Sunday, 25 August 2013

Belgium: post-race analysis

From a betting perspective the race was red. However, it did provide (being entirely dry) a very nice illustration of how the cars fare on a circuit with high speed corners on race pace. I’ll go into this more below, but the podium spots of Vettel, Alonso and Hamilton perfectly reflect how good the driver-car combinations are on a circuit dominated by high speed corners.

The start was a dream for Vettel and nightmare for Hamilton. Before the lap ended (but not right off the line) Vettel passed Hamilton and then zoomed off into the sunset. I think the manner of Vettel’s victories (predominantly driving off in first rather than fighting through the field) may be one reason why he’s not held in as high regard as other top drivers by some.

Webber forgot to take the handbrake off and went backwards, and Alonso got a very good start (as is quite common). Di Resta had a bit of a shocker too.

Fairly early on Alonso passed Hamilton on-track, and from there on the three top spots seemed pretty much nailed on. Whilst that made the race less exciting than it could’ve been it also gave us a very helpful guide as to which cars and drivers flourish on a circuit of high speed corners (the Mercedes, although slower than the Red Bull overall, was about a second faster in the second sector).

Raikkonen had brake dust clouds coming off from the front from the start, and eventually he had to retire the car, bringing to an end a run of 38 consecutive finishes and a record number of consecutive points finishes. A shame, but he was running a little lower than might have been expected so at least he didn’t lose as many points as he might have.

Di Resta ended up retiring after the single most interesting incident when he, his team mate and Maldonado (and another driver whose identity I forget) went round the final chicane. The Scot was entirely innocent, and got whacked by someone else to such an extent it wrecked his car.

Perez had run fairly well, but his driving style (in the eyes of the stewards) crossed the line from robustness to being unfair, and he got a drive-through which meant he ended up 11th.

Rosberg finished 4th, directly behind his team mate, but seemed to have a fairly unexciting race. Webber was 5th after his ropey start and Button should be pleased with 6th, considering the McLaren is not great this year. Massa was next, then Grosjean, Sutil and Ricciardo.

No rain at all and no safety car either. The race was a bit less exciting than I’d imagined it would be, but should prove useful as it gave us a perfect picture of race pace on a track of fast corners.

There are just 8 more races left this season. On tracks that have low speed corners I expect Mercedes to do well, and on fast corner tracks I imagine Red Bull/Ferrari will prove quicker.

Sadly, Vettel’s win, as well as meaning my tip was wrong, meant that his advantage over everyone else increased again. Here are the standings:

Vettel 197
Alonso 151
Hamilton 139
Raikkonen 134

Raikkonen’s DNF also means my bet against Alonso finishing in the top 3 is looking suspect. However, many of the circuits to come have slower corners (mostly) so we’ll see how the Prancing Horse gallops around those.

Red Bull 312
Mercedes 235
Ferrari 218
Lotus 187

Hard to see anyone but Red Bull getting this, although the next three spots are up for grabs.

Italy and Singapore are up next, each separated by a fortnight, and then we get three pairs of back-to-back races separated by just a week (each pair separated by a fortnight, of course).

Alonso’s closest to Vettel again, but 46 points behind. The gap can be closed (a similar situation was reversed in 2012) but it requires Alonso to start winning races again.

So, a slightly disappointing race. It had its moments, but (excepting the first lap) they weren’t at the sharp end, and the title race is in danger of being ein Procession once again.

Morris Dancer


  1. "it gave us a perfect picture of race pace on a track of fast corners..."

    I'd be a bit careful about running with that assumption.
    It seemed fairly clear to me that Mercedes has the car set up for similar conditions to those on Saturday, and a dry race gave them no chance at all.

    Getting the setup right is comparatively difficult at Spa, and getting it wrong costs a lot of performance; I think Mercedes gambled and got it wrong.

  2. That's a good point. I recall Brawn saying they went for a compromise setup, but I don't know how the Ferrari/Red Bull were set up.

    Also worth mentioning that Webber was unable to close the gap to and pass Rosberg.