Hamilton versus the Red Bulls for Spa win

2011 Belgian GP pre-race analysis

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Spa-Francorchamps, 2011

Can Hamilton repeat his win of last year from second on the grid?

A wet qualifying session has created a somewhat mixed-up grid for the Belgian Grand Prix.

We have the exciting prospect of Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton going up against each other at the front, with Mark Webber poised to pounce should either make a mistake.

Further back, Jenson Button will have to fight his way forward and Michael Schumacher has a lot of ground to make up from last on the grid.

The weather

After two days of rain-hit practice and qualifying, it comes as a surprise to learn the teams are confidently predicting dry weather on Sunday, and many have set their cars up accordingly.

Making any kind of assumptions about the weather in Spa is a risky business, but the prevailing view is tomorrow’s race will be dry, with minimal chance of a light shower.

With that in mind, what can we expect from the Belgian Grand Prix?

The start

As last year, we have a Red Bull on pole position and Lewis Hamilton alongside.

Last year it was Mark Webber at the front of the grid and a poor start allowed Hamilton through into an easy lead.

This time it’s Vettel up front. And as we’ve seen in the past, Vettel tends to defend his position at the start very aggressively.

Hamilton is noted for his attacking aggression, making this a potentially combustible combination.

As always Vettel’s priority will be to stay ahead and get more than a second clear of his pursuers over the first two laps so that they can’t use the Drag Reduction System to attack him.

With Red Bull running less rear wing than their rivals, and McLaren experimenting with a new, more powerful DRS, it remains to be seen whether he will be able to accomplish this as successfully as he has in other races.

Working against Vettel is Red Bull’s less powerful Kinetic Energy Recovery System, at a track where KERS is especially important. This was clear in 2009 when Kimi Raikkonen was able to use his to attack and pass Giancarlo Fisichella for the lead.

Back to front

Michael Schumacher, Mercedes, Spa-Francorchamps, 2011

Schumacher needs to salvage a result from last on the grid

The tricky conditions in qualifying have left some drivers far outside their usual qualifying positions.

The most conspicuous of which is Michael Schumacher, who starts last after a wheel came off his car in qualifying.

Jenson Button is also disadvantaged in 13th place. He has the likes of Kamui Kobayashi and Vitaly Petrov to pass in order to get into the points.

Both Force India drivers are also out of position. Practice indicated they had the pace to score points this weekend, so look for them to move forward as well.


Having failed to reach Q3, all these drivers will have the benefit of not having used any of their soft tyres yet.

This could prove useful if they need to use all their soft tyres in the race. Given the minimal dry running so far, it’s hard to tell whether that will be the case.

But with the medium tyre over a second per lap slower than the soft, it’s likely we’ll see drivers only running the medium for a short stint at the end of the race.

For Ferrari, track temperature could shape their chances in the race. It is expected to stay cool at the track tomorrow, and it was clear in qualifying the 150??? Italia is till not warming its tyres up quickly.

Qualifying has raised the prospect of a battle between Hamilton and the Red Bulls at the front, while Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button try to make up for their qualifying disappointments.

Who will come out on top? Have your say in the comments.

2011 Belgian Grand Prix

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45 comments on Hamilton versus the Red Bulls for Spa win

  1. If the weather is wrong, and it is wet… I wouldn’t count Alguersuari out for a strong result ;)

    Rosberg too maybe

  2. Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 27th August 2011, 22:59

    A good start is a must must must for Hamilton. With a good start you would fancy him to pick off Vettel into Les Combes. Let Vettel get away and it could be the last he sees of him for the whole stint, only for Vettel to continuously undercut him and win the race.

    Then again with less wing, Vettel might not be able to run away with it through the middle sector and we could see a 2009-style battle for the lead, this time the with the advantage on the attacking driver’s side.

    Further back, I will be surprised if Button and Schumacher don’t make progress into the points, unless it starts wet somehow, nullifying their ability to choose tyres. Senna and Alguersuari will have points to prove so it might be a bit of a pain for Alonso to make up the ground and with Webber’s poor starts this year, Rosberg and Massa might fancy themselves a podium.

    • Jake (@jleigh) said on 27th August 2011, 23:09

      I think both Button and Schumi should try starting on the primes. This could give them a huge advantage later in the race by getting them out of the way when they will be stuck in the most traffic

    • Victor. said on 28th August 2011, 1:03

      I actually don’t think the start will be that crucial. This being Spa grid position isn’t as important, especially with this year’s tyres and regulations.

  3. Becken said on 27th August 2011, 23:03

    This time it’s Vettel up front. And as we’ve seen in the past, Vettel tends to defend his position at the start very aggressively.

    Hamilton is noted for his attacking aggression, making this a potentially combustible combination.

    I dont think Seb will risk his points buffer been very agressive against Lewis in the start.

    A question: Is possible to McLaren fix the damages made by Maldonado in the qualy?

  4. Franz said on 27th August 2011, 23:17

    Hope Lewis & Mark get a good start. Praying Vettel finishes 4th or lower… nothing against him personally, but I’d love it for the season to go all the way down to the wire again. Vettel’s been qualifying phenomenally all year, but a half second gap leads me to believe that the RB7 is still king in qualy trim (in Seb’s hands, at least). Webber’s one to watch in the race too, despite him dropping the ball a bit in Q3. Seb’s definitely the better qualifier, but Mark knows his way around Spa.

    • Victor. said on 28th August 2011, 1:08

      I don’t think the .5 second gap is highly representative as today’s condition exacerbated the difference between drivers. The track improved from lap to lap, so Red Bull’s advantage might not be as huge as it seems. The fact that this is the longest track in F1 makes .5 second less of a difference as well.

