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GP Week : Issue 188
After the Hungarian Grand Prix, we entered the summer shutdown with the slim prospect of a championship battle that would last well into the Asian leg of the season. But when sebastian Vettel trounced the opposition at the Belgian Grand Prix, the Red Bull driver effectively ended the fight before the pack had completed a single lap of the spa-Francorchamps Circuit. All that stood between Vettel and a lights-to- flag victory was pole sitter Lewis Hamilton. The defending world champion made short work of the Mercedes driver, taking advantage of the leader’s tow into Eau Rouge and slipping past Hamilton with ease before building a 1.4s lead by the end of the first lap. The gap at the front kept building and building, and when Hamilton pitted at the end of lap 11 Vettel was seven seconds ahead of Fernando Alonso, who inherited second place. By the time the first round of stops had been completed it was clear that the race belonged to Vettel. Had the promised rain fallen during the race, the Red Bull racer might have found himself with a fight on his hands. Over the course of 44 dry laps, however, there was nothing to ruffle Vettel’s newly bleached hair. A disappointing qualifying session for Ferrari faded to distant memory as the lights went out to mark the start of the race, with Alonso rocketing up to fifth place by the end of the first lap. Five laps later, the Spanish racer dove past Nico Rosberg for P3. The double world champion showed once again what he is capable of when he has the bit between his teeth, making short work of Mark Webber at Eau Rouge and DRSing his way past Jenson Button in the early laps. For the rest of the afternoon, Alonso’s only moment outside of the top three came after the Asturian’s first pit stop, when he returned to the track in P4, behind Hamilton. But the Ferrari driver made short work of getting past his old teammate, and spent the rest of the race in second place, too far behind Vettel to mount a realistic charge for victory, yet comfortably ahead of Hamilton’s Mercedes. It was an excellent result from a poor grid position. Also in the race but not presenting much in the way of a threat were Nico Rosberg and Webber, both of whom spent much of the afternoon lapping in fourth and fifth place respectively, battling each other without troubling the podium. For the bulk of the afternoon, there was little – if any – change at the top end of the points, with the top six drivers changing position as they pitted, before returning to the places held previously. The real battles took place lower down the order, with three- and four-way fights for positions well out of the points. Shortly before the race reached its mid-point fans were treated to a series of impressive battles split across laps 17 and 18, with the Force India driver pairing taking on each other and Sergio Perez, the three cars fighting side by side. Adrian Sutil then pulled off a ballsy manoeuvre on Esteban Gutierrez; the Sauber driver then found himself being overtaken by Kimi Raikkonen before diving into the pits. But the big four-way battle of the Belgian Grand Prix came about on lap 27, when Pastor Maldonado, Sutil, Paul di Resta, and Gutierrez were fighting for eleventh place. Four men entered the chicane, three cars left it, and Maldonado’s disappointing afternoon – the Williams driver didn’t complete a single lap in a points-paying position – was capped off with a stop-go penalty for causing a collision. No rain, no gain ... 27 GPWEEK.com // 27 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> BELGIUM