Detailed review of the weekend:
Practice Sessions, FP1:
The first session after the summer break, well started on a wet note. Rain left the teams with little to do during the 90 minutes session. The conditions didn’t improve much and so teams did little running. Alonso ended the session at P1 which saw Sahara Force India duo of di Resta & Sutil at P2 & P3. F it were a normal dry session, it would have been a superb result but with it being a damp session, one had little to say. Still it is always good to be near the top in timing sheets.
The real action begun in the second session under full dry condition as teams went into data collection mode in order to race well on Sunday with the right strategy. Even the fuel loads were different, the plans were different but still this session was to give us the rough idea as to where most of the teams stood. Vettel took the lead with Webber & Grosjean behind, clearly Red Bull still the team up there. SFI had a good outing as di Resta ended P10 with Sutil just behind at P11, both closely matched as they fight with McLaren for P5 in CC.
The conditions was dry but cloudy during the final session as team prepared for the qualifying session. Vettel continued to lead the pack, Alonso jumped in with a P2 while Webber ended P3. SFI duo had a slow session with Sutil ending P13 and di Resta P15. It seemed that their set up was more suitable for a wet running session which was predicted for qualifying. No official word on it though, only my speculation.
Clearly, Vettel had that edge for qualifying and for pole position. Ferrari, Lotus could have challenged him along with the Mercedes duo. Hamilton seems to be struggling during practice sessions but picks up during qualifying. As for SFI, I was expecting both to be in Q3 but it was marginal there. Even if one were to miss out, it would have been by few thousand/hundred of a second.
Rain played a perfect role in the session to disrupt everyone’s proceedings though the new teams didn’t mind it at all. It was all about setting the time at last as the track was drying all the time. Alonso ended P1 with Hamilton at P2 & surprise on slick tyres van Garde at P3 and through to Q2. Both SFI managed in safely in the end which saw the likes of Esteban, the Williams & STR duos out in Q1 while the Marussia duo & van Garde made it to Q2. The rain & no rain sure did play the 50-50 role in there, fortunate for some while unfortunate for others.
With track drying out, the traditional tyre choices was in with hard & mediums. It didn’t settle anyone still though because times were tumbling down after every run by the drivers. Kimi took the lead with Alonso & Rosberg behind, both the session gave us unusual names up there. It was the end of Sutil as he could only manage P12 as Button & Massa improved towards the end. However, di Resta managed a decent lap and thus into Q3.
One of the best qualifying session this season surely. Apart from di Resta, everyone went on slick tyres but rain just started then and thus they had to come back to change the tyres. While on the other hand, di Resta made the most of the opportunity going out on intermediates tyres and setting the top time. The weather changed quickly and it stopped raining with just 2 minutes to go and that ended di Resta’s chance of starting from pole for the first time. Rosberg initially pushed di Resta down but then Webber went fast after which Vettel and finally it was Hamilton took the pole position for the fourth consecutive time this season. Alonso & Kimi got caught in the rain and were way below in the top 10. In the end di Resta ended at P5, what could have been a pole, a dream pole.
Well, qualifying was looking like to be a straightforward pole but Spa had other ideas to offer. Vettel almost got it but as I said, Hamilton was not to be discounted and here he was with yet another pole. It was a heartbreak in the end for SFI & di Resta, a certain pole at that moment went away quickly but P5 still a respectable position to start. Sutil just outside top 10 was not a bad place to start from as well.
All the talk before the race was about rain, if it will or not. Spa has a history of SC periods, will there be another one this race. And then there was the strategy calls to be made as well, 1 stop gamble or traditional 2 stops. But think all this was secondary in the minds of Hamilton as he had the biggest threat waiting at the start in the form of Vettel. And his fears came true as Vettel zoomed past Hamilton after Eau Rouge to take the lead after the start of the race. Webber lost places as well as Alonso moved right up to P5. Both SFI lost places as di Resta lost a lot to be down at P7 while Sutil dropped a place to P13 after the opening lap. And surprisingly van Garde was holding guard at P14 fighting off STR, Williams.
Once Vettel took the lead, there was no stopping him as he took a comfortable lead over Alonso & Hamilton. Alonso was clearly the man on charge from the start but he couldn’t close in on Vettel at any stage of the race. Behind them Button was holding his ground firmly as Massa, Grosjean were having battles of their own respectively. The biggest loser in all this was Kimi who had a poor start, looked better midway but had to retire due to brake issues ending a troubled run and a 27 race finishes streak.
The SFI duo were in a fight really for points as the battle was very close in the midfield. After first rounds of pit stops, Sutil was to P9 after a good move over Perez, di Resta & Esteban to move up the field while di Resta was just behind him in points battling hard for positions. After second round of pit stops, both Sutil & di Resta came out behind Maldonado & Esteban fighting for positions. Sutil made a move on Maldonado and got ahead as Maldonado touched the rear of Sutil’s car and soon Sutil got ahead of Estaben again with a great move on Eau Rogue. He was driving one handed when he overtook him, remarkable overtaking. After clipping his front wing, Maldonado decided to enter pits when he hit di Resta and completely destroyed his rear wing, thus ended Paul’s run in Spa.
Vettel was nowhere to be seen, took some 18 second lead over Alonso and got the dominant victory over his rivals. He was truly untouchable on the given day as Alonso ended P2 & Hamilton completing the podium at P3. Ricciardo took the last point after overtaking Perez towards the end. Sutil brought SFI back into points with a P9 finish, he drove a good race under tough circumstances and battling hard with the rivals. Sadly, di Resta suffered the DNF with no fault of his own but that’s racing sometimes.
The championship battle is still a bit open but Vettel clearly the strongest at the moment with a healthy lead over Alonso, Hamilton & Kimi. Over at CC, it seems that RBR will take it maybe easily with a good fight for the P2 position, a 3 way battle. With Button’s P6, McLaren has overtaken SFI and have got a 4 point lead now. It is going to be a tough fight for SFI to reclaim the position back but surely the tracks coming up should help. No surprises but both need a podium finish to somewhat seal their fate on the P5 position. Next up is Monza, the world of tifosi and another good track for SFI, see you there.
Thanks for reading,