Vettel brushes Hamilton aside for Spa win

2013 Belgian Grand Prix review

The Belgian Grand Prix didn’t deliver on the anticipation which developed in the days leading up to it.

On Saturday the Spa climate ran true to form and vexed drivers with a series of showers which led to a thrilling hour of qualifying. The day before the paddock had been unnerved by punctures suffered by two of the championship contenders, and for a while it seemed a repeat of the Silverstone failures had reared its head.

In the end neither of these scenarios unfolded in a race which failed to live up to the majesty of the circuit which hosted it. The most remarkable event of the day turned out to be the surprising ease with which a group of environmental protesters were able to hijack the race for their own ends.

Vettel takes control at the start

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Spa-Francorchamps, 2013Lewis Hamilton started from his fourth consecutive pole position but knew he faced a severe challenge from the two Red Bull drivers behind him on the grid.

The two-kilometre sprint from La Source to Les Combes – which takes drivers through the impressive but somewhat neutered Eau Rouge – presents a superb opportunity for slipstreaming at the start. When the lights went out Sebastian Vettel latched on to Hamilton’s tail at the hairpin and was visibly more committed as they plunged into Eau Rouge for the first time.

As they crested Raidillon both drivers pressed their KERS buttons, having saved a blast for the Kemmel straight. But Vettel’s momentum carried him alongside the Mercedes so quickly Hamilton conceded, disengaging his KERS, saving it from the rest of the lap.

“It worked very well, what I was trying to, let?s say, plan at the exit of turn two,” said Vettel of his start tactics. Hamilton admitted: “there was no defending really. I could only move once, so I moved once and just had to watch him glide by.”

The battle for the lead ended there and then. By the end of the second lap Vettel’s lead was already close to three seconds, and race engineer Guillaume Rocquelin was advising him to start thinking about tyre life.

Alonso gets into contention

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Spa-Francorchamps, 2013As early as lap six Fernando Alonso appeared in third place behind Hamilton. The Ferrari driver had got off the line superbly, making light work of the Lotus pair and the wheelspinning Di Resta.

With DRS available in two zones instead of one this year Alonso was swiftly past Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg with a few flaps of his rear wing. He blasted past both on the Kemmel straight as if they were missing a gear.

Not for the first time this year Mark Webber had made a poor start: “The two practice starts before the race weren?t great,” he said, “so we were a bit worried about the clutch going to the start, which put us onto the back foot.”

“We tried our best, but lost a couple of rows off the line which is not good.” He fell from third to sixth, but on lap five he demoted Button for fifth place. Next up was Di Resta, who following a dreadful start from fifth had done an impressive job to recover seventh place.

Nico Hulkenberg was ninth but already concerned about his tyre wear. Both Lotus drivers made sluggish getaways and Kimi Raikkonen, ninth after passing his team mate, was beginning to struggle with his brakes.

Perez penalised for Grosjean move

On lap eight the other Lotus of Romain Grosjean came under attack from Sergio Perez. The McLaren driver was clean down the inside of him on the approach to Les Combes but Perez needlessly squeezed Grosjean, forcing him wide. Felipe Massa took advantage, demoting the Lotus a further place.

A furious Grosjean made his feelings plain on the radio and the stewards were quick to hand Perez a penalty. “I had the corner,” Perez protested, “I did nothing wrong”.

Team principal Martin Whitmarsh agreed, claiming his driver has unfairly been targeted by his peers in recent races. But sporting director Sam Michael had a more pragmatic view: “Obviously Checo had made the overtake, was past. He didn’t leave enough room for Grosjean so he got a penalty.”

“It’s quite a straightforward regulation. Grosjean did the same thing to Jenson at the last race and got penalised for it.”

Hamilton – Vettel’s closest pursuer – pitted as early as lap 11, while the Red Bull driver was able to stay out for another three tours. His pit stop briefly promoted Button into the lead, but Vettel passed the McLaren at the chicane on his out-lap.

