau Rouge and, combined with the slipstream, allowed Vettel through on the approach to Les Combes.

From there it was simply a matter of margins. Vettel led by 1.4 seconds across the stripe for the first time and extended his advantage to seven seconds by the time the pit stop window arrived. He kept setting fastest laps – much to the frustration of race engineer Guillaume Rocquelin – and eventually finished the race 16.8 seconds ahead of Fernando Alonso.

“It helped on the first lap to have the tow from Lewis and once I passed him we had incredible pace,” said the race winner.

Alonso made his typically brave start and was up to fifth by the end of the first lap. He quickly overhauled Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg, before getting through on Hamilton at the exit of La Source between the pit stop windows.

Ros FP3

Nico Rosberg was fourth

Hamilton slipped to third place but nonetheless secured another podium.

“We had a tough race and these guys were a little bit faster than us,” he said, pointing towards Vettel and Alonso.

Rosberg battled through Mark Webber on the opening lap and kept his rival at bay throughout the race, while Button – who made a good start from sixth – was rapidly passed by faster cars. A sole stop looked to be a likely approach but the Brit headed for the pits with 10 laps remaining.

Felipe Massa finished a lonely seventh, while Romain Grosjean was eighth.

Grosjean was involved in an incident early on with Sergio Perez when the Mexican attempted to pass his rival into Les Combes. Perez completed the manoeuvre, but failed to leave sufficient space for Grosjean in the process. The Lotus driver used colourful language to express his feelings at being forced wide and he lost a position to Massa. Perez protested his innocence but was handed a drive through penalty. He finished in eleventh place, behind Adrian Sutil and Daniel Ricciardo.

Sutil enjoyed an eventful race and twice passed Esteban Gutierrez into Eau Rouge. On the second of those occasions, Sutil showed his rival the finger (or perhaps was just giving him directions) as he went through. Minor contact was made on his first voyage past his rival, so perhaps that was the cause of Sutil’s anger.

Ricciardo passed Perez with a couple of laps remaining but was unable to catch up with Sutil, in spite of fresher tyres.

Jean-Eric Vergne was twelfth, having muscled Nico Hulkenberg out of the way late on. Hulkenberg made a strong start and was running inside the top 10 early on but was unable to maintain his position. “The balance was all over the place, oversteer, understeer, the car was so damn tough to drive,” he said.

Kimi Raikkonen failed to finish. Lotus F1 Team

Kimi Raikkonen failed to finish. Lotus F1 Team

Esteban Gutierrez was handed a drive through penalty for gaining an advantage and exceeding track limits during a four way scrap with the Force India drivers and Pastor Maldonado. Gutierrez went around the outside of Maldonado at Blanchimont – using the run-off – and both Force India drivers tried to take advantage into Bus Stop. Maldonado clipped Sutil and then barrelled into di Resta, ripping the left rear off of the Briton’s car. Di Resta’s fifth place start was therefore squandered and Maldonado was given a 10 second stop and go penalty for his misdemeanour.

Valtteri Bottas had an uneventful run to fifteenth place, while Giedo van der Garde was unable to maintain his comparatively high grid slot and came home in sixteenth, ahead of Maldonado.

Marussia drivers Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton quickly regressed to their usual position at the back but both drivers were able to finish the race. The same could not be said, for the first time since 2009, for Kimi Raikkonen.

The Finn spent much of the race around the lower end of the top 10 but his demise seemed somewhat inevitable. Even during the early stages, the Lotus E21 was suffering from a brake problem, with black smoke pouring from the front left of the car. With heavy braking spots into La Source and Les Combes, it was somewhat fortunate that Raikkonen was unable to stop – ironically – at the Bus Stop chicane, complete with sufficient run-off. Raikkonen immediately headed to the pits where he retired for the first time since the German Grand Prix of 2009. His string of consecutive finishes – and 27 in the points – was ended.

Charles Pic was the other driver not to complete the full 44 laps as his Caterham developed an oil leak during the opening stages of the race.

Vettel now heads to the final European race of the season with a 46 point advantage of the championship. The reigning world champion isn’t expecting to be competitive at the fast Italian circuit, but with 2013 shaping up similarly to 2011 would you rule Vettel out? After all, he did win in Monza on that occasion…

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