Lewis Hamilton’s performance in Belgium was faultless. He was clinically fast in Qualifying securing a record a equalling 68th pole position with a stellar lap. His race drive was pretty much perfect, despite the pressure from Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari, which remained within 2 seconds of Hamilton for the entire race.
This last fact, however, poses an interesting question. Were Ferrari in fact the real winners in Belgium? It was widely recognised by the paddock that Spa was going to suit the Mercedes car more than the Ferrari. The Italian outfit were certainly worried going into the weekend about the high-speed nature of the Spa circuit; memories of Silverstone were very fresh in the mind of the Scuderia.
On Saturday afternoon, despite some dominant times from the Mercs in Q2, Vettel managed to get the gap down to two tenths to Hamilton’s pole time. This is arguably down to the driver, but I think without the ‘vibration’ and catching traffic on his last lap, Raikkonen too would have been up there, perhaps even closer to Hamilton considering that he had the legs on his teammate pretty much all weekend. So, over one lap the Ferrari was significantly quicker than many expected and it certainly gave the Mercedes team something to think about for Sunday.
The pace that Vettel showed on Sunday once again proved that the advantage that Mercedes had was not as big as some thought, in fact it was rather minimal. Of course there was a driver element in this performance. Vettel and Hamilton were flat out all race and there was nothing to choose between them. They both reached new levels of greatness in my view. Nonetheless, at a circuit where Ferrari were expected to struggle they were right up there. Hamilton himself acknowledged this after the race, and he knows that this was a great result for Ferrari, considering the fears that the Italian team held. Hamilton, whilst being interviewed on Channel 4 post race, commented that he thought that the Ferrari was the faster car overall. I think this may be an attempt at mind games somewhat, as the cars, as well as two drivers, are very difficult to choose between, however it is clear that the speed of the Ferrari was a concern for Hamilton. The Brit certainly used every ounce of his enormous talent to win that race and stay in front of his German rival.
The performance of Vettel at Spa must bode well for the Scuderia and they must fancy their chances for the remainder of the season, particularly going into their home race. The Ferrari looked mighty on the brakes, which is very handy at Monza. If they have solved the issues at Silverstone, it looks as if the Ferrari may well be the better all round car and they may steal this one. However, as the great Murray Walker says; anything can happen in Formula 1, and it usually does. Do not discount Hamilton and the Mercedes. It is going to be a titanic battle and a fascinating end to the season.