Lewis Hamilton eyes the double-header to make up points
Formula One returns from the mid-season break this weekend and championship leader Sebastian Vettel is hopeful of increasing his standings advantage over Lewis Hamilton at the classic Belgian Grand Prix.
“We have the best car,” Ferrari driver Vettel said going into the race at Spa-Francorchamps. “Our car was always good there.”
Four-time champion Vettel entered the four-week break with victory in the last Hungarian Grand Prix to hold a lead of 202 points to 188 over pursuer Hamilton in Mercedes.
But Hamilton, and teammate Bottas who is third on 169 points, will eye the return double-header in Belgium and then Italy, seven days later, as a superb chance to make up ground.
Spa is the longest track on the calendar at just over seven kilometres and Mercedes are also expected to have an edge at Ferrari’s home Grand Prix in Monza.
“On paper, people will assume that Spa should suit our car because it is a circuit where aerodynamic efficiency is extremely important,” Mercedes motorsport chief Toto Wolff said.
“But assumptions are dangerous – we have seen too many times already this season that the form book can be rewritten from one weekend to the next.
“So we will be making no assumptions; we have to tick off the items on our work list and make sure we do the best job to maximise our potential points score.”
The last five races in Belgium have been won by five different drivers with Hamilton, Vettel and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo all tasting victory. However, it is Kimi Raikkonen in the other Ferrari who is the most successful active driver at the circuit with two wins for Ferrari and two for McLaren.
The veteran Finn renewed his Ferrari contract for 2018 this week and though only fifth in the drivers’ standings, has proved a good partner for Vettel so far this term.
Raikkonen is sandwiched between the Red Bull pair of Ricciardo and Max Verstappen.
Both Red Bull drivers are relishing the race with Verstappen calling it his “favourite track of the year,” and Ricciardo returning to the scene of a remarkable triumph three years ago, in which Mercedes pair Hamilton and Nico Rosberg crashed into each other.
“When I think of Spa I always think of my win there in 2014,” he said. “Of course it’s more enjoyable when you win in dramatic fashion but at the same time winning is winning and even though I had a comfortable lead that year I could still feel the pressure.”
The track in the Ardennes provides not only a scenic setting but often unpredictable weather and renowned corners such as Blanchimont and the iconic Eau Rouge up-hiller, which is now taken flat out in modern cars.
“It’s got a legendary reputation and it’s totally deserved,” McLaren driver Fernando Alonso said. “The feeling when you drive Eau Rouge is completely different to any other corner on the calendar.”
And Williams’ Felipe Massa added: “Spa is one of the best tracks in Formula One. I think it will be incredible to drive there with this new car, with more downforce.” – DPA