“He drove past me like I wasn’t even there on the straights,” said a dejected Lewis Hamilton after his second-place finish at Spa-Francorchamps over the weekend, which in all fairness highlighted Mercedes’ sheer weakness on a fast track. To say the Sunday’s victory for Sebastian Vettel was the most persuasive one would be an utter understatement; simply because he crossed the chequered flag 11 seconds clear of his championship rival.
The statement of intent from Sebastian Vettel accentuated within 25 seconds when his ‘Red Danger’ cruised past Hamilton’s armour at Kemmel Straight. For a second, the newly branded Force India looked like an unlikely winner, going inside the Les Combes chicane, but an engine supremacy for Ferrari was simply too hot to bear.
And with that, Vettel was nowhere to be seen.
“They’ve had the upper hand on us for some time,” Hamilton rightly said after the race.
Ferrari’s extraction from their power unit has rightly gained a lot of traction of late. And what has raised further queries is the time frame under which they have gained the momentum and that too under the same set of regulations. Between the Azerbaijan and Monaco Grand Prix this year, the FIA did launch an enquiry but as it turns out, Ferrari were/are indeed operating under the legal agreement.
Lewis Hamilton did win the two races prior to the summer break (Germany and Hungary), but it was all down to Vettel’s insufficiency of handling his car on a wet track. Sebastian Vettel was cruising to a comfortable win in Germany at Hockenheim, but a late rain pour led to him crashing into the barriers, allowing Lewis Hamilton to conquer the German’s home track; something which Sebastian Vettel did at Silverstone.
The Hungarian Grand Prix went on a similar track where rain favoured Hamilton during the qualifying. The Brit set the pole and Vettel was only fifth. By the end, Hamilton had opened a comfortable 17-second lead, while Vettel finished second. Fresh from a blazing summer vacation, Lewis Hamilton’s ability over a wet track was again made evident when he got some 0.7secs clear off Sebastian Vettel in qualifying.
On Sunday though, a clear sky and a clear track favoured Vettel all ends up. For Hamilton, “a few tricks” might have helped “The Prancing Horse” en route to their glory, but he failed to realise what lies ahead (intentionally/or maybe not). Formula 1 will travel to Italy – the home of Scuderia Ferrari – this weekend and we can rightly expect a similar story in Monza.
A home of passionate Formula 1 fans, the faithful haven’t seen their beloved Ferrari crossing the chequered flag at Autodromo Nazionale Monza first since Fernando Alonso did it in 2010. For the past four years, Mercedes have been spoiling the jamboree, but this could well be the time Ferrari can end the Silver Arrows’ sovereignty.
It is evident that Mercedes are running more downforce on the car, which gives them a greater advantage over Ferrari over the corner. But the downside lies in the fact that this downforce slows the car over the straights, and Monza (which has least turns; 11) would then be the Ferrari’s stronghold.
Hamilton still leads Vettel by 17 points in the drivers’ championship and it now remains to be seen whether Mercedes can track Ferrari’s upgrades over the remaining races of the season.