James Allen's Belgian GP verdict - Feature - F1 | ITV Sport
Sunday, 29 August 2010 18:31
A fantastic grand prix, a brilliant win for Lewis Hamilton and a great recovery by pole-sitter Mark Webber after dropping to seventh place at the start.
The Australian rode his luck and picked up places cannily. Getting second place off Robert Kubica when the Pole missed his marks in the pit box during a late stop for wet tyres was a real bonus.
Okay, Webber lost the championship lead to Hamilton, but there’s nothing in it between Hamilton and Webber with six races to go, while all of their rivals lost ground today, some badly.
Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button are all some way adrift now on points, and although it could all swing back again if those three fill the Monza podium while Hamilton and Webber retire, it is starting to narrow down as a title race.
And it is fair that Webber and Hamilton should be out front as they have done the best and most consistent job this season.
Kubica has also outperformed his car this year and did very well today.
This weekend promised an exciting race right from the first practice session.
It’s strange, I’ve been coming here to Spa for 20 years and have come to expect rain, but I cannot remember weather quite like what we had this weekend.
What was odd about it was how brief the showers were and then how intense at times too.
There has always been localised weather here at Spa, so it can be dry around most of the track but wet at the Bus Stop chicane, for example; but this weather seemed almost quixotic, changing its mind soon after it started to rain.
It was just such a mini-burst that played a part in Hamilton seizing the initiative at the start.
A brief rain shower on the pit straight on the formation lap did enough to hand the advantage to Hamilton, whose car seemed all weekend to have better grip on slick tyres on a damp track.
Webber bogged down, as we have seen Red Bulls do a few times this year, and Hamilton pounced. As Webber fought to recover, he dropped to seventh.
This set the tone for the race – but there were some amazing moments of drama to follow.
At the end of the first lap, many drivers were caught out by the wet track at the Bus Stop chicane and spun. All five of the leading cars went straight on at the chicane!
Behind them Rubens Barrichello spun and smashed into Alonso, not a great way to celebrate his 300th grand prix.
Alonso was able to pit for new tyres and gambled on intermediates. But the rain did not continue and five laps later he was back in again for slicks, now well down the order.
Vettel lost control of his car under braking for the Bus Stop and as he caught it, he swerved right into Button, damaging the McLaren’s radiator.
It was game over for Jenson, but Vettel was able to continue. The drive-through penalty he received for that sent his race into a downward spiral.
Michael Schumacher had a mixed day.
On the one hand he did a great job to finish seventh from 21st on the grid, but on the other he damaged his team-mate Nico Rosberg’s car when passing him and then later on got some payback from Rosberg, who put him on the grass as he retook the place.
It was great stuff, but that’s two races in a row now where drivers have shown no fear of passing Schumacher and being tough with him. That old aura really has well and truly disappeared.
Commendations to Felipe Massa, who finished fourth, and Adrian Sutil, who underlined his reputation as a fine wet-weather and mixed conditions driver with fifth.
The Force India car was competitive this weekend and in the race it proved difficult to overtake.
Hamilton had a heart-stopping moment near the end when he went off the track at Rivage.
He was being told by his team to stay out on track as the rain came down.
Knowing how short the rain showers had been over the weekend, they didn’t want to move to intermediates too soon.
But he lost control of the car and went into the gravel trap in a manner reminiscent of China 2007, which really cost him that year’s championship.
But this time he managed to drive out and maintain the lead to the flag.
Both that incident and the way Webber was able to climb back to second from seventh show the kind of mixture of luck and quality that wins championships.
The other three aren’t out of it yet, but either Hamilton or Webber would make a worthy and appropriate champion in my view.
If Vettel and Button fall any further behind their team-mates in Monza, the championship battle will narrow to a two-horse race.
Hamilton has been the best driver this year, outperforming his car, but Webber has the faster car for the run-in to the final race.