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Hamilton takes Spa win to edge closer to Vettel


In the current climate it appears almost fashionable to dismiss, if not demolish, history.

Therefore, we were somewhat confused by Martin Brundle's comments yesterday when he effectively dismissed the lap times achieved in 1970 by Pedro Rodrigues and Chris Amon, because they were on a longer circuit.

Ignoring the obvious, the fact is that that longer circuit - 14.1 kms compared to today's 7.004 version, enjoyed a gruesome reputation and along with Monza had claimed many lives.

That old circuit included the notorious Masta Kink, and rather than several layers of barriers, an off-road excursion might see a driver encounter a tree, a wall, a building or even a ravine.

Furthermore, having had the pleasure of driving the 1970 BRM a couple of years ago, would driver-turned-commentator Brundle prefer to drive either version of the track in a car built at a time when F1 aerodynamics was in its infancy and tyres came in but one compound, or the state-of-the-art version that allowed Lewis Hamilton to do his magic yesterday.

Without in any way diminishing Hamilton's Q3 lap, Pedro Rodriguez and his contemporaries will have gone through hell in 1970 to achieve similar speeds.

With that off our chests, let's get back to 2017.

It comes as no surprise, as we head into the second half of the season that there are now rumblings of team orders at Mercedes.

With the title fight nicely balanced on 14 points, and both Ferrari drivers secure with new contracts, it looks as though, despite all the protestations, Toto will have to climb off the fence and pick a winner.

Despite that superb Q3 lap, Mercedes is aware that Ferrari also has pace here, both in terms of one lap and long runs.

A good start by both Ferraris could effectively end Hamilton's hopes at the first corner.

Consequently it is likely that Bottas will be called on to aid his teammate, the carrot of a new contract no doubt already being dangled before him.

Over the years we have seen numerous incidents at the start of this event, La Source, much like Ste Devote at Monaco, one of those corners that has earned a certain reputation over the years.

And it is not just the Mercs and Ferraris battling for position one has to worry about, there are those over-enthusiastic chancers further back, looking for instant glory, that can cause problems. Think Grosjean.

With the threat of rain unlikely, this will be about good starts, strategy and reliability, those long busts of power and the Ardennes undulations taking their toll year after year.

While there is much talk of overtaking, sadly DRS has made a mockery of this, drivers able to pass and re-pass one another with ease, especially on the approach to Les Combes.

This being his 200th Grand Prix, Hamilton will be keen to celebrate it in style, but likewise Vettel in terms of his new contract... or maybe even Raikkonen. And on a day we celebrate what would have been Bruce McLaren's 80th birthday, could Alonso or Vandoorne do something special.

At the start of the weekend, Christian Horner admitted that his team's best hopes is if were to rain all day today, but with that looking unlikely Ricciardo and Verstappen will just have to plod on and hope for a chink in the Mercedes and Ferrari armour.

Then again, thinking back to Barcelona, with so many Dutch fans here to cheer him on, Max will be happy simply to get through the first lap intact.

The grid, certainly the last few rows, bear little resemblance to the order the drivers finished qualifying, this weekend seeing more penalties than your average England-Germany match.

Indeed, just a couple of hours before the race Palmer is given a 5-place grid penalty after his team changed his gearbox, the latest in a long line of blows for the hapless Briton.

That though is nothing compared to the 65 place drop handed to home boy Vandoorne.

Here, more than ever, the midfield battle should be fun, and while Force India is clearly best of the rest, Williams is under increasing pressure from Toro Rosso, Haas and an improving Renault.

Pirelli believes the fastest strategy is a one-stopper, an opening stint of 14 laps on ultrasofts and the remaining 30 laps on softs. That said, a 17-lap stint on supersofts followed by a run on softs is only slightly slower. Then again, a third, and slightly slower, option is a two stopper, with an opening 10-lap stint on ultrasofts followed by two 17-lap stints on ultrasofts and supersofts.

Having begun by recalling the exploits of Messrs Rodriguez and Amon back in 1970, F1 served up another piece of history before today's main event when Mick Schumacher took to the track in his father's Benetton, 25 years after that famous win in 1992.

How tragic that the great man himself cannot be here to join in the celebrations.

That said, his son is a credit to him.

The pitlane opens and one by one the drivers head out.

Talking of legends from the 1970s, sporting a natty pair of yellow slacks on the grid is Jacky Ickx.

Ahead of the warm-up lap, the air temperature is 23 degrees C, while the track temperature is 33 degrees. According to Race Control there is a 10% chance of rain.

All are starting on the ultrasoft, bar Stroll, Massa, Ericsson, Kvyat and Vandoorne who start on supers and Wehrlein starts on softs.

They head off on the warm-up lap, all getting away cleanly.

They're away. A good start from Vettel but an even better one from Hamilton. The Briton holds the inside line in La Source, forcing the Ferrari duo wide. Bottas holds off Raikkonen, while further back Magnussen attacks Ocon as drivers attempt to take the first corner four abreast.

Heading down the hill to Eau Rouge, Perez, who has already been right in the midst of it all, gets up close and very, very personal with his teammate, forcing Ocon into the wall. Somehow, however, the Frenchman still manages to get ahead of the Mexican.

Apart from that, all get away cleanly, though Alonso misses the apex at Raidillon which could cause problems.

At the end of lap 1, it's: Hamilton, Vettel, Bottas, Raikkonen, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Alonso, Ocon and Magnussen.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Spa, here.


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1. Posted by mickl, 27/08/2017 22:22

"Can't believe Perez didn't get a penalty for not leaving Ocon any space."

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