Lewis Hamilton wins in Hungary, Kimi Raikkonen with a good drive to second place and Sebastian Vettel claims the final place on the podium after a good drive. McLaren yet again have made small improvements to their car in order to gain their way back to the front and score some much needed points. And people are still wishing that Sebastian Vettel and the Mercedes’ drivers still do not have the pace with their cars in qualifying…
Prior to the Grand Prix, the biggest talking point is who will replace Mark Webber at Red Bull for 2014? At the moment, it is looking like Kimi Raikkonen or Daniel Riccardo looking like the favourites. Red Bull have said that they are in no rush to make their decision but an announcement will be made before the end of the European season.
In terms of the circuit, The Belgium Grand Prix is a circuit that most drivers and teams look forward to visiting every year. The circuit offers a very interesting engineering point of view. The circuit offers very challenging high speed corners and you need to get the set up absolutely right to maintain good rhythm to get a good position on the grid. However, the track is easy on brakes and cooling but ride heights need to be set up carefully.
This Grand Prix will be one full of questions of who again can go longer on their tyres, who can save the most tyres for the race on Sunday, which car has got their car set up the most competitive and race ready? Have McLaren and Williams made a significant step forward with their upgrades in their fight to get back to the front?
Alongside these questions, questions if Red Bull, Lotus or Mercedes will be able this weekend to help their own fight in the championships, can McLaren small improvements on their cars help them this weekend before Hungary where more upgrades are planned to take place on the car, who will be competitive from the off, who has the quickest car and who will win this race on Sunday?
The race weekend begins now….
Strap yourselves in. The new season begins now…
Practices 1, 2 and 3
The main headline from the Practice sessions is Red Bull look to have the driver-car package to beat this weekend as weather conditions and tyre management test the drivers, teams and the cars throughout Friday and Saturday practice sessions.
Practice 1 saw Fernando Alonso top the timesheets with a time of 1.55.198 followed closely by Di Resta with a gap of 0.026 seconds, Sutil in third with a gap of 0.175 seconds, Perez in fourth with a gap of 0.320 seconds and Rosberg in fifth with a gap of 0.416 seconds. Esteban Guiterrez impressed the paddock by topping the timesheets in 8th place with a gap of 0.756 seconds behind Vettel. The biggest surprise of the session was Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen only managing to top the timesheets in 15th and 21st places.
Within Practice 1, Vettel and Bottas at La Source had a little incident which was down to the drivers having no grip. Also Guiterrez had an incident with Hamilton.
Practice 2 saw Sebastian Vettel top the timesheets with a time of 1.49.331 followed by Webber with a gap of 0.059 seconds, Grosjean in third with a gap of 0.818 seconds, Massa in fourth with a gap of 0.833 seconds behind and Vergne in fifth with a gap of 0.922 seconds behind Vettel. Paul Di Resta managed to achieve a top 10 finish with an 10th place for him with a gap of 1.280 seconds behind Vettel showing that Force India may have the pace to get some good championship points this weekend. Hamilton managed to get seventh place in the session. Hamilton and Button could only manage 12th and 15th places in the session. Perez managed a strong 8th place indicating that both maybe do not have the pace needed to have a strong weekend in order to win, but could be in the hunt for some much needed points for the team and to carry on working through their upgrade programme.
Within Practice 2, Giedo Van Der Garde hit the tyre barriers on the track after losing control of the back end of the car. Giedo was luckily okay but leaving his team with a job to repair the car ready for Practice 3. Also, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso experienced a tyre blow out on the right rear tyre. After the session, Pirelli announced that some debris on the track caused this failure. This again has raised the question of the tyres and their safety once again and I hope that this does not affect any other driver for the rest of the weekend even though the drivers have every right to be sceptical after Silverstone.
Practice 3 saw Sebastian Vettel tops the timesheet with a time of 1.48.327 followed by Alonso with a time of gap of 0.105 seconds behind, Webber in third with a gap of 0.206 seconds behind, Vergne in fourth with a gap of 0.449 seconds behind and Massa in a fifth with a gap of 0.461 seconds behind. Again, the surprise of the session is Guiterrez managing to grab 7th place showing that they have good pace within the Sauber car. Button looks to be having a good weekend so far with claiming 6th place which show that McLaren may have a fight on their hands to get into Q3 and to gain some championship points today.
Within Practice 3, Lewis Hamilton at the Bus Stop chicane had a spin on the track caused by lack of rear grip that could highlight that he has a problem with the balance of his Mercedes under braking that he and the team will need to fix before qualifying.