Alonso emerged on Hamilton’s tail after his pit stop. He pounced at the hairpin and took the Mercedes, though by now Vettel was six-and-a-half seconds up the road and edging further away.

Most of the following drivers had also plumped for two-stop strategies. But Lotus opted for ‘Plan B’ for Grosjean, keeping him out until half-distance on his medium compound tyres before making a single stop. McLaren chose to do the same for Perez after his enforced extra visit to the pits for his penalty.

Raikkonen drops out, Di Resta taken out

Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus, Spa-Francorchamps, 2013Meanwhile Raikkonen was pressing Massa for seventh place. But on lap 25 the Lotus went straight on at the chicane, its brakes finally having given up. After 38 races without a retirement, the law of averages had caught up with Raikkonen.

“We?ve finished a lot of races and had some good reliability,” he said. “One day your luck has to run out and today was that day.”

There was more drama at the chicane on the next lap. Pastor Maldonado and Esteban Gutierrez were disputing 12th place with the two Force Indias following the pair of them. Gutierrez went down the inside of the Williams at the chicane and Adrian Sutil pounced to take advantage.

But Maldonado, who was trying to make for the pit entrance, first clipped Sutil than skidded into the other Force India, ripping Di Resta’s left-rear wheel off.

“It was my lap to pit so I was going to do the pit,” Maldonado explained. “I didn’t see Di Resta in the outside. We cross all together the line. I braked, tried to avoid the incident, but it was too late.” The stewards took a dim view, handing Maldonado a ten-second stop-go penalty.

Ironically Gutierrez also received a drive-through penalty for going off the track at Blanchimont to get the run on Maldonado that triggered the melee. “I totally respect the FIA’s decision to penalise me for overtaking Pastor, but I don?t agree with the penalty,” was his diplomatic view.

One-stoppers lose places

Webber made his last pit stop after the two Mercedes drivers but wasn’t able to jump ahead of either of them. The trio briefly fell behind Button, and by now McLaren were beginning to regret not having committed Button to a one-stop strategy.

They considered switching him back, but bowed to the inevitable on lap 34, making a second stop. That gave Button ten laps to try to chase down the cars in front, but he made little impact on their lead.

Grosjean’s single stop had got him back in front of Massa but the Ferrari driver demoted him with five laps to go. Similarly the one-stopping Perez lost the final point to Daniel Ricciardo with four laps remaining.

Hulkenberg reported his tyres were gone with several laps to go but was advised a late pit stop would achieve nothing. He followed Jean-Eric Vergne home with Gutierrez behind him and Valtteri Bottas next, the last car on the lead lap.

Maldonado’s penalty dropped him behind Giedo van der Garde, whose 16th place finish was two spots lower than he started after his Q1 heroics yesterday. Team mate Charles Pic retired early with an engine problem and the two Marussias brought up the rear, Max Chilton lapped twice after collecting a drive-through penalty for failing to observe blue flags.

Vettel surprised by “incredible pace”

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Spa-Francorchamps, 2013As in Canada – on another low-downforce track – no one had any response to Vettel. And like at Montreal it fell to Alonso to offer token resistance, the Ferrari finishing well over ten seconds behind, followed by Hamilton.

“We had incredible pace,” said Vettel after clinching his fifth win of the year. “We didn?t expect that.”

“We knew, probably, going in that, in the dry, we should be able to beat Mercedes on the track. But we knew other cars ?ǣ Lotus, Ferrari ?ǣ they looked very competitive in the dry. So in that regard we had massive pace and could control the race until the end.”

Ahead of Ferrari’s home race Alonso drew some cheer from his second place, even though he’d taken points of every driver bar the one he most needed to catch. “When they do everything better than us and they win the race, they deserve the win and we need to aim for maximum points,” he said.

“We came from two fifth places in Hockenheim [sic] and Hungary, with a little bit of a not good feeling and not good performance from the car and today I think we recovered some of the optimism that we lost.” But time is running out for Vettel’s rivals to convert optimism into hard results.

