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GP Week : Issue 98
inside into the chicane suddenly obliged Vettel to flick his car to the left and thus to crowd Jenson on the outside. Seb wasn't trying to pass the McLaren at this point; he was trying to smother it -- to force Jenson into an error. In that flick to the left, though -- on a bump -- all of Seb's miraculous career to date came crashing round about him. It was embarrassing and it was inept. And then he compounded the mistake by wheel-bashing a Force India a few laps later. His race ruined, Seb lost another huge dose of points to his Red Bull 'team-mate'. Was it all his fault? In the sense that he alone drives the car -- yes, for sure. In many ways, though, this type of mistake is a product of both Vettel's background -- the exclusive school of 'soft' knocks -- and the Red Bull system itself. Dr. Helmut Marko doesn't 'coach' his drivers; he tells them -- loudly -- what he expects from them. It is not a system that engenders self-criticism by the drivers. By contrast, Lewis Hamilton continues to improve from his already high level of operation. At Spa he made a great start. He pulled away quickly from the pack. He drove with margin. He picked up his pace by half a second when Robert Kubica, now up to second following the Button-Vettel incident, for a lap or two matched his speed. His voice calm and even, he asked for information from the pit wall -- updates on the weather, a run-down of the race order. When the rain came, and he was still on slicks, he ran wide at Rivage but tip-toed neatly through the gravel trap and back to safety; no problem. He beautifully controlled the re-starts. All this Lewis has done before, on other days, on other circuits. At Spa, though, you saw it all the more. Everything is exaggerated at Spa. Of course, much credit should also go to the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team. It is rapidly evolving as the most complete in the pit lane -- the most complete and the most harmonious in every department. Red Bull are very mid-90s Benetton; they have the loudest music at nights; everyone looks tense and on edge. Ferrari are chaotically Ferrari -- all waving arms and security guards. McLaren? McLaren are just a race team of the 21st century, going about their business. At Spa, the new FIA flexion tests seemed to bring things a little bit back their way. Add their super-efficient F-duct (a device that remains in compromise form on all other cars) and you have a car that was always going to be competitive at Spa. Throw in the brilliance of Lewis Hamilton, some skirmishes with the weather and the aforementioned dramas with the other major teams you have a dominant, emphatic win. Ferrari's poor performance was much less explicable than the Vettel story. They looked great on Friday, when Fernando was fastest in both sessions and also gloriously composed through Eau Rouge; but on Saturday morning, in P3, the tide began to turn. They were an ugly half-second away from the Red Bulls and the McLarens; and in the speed trap, aside from tow-assisted readings, the Ferraris seemed to be about 5km/h down. Felipe Massa drove a clean, boring race Dr. Helmut Marko doesn't 'coach' his loudly -- what he expects from them . No computer game! Seb Vettel's day was full of real- life consequences, including (left) this shredded rear tyre. Ferrari (right) -- great on Friday, less so on Sunday .... 26