You would be stupid not to bet against the Mercedes drivers of Hamilton and Rosberg and also Vettel to gain pole position again this weekend. As all three drivers seem to be excelling in qualifying at the moment and the momentum is with them from claiming Pole Positions in four rounds of the championship so far. Alonso, Massa, Webber and Raikkonen also cannot be discounted for the pole also as they are consistently within the top five places at the moment.
Button and Perez even with upgrade programme and making good and solid progress with points finishes in previous races, seem to have made an improvement. It seems from looking at their performances that the pace is coming slowly and steadily and both drivers I will admit will struggle to even make Qualifying 2 or maybe even the points in the race and it will take a lot of skill and talent to do that in a car that is not capable, unless a bit of unexpected rain happens (which is very unlikely). However, I think that Force India, Toro Rosso and Sauber have shown that they could throw themselves into the mix and could qualify well here to be in the hunt for some decent points this weekend. We all look forward to the qualifying session of the Grand Prix with excitement…
It looks like Mercedes and the Red Bull’s are looking like the teams to beat heading into the session look set to challenge Ferrari, Mercedes or Lotus for pole position today due to current form that they have shown. But Force India, Toro Rosso or Sauber may spring a surprise and throw a spanner into the works based on their early pace and promise within the Practice sessions. And it is looking likely that it will be a challenge for the Williams drivers of Bottas and Maldonado to clear Q1 and also the McLaren drivers of Button and Perez to clear Q2 as both teams do not have the pace within their cars to challenge the top teams this weekend.
Let the battle for Pole Position begin…
Prior to qualifying, it has announced that ex Lotus Technical Director James Allison has signed for Ferrari. This will come as a huge blow to Lotus but a massive gain for Ferrari. We will all wait and see what impact Allison will have next season with Ferrari.
In Q1, there was a queue of drivers waiting to go out on Intermediates tyres but Alonso tops the timesheets with a time of 2.00.190, Hamilton was second with a gap of 0.178 seconds, Van Der Garde was third with a gap of 0.374 seconds, Rosberg was fourth with a gap of 0.909 seconds and Raikkonen was fifth with a gap of 0.961 seconds. Button, Massa, Webber, Hulkenberg and Vettel managed to get 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th places for their teams. At the end of Q1, we lose Maldonado, Vergne, Riccardo, Bottas, Guiterrez, and Pic.
In Q2, Raikkonen again tops the timesheets with a time of 1.48.296, Alonso is second with a gap of 0.013 seconds behind, Rosberg is third with a gap of 0.256 seconds behind, Webber is fourth with a gap of 0.345 seconds behind and Button is a credible fifth with a gap of 0.345 seconds behind. The big surprise of the session was Di Resta finished the session in 8th place. At the end of Q2, we lose Hulkenberg, Sutil, Perez, Van Der Garde, Bianchi and Chilton. The battle for pole position is on…
In Q3, Hamilton tops the timesheet and gets pole with a amazingly fast lap time of 2.01.012 , Vettel was second fastest with a gap of 0.188 seconds behind, Webber was third fastest with a gap of 0.313 seconds behind, Rosberg was fourth fastest with a gap of 1.239 seconds behind, Di Resta was fifth fastest with a gap of 1.320 seconds behind, Button was sixth fastest with a gap of 2.063 seconds behind, Grosjean was seventh fastest with a gap of 2.069 seconds behind, Raikkonen was a eighth fastest with a gap of 2.378 seconds behind, Alonso was ninth fastest and Massa was tenth fastest.
It would seem that Red Bull genuinely has the pace to challenge for the race win again this weekend which I am absolutely not thrilled about. However, both sets of drivers seem to have the cars underneath them to do this. You cannot discount Hamilton, Webber or Rosberg to be challenging also for the race win in order to keep their seasons off to a flying start. Alonso or Raikkonen could also be the dark horses to take the win away from Mercedes and Red Bull and Ferrari and Lotus to gain some points on his rivals for the championship.
Button, Sutil, Di Resta and Riccardo could also have a decent race tomorrow and pick up some much needed points for Force India and Toro Rosso before heading to the next race in Germany. Will it rain tomorrow? Maybe. Who will win the Grand Prix tomorrow? I really don’t know (hoping for a Button win!). Who will lead the championship after this race? Will it be Vettel, Alonso, Raikkonen, Alonso or Hamilton? I don’t know. The Grand Prix has been set up nicely, just like the last race. Let’s see what happens…
Prior to the race, a Greenpeace protest is happening around the circuit. Everyone is concerned that something could happen before, during or after the race but the Belgian police are monitoring this closely.