2013 Belgian Grand Prix

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Image ?? Red Bull/Getty, Ferrari/Ercole Colombo, Lotus/LAT

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98 comments on Vettel brushes Hamilton aside for Spa win

  1. Jay Menon (@jaymenon10) said on 26th August 2013, 0:54

    Well boys..there we go. Vettel has the championship all wrapped up…its pretty much over.

    Barring a miracle for Alonso or Hamilton, there is no chance, we shall watch for who gets second place!

    Vettel’s pace at Spa was almost damning for the rest. Like Martin Brundle said at the end of the race, Vettel could have pulled another 10 to 15 secs on the pack if he really wanted to…this is a car and driver combo that is unbeatable at present. The only way the title race will be “on” again is if Vettel retries from races, with Alonso or Hamilton winning both races.

  2. anon said on 26th August 2013, 2:15

    Story of the season. Ferrari gave Alonso a car capable of winning but he bottled qualifying…again.

    I know Alonso didn’t get an extra qualifying lap like the top 3 did, but he only managed to put his car on 4th on his final lap. With how good the Ferrari is off the line, starting 5th or 6th he would have been 2nd or 3rd after the first lap. When the pressure wasn’t on in Q2 he easily topped the time sheets.

    • Chris (@tophercheese21) said on 26th August 2013, 2:46

      but he bottled qualifying…again.

      To be fair, the conditions changed so quickly, there was nothing he could do.

      • anon said on 26th August 2013, 3:07

        Yes, and at the moment Alonso completed his final Q3 lap he only managed to set the 4th fastest provisional time. If I remember correctly there were three different teams in the top three spots at that moment. Simply wasn’t good enough given how strong the Ferrari was.

    • hamilton said on 26th August 2013, 5:30

      Obviously not. After Alonso got second the gap was 7sec behind Vettel and he closed the gap to 6sec by ealier pit. but Vettel could propagate the gap and on hard tyres, Redbull was much better than Ferrari. That’s why Vettel could beat Alonso by 17sec.

      If Alonso had got pole, result would be same. Vettel must have overtook Alonso.

      Ferrari has improved , compared with Lotus and Merc, but Redbull has been much stronger..

    • Eggry (@eggry) said on 26th August 2013, 6:14

      Even he was the pole, I don’t think he could have won against Vettel’s pace.

  3. Vettel and Hamilton has Equal Number of Podiums after this race (54).

  4. Hamilfan (@hamilfan) said on 26th August 2013, 3:58

    Well , A great result for vettel fans . I think Red Bull made sure that he had his top speed advantage he missed in Hungary . Lewis got Eau Rouge imperfect and it was over . Even if this almost drives one nail in the coffin for other contenders , it proves that Vettel completely deserves this race and if it happens , the championship as he is in fantastic form and rarely makes errors. Alonso was great and again I was made to feel sorry for his poor starting position only to realize that he had brought it on himself . Again another tinge of disappointment for Kimi . I was really enjoying his perfect overtakes when it happened . Looking forward to Monza hoping that Mercedes brings some good package and setup their car well . It maybe over already as far as WDC is concerned however , Mercedes can look at the WCC and if Rosberg gets as much luck as his speed , then they stand a chance I believe .

    Di resta , oh my my . He just got maldonaded :-P .

  5. fangio85 (@fangio85) said on 26th August 2013, 4:35

    Just a caption for that photo of vettel; “mirror mirror on the wall…” …or perhaps “bubble bubble toil and trouble” vettel dabbling in a little black magic perhaps?

  6. sumedh said on 26th August 2013, 7:09

    So, it looks like either Red Bull is really high on downforce AND has high top speed or Red Bull has thrown in the towel when it comes to the qualifying battle but focused more on the race. (And especially the start).
    This is the second time this year – Bahrain 2013 and Spa 2013 – where Vettel has done a mega first lap in spite of not having pole. Kind of like Alonso did in 2012 when he would regularly make up 2-4 places in the first lap of every race.

