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Hamilton untouchable as he delivers a Spa masterclass

NEWS STORY
30/08/2020

Looking around the headlines this morning, as we head into the Belgian Grand Prix for which his team has (once again) locked out the front row, Toto Wolff appears to be "wary" of everyone bar the Duracell bunny.

Honestly, there's playing the underdog card at every turn and then there's taking the absolute p***, and Toto appears to be doing the latter.

Be it the weather, Red Bull, Ricciardo, tyres, the start, the finish, the middle, Racing Point, Susie's cooking or Lewis getting over-emotional, Toto has a whole litany of things that could (but won't) go wrong.

On the other hand, at Ferrari, poor old Mattia Binotto is overseeing a team where nothing is going right.

Sadly, the weather Gods are unlikely to play a part, and while there could be a little rain at the very end of the race - though unlikely at this stage - for the most part conditions will be ideal for Mercedes.

Of course, it could all go pear-shaped at La Source, as it has done before, but this is something the midfield (cue Mattia) has to worry about rather than the Black Arrows. In all honesty, based on the evidence of the various sessions, nobody is starting out of position, so the 'usual suspects' are unlikely to worry the front couple of rows - not that this will cut any ice with Toto.

All that said, Toto might have something to genuinely fear in terms of Max Verstappen, for the Dutchman has looked strong all weekend. Though the RB16 doesn't have the outright grunt of the W11, certainly in qualifying, on the longer runs so far this weekend it has kept the German team honest.

Furthermore, cat-lover, Alex Albon is looking a lot stronger this weekend. Hopefully a good result will give the youngster a much-needed confidence boost.

If Bottas is to take his second win of the year, and, more importantly close the gap to his teammate, he needs the very best of starts and either nails Lewis at La Source or passes him on the run up to Les Combes. If he fails to do this, it's basically game over for the Finn.

Despite a few technical glitches the Renaults have looked hot, a far cry from the misery that was Barcelona. McLaren-bound Daniel Ricciardo continues to impress, continually getting the better of his teammate - who is no pushover - and showing impressive speed throughout.

As we ponder Toto's negativity, one wonders how he would cope as boss at McLaren or Racing Point, two teams that continually frustrate with their performance swings. When you expect them to do well they disappoint and just as you begin to write them off they hit back.

That said, a strong result for Renault today would certainly add some much needed extra spice to that battle for 'best of the rest' behind Mercedes and Red Bull.

Behind this little lot, in a sort of F1 'no man's land', if you will, we have AlphaTauri, and behind them we have Ferrari.

At Alpha, for the first time this season Daniil Kvyat has out-qualified his teammate, the Russian, fearing he could be dumped for a third (?) time clearly having heard Helmut Marko's recent comments not to mention the new that F2 star Yuki Tsunoda is to test for the team in Abu Dhabi.

Despite the family connections, the Faenza outfit hasn't impressed thus far, and like a couple of other teams has shown erratic consistency.

And then there's Ferrari.

If Toto has a whole list of things to fear, Mattia and the boys have a whole load of things to blame for the team's extraordinary lack of pace.

Stopping short of the Duracell bunny - though give it time - we are told the tyres, aero, the chassis, rules, Seb's cooking, the weather and COVID are to blame, whilst avoiding mention of the elephant in the garage, the fact that the Italian team was essentially caught cheating last year and is still paying the price.

Add in the Maranello outfit's ability to shoot itself in the foot at every given opportunity, its Machiavellian approach to politics, pressure from the Italian media and a team boss who would actually prefer to be back in the engineering department and you have a recipe for disaster.

The one thing the team can be thankful for is that there will be no tifosi present at Monza next weekend to witness this ongoing horror story.

At a time George Russell is anticipating a battle with the SF1000s, it is not unreasonable to suspect that Kimi Raikkonen might give his former team a run for its money also.

Much as we believe Max is capable of pulling off the win today, Lewis is on sublime form at present, and it is hard to see him being beaten on his current form.

While Toto will be biting his nails down to the quick, it's unlikely that he has much to fear, other than Valtteri continuing to lose ground to both his teammate and Verstappen.

The optimal strategy today is a (groan) one-stopper, but as usual the tactics will be heavily influenced by the weather. Aside from the slight possibility of rain, ambient and track temperatures will also play a part.

The fastest theoretical strategy is to start on the softs for 18 laps and then complete the race on the medium. The exact opposite can work too, which is no doubt what Hamilton, Bottas and Verstappen - the only drivers in the Top Ten starting on the yellow-banded rubber - are planning.

Second-quickest is another one-stopper, with the softs for 16 laps and the hards for 28 laps, while a two-stopper is feasible as well: starting on the softs for 14 laps, then mediums for 16 laps, then softs for 14 laps.
Slower is a one-stopper using mediums for 20 laps and hard for 24 laps - but in all honesty all these strategies are actually quite close, so it will come down to individual race circumstances.

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

A suspect puff of smoke from Sainz' McLaren sees the Spaniard head back to his garage, where the Ferrari-bound driver jumps from his car. "Something broke," he reports.

Moments later, McLaren announces that Sainz, who qualified seventh, will not start the race after it was discovered that he had suffered an exhaust failure.

"The engine doesn't feel smooth, making lots of noises in mode 6," reports Verstappen.

Ahead of the race, other than the 'end racism' protocol and the national anthem, there will be a minute's silence for F2 star, Anthoine Hubert who perished here twelve months ago.

Air temperature is 18.4 degrees C, while the track temperature is 30.3 degrees. According to Race Control there is a 40% chance of rain.