The F1 world is watching and waiting to see if the 2013 Belgian Grand Prix will live up to expectations and who will be the winner? Here we go…
All 22 drivers are lined up on their grid positions, five red lights and its GO!!!!!!!!
Hamilton gets off the line and has a good start on Vettel and leads into the first corner. Rosberg also gets a good start and is ahead of Webber. Webber has had a bad start and seems to have been bogged down. Jenson has had a cracking start and is on the outside at Turn 1. Raikkonen and Massa at Turn 1 have had contact. Also Hulkenberg and Massa also contact each other.
Button tries to pass Rosberg but cannot do so. Alonso then tries himself but cannot do so. Vettel is able easily to pass Hamilton and powers off into the lead. Di Resta has had a very poor start. Rosberg is trying with all his might to fend off Button. Alonso is able to pass Webber on track. Van Der Garde is still in fourteenth place and Chilton has also been the victim of a poor start.
Lap 2 and Vettel leads by 1.4 seconds to Hamilton. On track, Alonso tries to pass Button but cannot do so. Raikkonen is able to pass Grosjean for 9th place. The next lap sees Vettel leading by 2.8 seconds. Sutil tries to pass Massa on track for 12th place but cannot find a way past.
By Lap 4, Massa reports to his team that his KERS system is not working properly. On track, Alonso passes Button for 4th place. The next lap sees Button passed by Webber for 5th place leaving us all wondering why Jenson is going backwards, does he have a problem or no pace at this early stage of the race?
Lap 6 sees Vettel leading by 3.9 seconds. Alonso passes Rosberg for 3rd place in the race. Next lap sees a battle for 10th place on the track between Grosjean and Perez. Lap 8 sees Vettel extending his lead by 4.2 seconds. From the TV pictures, it looks like Raikkonen’s Lotus may look to have brake problems as the left front brakes seem to be ‘glowing’ and putting brake dust into the air. Perez is able to pass Grosjean for 10th place but did he push him off the track?
Lap 9 sees Vettel leading by 4.2 seconds. Hulkenberg is doing a good job keeping Raikkonen behind him to hang on for 8th place. Webber is starting to take a look at passing Rosberg for track position. Raikkonen at Les Combes is able to pass Hulkenberg for 8th place. The stewards are looking into the incident between Perez and Grosjean. At the end of the lap Massa and Hulkenberg pit for new tyres.
Lap 10 sees Vettel leading by 4.3 seconds. The battle for 4th place between Rosberg and Webber is building up. Raikkonen is also catching Di Resta at a quick rate. Charles Pic retires his Caterham due to a leak in his car. At the end of the lap, Di Resta and Vergne pit for new tyres.
By Lap 11, there is 60% chance of showers of rain that could take place in the race, will it rain? Perez receives a penalty from the stewards who believe that he did push Grosjean off the track when he passed him (will analyse this later). At the end of the lap, Hamilton pits with a stop time of 2.9 seconds.
Lap 12 and Vettel leads by 7 seconds to Alonso. The battle for 3rd between Rosberg and Webber. On track, Lewis passes Grosjean for position. At the end of the lap, Rosberg pits for fresh tyres and rejoins the race in 9th place. The next lap sees Grosjean passing Hamilton for track position. At the end of the lap, Alonso, Webber and Perez pit for new tyres.
Vettel on Lap 14 leads Button by 15.2 seconds. Lewis re-passes Grosjean again for track position and the battle for fourth with Alonso builds up. At the end of the lap, Vettel and Raikkonen pit. The next lap sees Jenson leading Vettel. Alonso is able to pass Hamilton on track. Hamilton tries to re pass Alonso but cannot do so. Vettel is then able to pass Button on track.
Lap 16 sees the battle for fifth between Grosjean and Rosberg hotting up. Rosberg is able a couple of laps later to pass Grosjean for position. Grosjean is now battling with Webber for sixth place. Massa is also able to pass Guiterrez on track for ninth place. The battle between Raikkonen and Di Resta is very close now and Raikkonen is trying his best to pass Paul as quickly as he can.
