F1 is back and perfectly poised for a zinger of a second half to the season. This week’s battle was on the revered tarmac of the magnificent Spa circuit in the Belgian Ardennes.
We saw some terrific Spa Wars – Hamilton versus Vettel up front, dicing battles in the midfield and, in a classic case of too much ‘Force be with you’, a full-on dodgem fight between Ocon and Perez. But who is Badger’s choice for the canine champ of Francorchamps? Come and collect your Top Dog treat…
When Lewis is on his A-game, it is truly something to behold. And when championship leader Sebastian Vettel is on top form too, it makes our hearts beat that bit faster. We’ve rarely seen the two championship protagonists in close quarters this season and things were beautifully set up for a ding-dong battle after Saturday qualifying.
Championship leader Seb played a blinder to take second on the grid but he was always going to be up against it on a power circuit like Spa. But even by his superlative standards, Lewis’s pole position performance was sublime. He now equals Michael Schumacher for top spot starts and seemed genuinely emotional at finally drawing level with Schumi’s longstanding record of 68 poles.
Keep the horses back
No points for qualifying though. Hamilton was no doubt hoping for an easy day of it by using his superior Mercedes horsepower to chip away at Seb’s 14-point lead. But Vettel had other ideas. Lewis had a mirror full of red from the off, with Vettel using the famous Spa slipstream to hound the Mercedes from Eau Rouge, down the long drag of the Kemmel straight all the way to Les Coombs. Sebastian made a great charge, but Hamilton used all of his defensive wiles to keep the prancing horse behind.
Job done? You might have thought so, but a Lap 30 Safety Car made this little Badger sit up in their sett! Our top two changed tyres, but chose different compounds. Nice one! Everyone bunched up behind the safety car, all advantage neutralised. With the race effectively reset, Hamilton had to nail the restart or risk being mugged by the Ferrari. Vettel looked like he fancied his chances this time around. With barely a fag paper between them through Eau Rouge, Vettel pulled alongside Hamilton down the straight (using the Kemmel tow, if you will!) But with the pedal to the metal and some nifty defensive positioning, Lewis shut the door and kept his rival in his wake all the way to the flag.
Hamilton made no mistakes all weekend. None. It was an awesome display of high speed, metronomic precision in both qualifying and race trim. He didn’t have it all his own way, which must make this particular victory even sweeter. And the gap to Vettel is back down to 7 points.
Not a bad effort for your 200th Grand Prix. Well done, Mr H. Top Dog once again.
Up next, it’s Monza time. Can Ferrari give the tifosi something to smile about and snaffle the Top Dog prize? Join Badger GP for all the thrills and spills of the Italian Grand Prix. Only one week to wait!