    • iFelix (@ifelix) said on 26th August 2013, 11:40

      I had the same feeling and honestly this a less risky approach; even if you get the pole there is no guarantee that one can lead the whole race or won’t get stuck in traffic. They should really try to be more race oriented, esp. That even so they can qualify on the front 3 rows anyway.

  7. Alexander (@alexanderfin) said on 26th August 2013, 8:06

    According to Autosport Maldonado blames Sutil for the accident. He said: “I was touched by Adrian – I was trying to recover my line and he crossed my line in a very aggressive way and touched my front wing,” Maldonado said.

    “My car jumped and I lost control, lost the steering wheel. The impact was quite hard.

    “Part of the wing went under the car and I lost traction at the front. It was nothing to do with di Resta – I was completely compromised by Sutil.

    “The incident was caused by Sutil and I got the penalty; that’s it. I didn’t have control of the car when I crashed. That’s why [the penalty] was unfair.”

    • Patrickl (@patrickl) said on 26th August 2013, 8:27

      In the post race interviews he said he was going for the pits. This new explanation lie makes no sense either. If anything the shunt with Sutil would have pushed him to the inside of the corner. You could clearly see him steer for the outside of the corner trying to dive back for the pits after he broke his front wing. Which makes sense I guess, but a proper F1 driver would have had the situational awareness that other cars were around him.

      He’s a danger on track and a lame liar to boot.

  8. Girts (@girts) said on 26th August 2013, 8:49

    Oh, if only the race had been as good as this review :( Vettel was never threatened after the pass on Hamilton, there were again too many predictable DRS passes and the result certainly didn’t make the title fight more exciting. This was a typical 2011-style race with Vettel in front and the other usual suspects fighting for the remaining glory.

  9. thatscienceguy said on 26th August 2013, 10:16

    Is anyone here going to apologise to Pirelli for the comments some of you made about the punctures in practice? Admit that you were wrong and it was debris that caused them

  10. dkpioe said on 26th August 2013, 12:51

    I was really sick of all this talk about Mercedes being a chance for the championship during the past 2-3 weeks because Hamilton won 1 race , Vettel put them all in their place this weekend, that was a champion drive, he is fast everywhere. If Mercedes want to win the championship with their superbly fast car, the drivers have to not only defeat vettel, but also drivers like raikonnen and Alonso who keep getting between them and vettel. they need to put In drives like vettel. one person in this forum wrote:
    “Sebastian Vettel now leads the championship by 46 points – the largest gap since the 2011 season”. he wont lose it from that far ahead, he is the best driver out their at the moment, webber is further away then ever from his teammate now.
    Vettel’s performances are being diminished by haters and jealousy of fans of other drivers, but at the moment we are witnessing a true racing star with huge competition, but he just keeps on winning.

  11. Michael (@freelittlebirds) said on 26th August 2013, 14:35

    I don’t get it! I simply don’t! How can Vettel’s car pass Lewis through the first few corners as if he has DRS enabled and then build a 1.5 second lap while Webber’s car eternally stalls everytime he finds himself close to Vettel at the grid?

    This makes no sense whatsoever. It just cannot be Webber that’s having trouble starting the stupid car.

    • Feuerdrache (@xenomorph91) said on 26th August 2013, 22:58

      The same people that said Ferrari was sabotaging Barrichello’s car in 2002 and other years, until people noticed it was often him that was so clumsly (Australia 2009, Turkey 2009, Beglium 2009 immediately spring to mind where he managed to fail his start).

      Additionally we can still remember Vettel often having problems at starts in 2010. It seems Vettel has found a way to get used to it and make the most of it whilst Webber just hasn’t.

      Sometimes it’s just the driver screwing it up, if it needs finer management. Especially since Webber has also had problems way before Vettel even came up to F1 (i.e. Malaysia 2004, Monaco 2005).

  12. foleyger (@foleyger) said on 26th August 2013, 21:35

    Anyone else at the race. I thought the bus shuttle system from Francorchamps to Verviers was very, very poor. A bus every hour leaving there and an odd extra one thrown in. It was the only negative on a great experience there on a general admission ticket. Wondering where I can post a few videos?

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