5 seconds is the lead Vettel has built to Button on Lap 17. Webber passes Grosjean for 6th place. Perez is now under pressure from Raikkonen. Alonso takes second place away from Button. At the end of the lap, Button pits with a stop time of 2.5 seconds and rejoins the race in 8th place.
The next lap sees 3 drivers (Sutil, Perez and Di Resta) abreast into Eau Rouge. Perez is able to pass Di Resta. Raikkonen passes Guiterrez for 9th place. The next lap sees Sutil able to pass Guiterrez but something may have fell off his Force India for him to do so.
Lap 20 sees Vettel leading by 7.7 seconds. Button passes Massa for 7th place. At this stage of the race, Grosjean still has not made a pit stop for new rubber, how long can he go on for? Can he make a one stopper work? Lap 21 sees again Rosberg and Webber battling for fourth place on the track. Lap 22 sees Button pass Grosjean for 6th place. At the end of the lap, Grosjean pits for new rubber with a time of 3.2 seconds and rejoins the race in 13th place.
Lap 23 sees Vettel extend his lead to 8.6 seconds. The battle for 7th between Massa and Raikkonen is ongoing. The next lap sees Vergne and Hulkenberg pit. By Lap 25 Raikkonen pits. Lap 26 sees Kimi retiring from the race due to problems with his brakes as mentioned earlier in the race. This is really sad news for all Kimi fans after 38 consecutive finishes and 27 races in the points since his comeback. At the end of the lap, Hamilton and Massa pit.
Lap 27 sees Vettel leading the race by 9.8 seconds. The battle for 11th place between Maldonado, Guiterrez and Sutil is ongoing. Guiterrez is able to pass Sutil. The next lap sees Di Resta retire from the race after contact with Maldonado. Sutil is able to pass Guiterrez for 11th place. At the end of the lap, Alonso, Guiterrez and Bottas pit.
Lap 29 sees Vettel leading Webber by 24 seconds. Alonso, Button and Hamilton are battling for 3rd place on the track. At the end of the lap, Webber pits for tyres and rejoins the race back in 6th place. By Lap 30, stewards are looking at the incident between Maldonado and Di Resta. At the end of the lap, Vettel pits and rejoins the race ahead of Alonso and takes back the lead of the race.
Lap 33 sees Vettel leading Alonso by 7.6 seconds. Button and Hamilton are battling for 3rd place on the track. Chilton gets a drive through penalty. The next lap sees Webber gaining on Rosberg yet again. At the end of the lap, Button pits with a time of 3.3 seconds and rejoins the race in 6th place.
Lap 36 sees Vettel leading the race by 10 seconds. The battle for fourth between Rosberg and Webber is still ongoing. The next lap sees Maldonado receiving a 10 second stop-go penalty for his part in the incident between himself and Di Resta. Lap 38 sees a battle between Grosjean and Massa taking place for 7th place.
Lap 40 sees Vettel leading by 13 seconds from Alonso. Massa is now finally able to pass Grosjean for 7th place. The next lap sees Perez battling with Riccardo for the final point in 10th place. Riccardo a few corners later passing Perez.
Lap 44 and Vettel is leading Alonso by 16.9 seconds. And Vettel crosses the finish line to equal Nigel Mansell’s tally of victories within Formula One after a dominant drive all weekend, Alonso is second 16.8 seconds behind Vettel, Hamilton takes third 27.7 seconds behind Vettel, Rosberg is fourth 29.8 seconds behind Vettel, Webber is fifth 33.8 seconds behind Vettel, Button takes a credible sixth place 40.7 seconds behind Vettel, Massa is seventh 53.9 seconds behind Vettel, Grosjean is eighth 55.8 seconds behind Vettel, Sutil is ninth 1.09.5 seconds behind Vettel and Riccardo gets the final point in tenth 1.13.4 seconds behind Vettel.
Sebastian Vettel leads the Driver’s championship with 197 points, Alonso is second with 151 points, Hamilton is third with 139 points, Raikkonen is fourth with 134 points, Webber is fifth with 115 points, Rosberg is sixth with 96 points, Massa is seventh with 67 points, Grosjean is eighth with 53, Button is ninth with 47 points and Di Resta is tenth with 36 points.
Red Bull lead the Constructor’s championship with 312 points, Mercedes is second with 235 points, Ferrari is third with 218 points, Lotus is fourth with 187 points, McLaren is fifth with 65 points, Force India in sixth with 61 points, Toro Rosso in seventh with 25 points, Sauber are eighth with 7 points and Williams are ninth with 1 point.