      I also think the RB7 is king in qualy trim, I’m just arguing that I think it’s not by a huge margin.

  5. Atticus (@atticus-2) said on 27th August 2011, 23:25

    The craziest of any scenarios imaginable would be if Michael Schumacher would got his first Grand Prix win since his comeback, from rock bottom 24th on the grid, on the 20th anniversary of his impressive GP debut. Period.

    I predict a Hamilton victory though.

  6. Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 27th August 2011, 23:42

    If Mark starts well, then he has a shot at the victory. But that’s a lot to ask, really…

    • HoHum (@hohum) said on 28th August 2011, 0:06

      Has to pray for some rain, judging from the top speeds in practice he is running more downforce for safe team points if the forecast is wrong.

    • F1fan55 said on 28th August 2011, 3:43

      Yeah, Webber looked genuinely faster (or at least as fast) as Hamilton and Vettel, but his last lap was affected by the small amount of traffic and him overworking his tyres in the previous laps.
      He also has nothing to lose compared to Vettel…

      • Adam Tate (@adam-tate) said on 28th August 2011, 6:44

        Yeah, I felt a bit sorry for Webber, he clearly wanted pole as a 35th birthday present to himself.

        Did you see him in the interview room after qualifying? He looking like he was fuming!!

        • raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 28th August 2011, 6:48

          Having said that though he did admit that he pushed the tyres too hard early on; when the smart thing to do was to hit the last two laps harder instead, as the track would be drying out, and the fuel load going down.

          Seb for example also admitted that his first 2 laps weren’t good because he was just using them to build up good heat in the tyres before hitting the last two laps

    • AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 28th August 2011, 11:34

      Mark’s had pretty dire starts all year. I don’t hold much hope for him.

    • Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 28th August 2011, 14:54

      well, I was spot on there…

  7. sato113 (@sato113) said on 27th August 2011, 23:49

    rather than running the softs all race then doing a lap on the primes at the end, perhaps someone could start on the primes, do 1 lap then switch to softs for the rest of the race?
    that way he’d not be losing time in the train of cars in the first few laps…

    • Jake (@jleigh) said on 27th August 2011, 23:51

      u’d be surprised at the field spread, they would soon catch the train and be held up

    • HoHum (@hohum) said on 28th August 2011, 0:08

      No, he would be losing time in the pits instead.

      • sato113 (@sato113) said on 28th August 2011, 0:52

        prime (1 lap), option, option
        is the same as
        option, option, prime (1 lap)

        but the former would give you free air during all the congestion on the opening laps. also if a SC came out early in the race you’d be in a good position strategically.

  8. The Mclarens usually have better race pace than the Red Bulls when the weather isn’t too hot. And I doubt it’ll suddenly be baking hot tomorrow. So I expect Lewis to win and Seb to finish 2nd.

  9. UKfanatic (@) said on 28th August 2011, 2:48

    I too would like to see Hamilton win but I dont belive that it is Redbulls against Hamilton, as we all know Spa is unpredictable, I do belive that some qually results can be explained by extreme set-up options, I believe Webber has a wet setup and the Ferraris a dry set up particulary alonso, Vettel as usual has a compromise between set-ups.
    In F1 an early championship dominant leader is usually the final champ one of the reason is cause the leader all goes safe its more beneficial to finish 2nd than wining and in the next race crashing, which can happen tomorrow.

  10. wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 28th August 2011, 4:45

    It is one of those race that you could smell things will be something special once the five red light goes out.I do want some light rain but it will be a fantastic race.Two great driver up in front the defender Vettel against the attacker Hamilton.It will be interesting to see how Button,Alonso & Schumacher do in the opening sequences of laps,while some great opportunity for Massa & Roseberg to show of their potential.

  11. raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 28th August 2011, 6:50

    Keith, would I be right in saying that Hamilton has never won a race when he and Vettel share the front row?

  12. Palle (@palle) said on 28th August 2011, 7:51

    Spa is always special. I was there last year, when Vettel hit Button and Alonso went out in turn 9. Being on track really underlined Lewis aggressive driving style, especially You could see and hear it in the section after Eau Rouge, around turn 5-6. And the sound of those cars live is just fantastic. Almost never a boring race at Spa, but You got to dress for wet and cool weather.
    Lewis probably takes the win, Seb and Mark fight each other, while Alonso’s having problems with tyretemp, Bruno, Button and Vitaly. Schumacher probably gets a DNF tangle with the rear field in celebration of his 20th anniversery:-(
    But lets see how it unfolds, I’m poised to watch it.

  13. Atticus (@atticus-2) said on 28th August 2011, 10:12

    Does anybody know what’s the weather like in Spa at the moment?

    Okay, that’s silly, hardly anybody knows it ‘at the moment’, but still a radar would be nice.


    • Atticus (@atticus-2) said on 28th August 2011, 10:18

      I’m sorry, I haven’t searched the site extensively, but of course it still has everything including an article about Belgian GP weather.

      Most of the radars listed there predict showers at exactly 2pm-3pm, and rather overcast before and after. So we are in for another Spa classic I believe.

  14. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 28th August 2011, 11:32

    Spa is a long, long lap. This gives Vettel the perfect opportunity to build up that 1s lead he desperately needs, especially with that highly effective KERS they gave at the start. I would really like to see Vettel reassert his dominance but I would also like Hamilton to take the victory to help my predictions.

    I’m going to be watching Button like a hawk, if he’s anything like he was in Montreal we will have a fantastic drive on our hands.

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