"Don't be afraid to use lots of DAS on the formation lap," Bottas is told, and they are not referring to a washing powder.

Other than the leading three, Kvyat, Vettel, Russell, Raikkonen, Grosjean, Giovinazzi, Latifi and Magnussen start on the mediums, while Leclerc is on softs and Gasly hards.

The field heads off on the warm-up lap. All get away cleanly.

The grid forms.

They're away! Hamilton holds the inside at La Source, while Ricciardo looks to go around the outside of Verstappen. Behind, exiting La Source, Albon challenges Ricciardo while the Points are side-by-side.

Thy head through Eau Rouge as though tied with string, Bottas tucked in behind Hamilton, Verstappen and Ricciardo, with Ocon right behind, just ahead of Albon who heads the Points.

Up the Kemmel Straight, Leclerc, who got a good start, heads Norris and the AlphaTauris, with Vettel and Russell just behind.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Spa, here.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by kenji, 01/09/2020 0:26

"@RockDoc...thanks for the response. Whilst i admit to not being a Hamilton supporter for many reasons there is no doubt that he's a good driver but then there are quite a few 'good' drivers currently in F1. The endless flow of almost fanatical claims of his prowess wears extremely thin and has done for some time now.As i said in my previous post individual drivers can sometimes get more out of a car than others but at all times they are limited by the laws of physics which apply universally. When a team is built around one driver in particular then we also see variables at play but not every race is a 'black swan' event. It is my contention that if Leclerc and Hamilton's drives at Spa were reversed the result would not have been any different for the teams."

Rating: Neutral (0)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

2. Posted by Rock Doc, 31/08/2020 15:27

"@kenji I agree with you. Hamilton is an excellent driver but I think his legacy will be tainted by the fact he has been driving the Best car for the Best Team for these last few years. It would be great to see him in a different car to see what he can do with it. It would put silence any potential critics.

"

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3. Posted by kenji, 31/08/2020 12:09

"@ Spindoctor...How many times can you 'admire the single minded focus and skill etc etc etc' ? What Mercedes brings to the table, whilst participating in a one on one race series, is a team consisting of some 2000 people, [hamiltons quoted numbers] and facilities and budgets that are so far above anyone else that we never get to see any real competition. Yes, they have magnificent engineering skills, that's not in question. What I question after following F1 for 70years, is the sheer overwhelming boredom that we hardcore followers are forced to endure race in race out. I very much doubt that we'll see anything change until '22 and even then Mercedes will I fear run away with the series again. What we are witnessing is an homogenised form of sport/business that lacks the excitement of the unknown. As for the skills of the driver well that is a debatable point. Put Hamilton in the Renault for example and would he be leading the series by such a margin? I think not but then that's just my opinion."

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4. Posted by Spindoctor, 31/08/2020 8:34

"I understand those who consider F1 in general, & Mercedes "Juggernaut" in particular to be 'boring', but I think we need to reconsider our view of what F1 is all about.

Unlike (say) INDYCAR or BTCC F1 is not focused on any kind of 'level playing field'. The objective is "Excellence", not 'Close Racing'.
Despite increasingly prescriptive & obscure Regulation of car design, excellence may be expressed through innovation and especially nit-picking development & rewarded with success. Consequently, we have seen eras when some teams\drivers become dominant: Brawn\Ferrari\Schumacher, Newey\RBR\Vettel and latterly Wolf\Mercedes\Hamilton.
As fans we have options: yawn & look away, or admire the single-minded focus and skill of those producing the dominant car and in the case of Schumacher & Hamilton, admire the superlative skills of the driver.


"

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5. Posted by Greg, 31/08/2020 7:49

"But also well done to Lewis, not a fan but he is a great driver. Woyld be good to see some of the ithers in very similar cars *Racing point, and how they then go. I dont want a one series race but. Might open up the field a bit more"

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6. Posted by Greg, 31/08/2020 7:47

"Get rid if DRS, bring back self choice of tyres so all 5 compounds are available, and get anotjer supplier so to make it even better choices. If you want to run hardest with no stops so be it. You might start slow but finish up higher the order due to no stops. No sure about that but maybe. One mode for engines. If they last they last, if not bad luck. All this turning up turning down is a pain and all so fake. Two cents worth"

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7. Posted by habentsen, 31/08/2020 6:20

"Right now F1 is a tire management series by the looks of it.
I think we need a mandatory pitstop for all cars at 75% race distance to force them to actually race for more than half a lap, that’s currently the amount of racing they do.

"

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8. Posted by kenji, 31/08/2020 1:20

"Another good report Pitpass, although i think your are far too lenient on the point of 'fan boredom' inflicted on us hardcore chaps by the Mercedes juggernaut! The boredom started before the lights went out. This so called 'racism protocol' is all wrong and has no place here in F1. By all means protest if you feel strongly about it but please don't let it become a fixture. The same goes for the 'grid kids' just let's get back to racing....that is if we ever do get back to 1st principles. The only action was in the mid field and that was pretty sp****. Ricciardo provided perhaps the only frisson of excitement and that was minimal in the overall context. Bottas was never going to challenge Hamilton and to think that he was even a consideration is a failure to understand the express direction that Wolff is travelling. Any challenge will be buried, the only question is ..."how deep'. "

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9. Posted by Kallie61 , 30/08/2020 20:00

"All I can say after yet another race where the mercs are in front, I am so glad I don't pay per view. Of course the mercs are going to be up there most of the other teams can only dream of the money spent at Mercedes.
Soooooo boring."

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