The Grand Prix tested the drivers throughout the race with the high level of tyre degradation, just like the many races we have had this season. However, I am glad that Pirelli made to the tyres has worked this weekend despite the failures this weekend in Practice and they have not compromised safety or the racing.
I was happy that Jenson and Sergio did have some pace to challenge today and did score some points for the team. Jenson had a cracking start and drivers such as Hamilton and Alonso at bay for a long period shows that he is a racer, no matter what is happening in the team at the moment.
This just shows how much they are making improvements at the moment. But it shows that McLaren are taking slow and steady progress to try and get to the front of the field once again. But I am happy that Jenson and Sergio managed to do his best this weekend for the team and they were rewarded with some good points. But they need to try and make the car competitive and understand the issues surrounding their problems or cut their losses, learn the lessons from this year’s car and focus on 2014.
The team this weekend I believe have made small steps into looking at solutions to help and cure this problem before the championships, race wins, podiums and even point finishes are no longer within their reach. As I said last race, I know McLaren will bounce back to the performance they and their fans crave and when that happens, it will make it all the more special. Bring on Italy where the team are bringing on more of their upgrade programme for the car!
Lotus this weekend may not have gained another victory this weekend but they have scored some good points from Romain this weekend that will help their fight in the Constructors Championship. I was impressed with Grosjean this weekend. He has been on the pace all weekend and drove to my mind a good race, despite the incident with Perez which in my case very harsh. However, Romain now needs to build on this result and remain consistent for the rest of the season.
I was a bit surprised that Lotus was not able to challenge for the win this weekend, but consistency and points scoring keeps you in the hunt for the title, as Alonso proved last season. Despite the problems of this weekend, the Lotus team have managed to get again score some points, even though they are now fourth in the Constructor’s Championship.
Sutil, Rosberg and Webber all again have had solid weekends. First all of them showing top 10 form in the Practice sessions and then battling throughout the field to gain some solid points. I think that all of them are driving solidly this year and are improving their form from last year.
The biggest surprises this weekend for me was the 10th place of Daniel Riccardo. Firstly, Riccardo has had an impressive weekend but he has impressed me a lot this weekend yet again. He did the best he could in qualifying and drove a cracking race to bring home some much needed point for the team. I believe that Daniel this year has learnt his lessons from his last and this season from the sport and is working harder than ever to impress with his performances in the sport this year and trying to get some much needed points for Toro Rosso. I really believe that Daniel when is good is a high quality driver that he is and I was happy to him get a point today after a great drive.
Alonso also drove solidly this weekend to claim second place. Even though he only managed to qualify in ninth place on Saturday, I believe that he did not the potential to challenge Vettel, Webber or both of the Mercedes drivers for the win even if he qualified further up the grid. Alonso and Ferrari need to keep working on their qualifying pace as they have a really good car this year (especially in the race) and could challenge Vettel if this problem was rectified.
Rosberg does deserve a mention. Rosberg was on form all weekend and seemed to be able to match the pace of the Red Bull team and its drivers this weekend. However, due to the bad start off the line on the first lap, he could had to battle for the points today, who knows what would have happened?
Hamilton does deserve a mention. Mercedes seem to have a car that is undoubtedly better than their car last year. Ever since leaving for McLaren, not only has he been able to out-qualify his team mate but he has been able to also consistently gain some good points for the Mercedes team. I believe that Lewis is carrying on the form he has shown from the latter half of the 2012 season and is driving solidly at the moment. Mercedes seem to have a car that is undoubtedly better than their car last year. And I think that Lewis drove solidly despite battling the front runners after his pit stops in front of him deserved to get third today despite of the troubles with tyre wear today prevalent in the background.
All that is left to say about this race is that Sebastian deserved to win today, much as it pains me to write it. Red Bull seem to be able to make sure that their qualifying performance is also consistent and reliable, while it seems they have improved their race pace today at a track they tend not to do well at. And yet again Vettel extends his and his team’s lead into the championships today and people are now starting to believe that unless Vettel and Red Bull are challenged, the title is theirs for the taking. His driving was brilliant and controlled throughout the race even behind Button, Vettel, Raikkonen and Grosjean.
Will Sebastian be able to win at Monza? A track that holds many memories for him? Can Sebastian, Webber, Raikkonen, Grosjean or Alonso be able to challenge? We shall see in two weeks time!
My next post will be my Italian Grand Prix Track Preview which will be on the blog before the race.