Following the absolutely thrilling Belgian Grand Prix, it’s time to look at how each team and driver got on – It’s ‘Hot Rod or Hot Dog’ – our performance analysis where pick our best driver from each team too.
First up, it’s the Top Dogs…
- Sebastian Vettel: Quali – 1st, Race – 1st
- Mark Webber: Quali – 3rd, Race 2nd
Is that 2011 now over and done with in terms of handing out the title? Probably so, Seb has a 92 point lead with only 175 to play for. Not that champ had it easy in the Ardennes forest or anything – the camber of his tyres made way for blisters, plus it was a race where the Red Bull was meant to be at a disadvantage in terms of top end speed – yet it was like it was just another test session for the young German. The team needs a slap on the back for getting him in as soon as the Safety Car was deployed too, meaning that their 3-stopper worked a dream and held off the only real threats of Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso. Vettel looked like he didn’t even break sweat all afternoon – it was impressive stuff.
Not that Mark didn’t have anything to brag about though. The move on Alonso round the outside, into Eau Rouge of all places, will be on highlight reels for the BBC and Sky coverage for next season, I’ll put heavy money on it. The boggy start however, won’t. It’s a shame that something else affected the Aussie from having a stress free afternoon as he was, on pure pace, a real challenger to Seb. Maybe next time out Mark, fingers crossed.
Badger’s Best: Sebastian Vettel
- Lewis Hamilton: Quali – 2nd, Race – DNF
- Jenson Button: Quali – 13th, Race – 3rd
It’s almost ying and yang at McLaren right now. On one hand you have a blisteringly quick driver who has the guts to overtake cars on whenever and wherever he wants, while on the other you have another that ends up with a wad of bad luck that keeps them away from the sharp end of the race. And it’s not as easy to guess who’s who at the moment either.
Jenson Button is the form man of the moment when it comes to dicing it on track – some of the moves on Sunday were pretty daring and straight out of Hamilton’s playbook – and you’d almost be tricked into thinking it was raining on track the speed he was travelling. Maybe all those years of trawling round in Honda’s finest is finally paying off? Nope, he’s just in the form of his life right now. The exclamation point was the lap times he put in while on the hard tyre, proving that it’s possible to mix strategies up finally in 2011. If only McLaren can get his Saturday’s right, Jenson would be a little bit closer in terms of points to Vettel.
Looking over the lamentation of Lewis, it was a rough weekend for the 2010 winner, even though he was genuinely on it in terms of pace. Sideswiped by Pastor Maldonado (who looked quite psychotic in all interviews afterwards), and then contact with Kobayashi (we’ll leave it at that for now) just meant that it was another race where a massive amount of points were lost. If Lewis had a foot in the door for the 2011 title, it’s now been firmly slammed shut, locked and the key thrown away. By himself.
Badger’s Best: Jenson Button
- Fernando Alonso: Quali – 8th, Race – 4th
- Felipe Massa: Quali – 4th, Race – 8th
Ferrari have spent the races since Silverstone looking like real contenders to Red Bull at each race weekend, but in Belgium the gap was mighty and just got wider as the laps ticked by. The rain didn’t help during practice, and the grid positions weren’t too bad, but you just felt that it was a little bit too much for the Prancing Horse.
When the lights went out, both Fernando and Felipe were up there, but the fact that both tried to make their rubber last a little bit longer that everyone else – and sacrifice a stop each in the process – meant that they weren’t able to keep the pace up. Fernando had a squeaky moment when being passed by Webber, and then had Button slice past him for third, all because of trying to run the harder, slower tyre for longer, which the Ferrari doesn’t like one little bit.
Felipe tried hard too, and looked like breaking the podium duck of 2011, but then we found out he was only running two stops. That would mean no champagne for the Brazilian really, and a puncture late on meant not a lot of points either.
Also, how come Ferrari are saying that they’re focusing on next year again? When does that ever get them ahead the season after anyway? Just saying.
Badger’s Best: Fernando Alonso
- Nico Rosberg: Quali – 5th, Race – 6th
- Michael Schumacher: Quali – 24th, Race – 5th
At last, a positive weekend for Mercedes. I can’t tell you how boring it is to write the same thing week after week about the German marque – “must try harder, better luck next time, etc” – but finally some interesting stuff happened for the boys from Brackley.
Nico Rosberg had no right to lead the race in the early laps, yet duly did, smoking brakes on the grid and all. And he even kept up with the leading pack throughout the early stages – it was all true pace as well, no smoke and mirrors thanks to Pirelli whatsoever – and defended well from the likes of Alonso, Hamilton and Massa. Of course, you need to use all the tricks in the book to keep up with the fastest cars, and having to save a bit of fuel was probably because of that, but all the German bigwigs can feel a little better while munching on their Bratwurst.
While one Merc was blisteringly quick then dropped back, it was the reversal for the grizzly Michael Schumacher. Starting dead last for the first time, it didn’t really matter, and thanks to a little argy-bargy the first time into La Source he’d snuck up to 14th, overtaking a whopping ten cars. Seeing as he was on the slower tyre, you’d thought he’d be holding most of the pack up, but by the time the Safety Car made his cameo, he was 7th. We’ll repeat; seventh. All he did from there was use the grippier, softer tyre to great effect to pass Sutil and then Rosberg. Pretty nifty stuff if you ask us.
We really think Michael is making his way back – he’s closer to Nico than last season and isn’t that far away in terms of pace now. We also doubt the mechanic who fit the errant wheel on Saturday got any anniversary cake either.
Badger’s Best: Michael Schumacher