Sebastian Vettel gives his rivals the Belgian blues as midfield left to provide Spa spark
Sky Sports F1's Martin Brundle on the ramifications of Vettel's Spa win and where Red Bull's relentlessness leaves Fernando Alonso
By Martin Brundle. Last Updated: 27/08/13 5:34pm
It's a long, hard 19 race F1 season, not least for the remaining global schedule of events, but in under 84 minutes of high-speed action through the Belgian Ardennes Sebastian Vettel dampened the spirit of many great champions, and a good few F1 fans too I suspect.
He was especially happy at the end of the race despite it being a formality for his 31st victory; he clearly fully recognised the significance of it.
If you listen to my commentary or read my columns you'll know I'm a fan of the young German, 2013 Malaysian GP apart. He only wins because he's had the fastest car? Yeah, sure. Can't overtake? Check out his bold move on Lewis Hamilton on the first lap in Sunday's race, along with many others preceding that. With eight races remaining he has the best part of two race wins advantage in the championship and a car that appears to be ever faster. They've even addressed the Achilles heel of poor straightline speed.
And so, like many others in the paddock, I felt rather flat after his dominant performance, realising that subject to any bad luck or increasingly unlikely poor judgement, he's well on his way to a fourth consecutive title. I suspect that if he didn't turn up to the next two races he'd still lead the championship given that his key rivals share out the race-by-race chase to stop him.
We have become painfully accustomed to the Fernando Alonso mantra of 'we can still win the title' and I totally admire his 'never say die' approach to every season, every race, every corner. Like Lewis Hamilton, Alonso should already have at least one more world championship to his credit and the 2005/6 titles seem a long time ago now. He's not getting any younger at 32 with over 200 GP starts, and he must be taking stock of his current situation.
With the dramatic technical changes from 2014 onwards the crystal ball will be well polished for a number of drivers and managers right now. Could this be holding up the current driver market moves and announcements, which are not just about 2014? Will Alonso decide that as soon as possible he needs to be in the same team as Adrian Newey, however he can engineer that? Or will he be pacified that James Allison has strengthened the Ferrari design team?
What's really worrying is that Alonso's car has been so brilliantly reliable. Bear with me. Malaysia 2010 was his last mechanical retirement, 66 races ago. Ferrari is on a 59-race streak for scoring points. So they have the reliability but not the pace, and this is a major and continuing problem. You can fix car reliability and driver errors, but finding Red Bull pace is rather more difficult it seems.
Vettel and Red Bull simply thrashed them on a circuit apparently not suited to their car, which in itself seems strange given that he's won two of the last three Belgian GPs and finished second in the other. Mercedes seemed more confident pre-race than they did in Hungary about raw pace, especially if it rained, but basically nobody could remotely match the race winning pace. Vettel was coasting, relatively speaking and still won by 17 seconds; an eternity in an F1 car.
With the absence of rain we experienced a race which was less than thrilling. It was left to the midfield to liven up the action, mostly through contact and aggressive driving. I still feel that Sergio Perez was unlucky to get a drive-through although it was marginal. Yes, it was questionable how he squeezed Romain Grosjean while completing his pass (not defence), but as long as I've been a driver the tactic of 'squeezing' your rival after passing has been part and parcel of racing at top level. Not running him out of road, more simply persuading him not to try to repass and most likely forcing him to lift off or brake earlier.
The danger is that he runs into the back of you while his vision of the racing line and braking point is compromised. What happened between Grosjean and Jenson Button in Hungary was totally different, he didn't squeeze Jenson's space, he clean ran into him having not completed the pass.
I'm pretty convinced that Nico Hulkenberg's squeeze on Jean-Eric Vergne at exactly the same place in Spa was illegal but JEV responded not by crying over the radio but by manhandling the Toro Rosso off the kerb and around the outside, and then returning the compliment by running Hulkenberg out of road and completing the pass. Well worth buying a ticket for or switching on the TV on a sunny Sunday afternoon. The above adventure was never mentioned with regard to the Stewards, but let's not get too PC about driving standards, although they must be consistently tough on drivers ignoring the confines of the race track.
Pastor Maldonado was naughty heading directly for the pits without a basic 'mirror- signal - manoeuvre' after contact with Adrian Sutil and therefore wiping out Paul Di Resta, but four cars in that final chicane is a touch busy to be fair.
Let's hope for the traditional surge in Ferrari performance in Monza to keep this championship alive.