A little bird told your correspondent last night that word in the paddock is that Mercedes don’t really understand why their car worked so well in Hungary. If they don’t, then the problem ain’t fixed. This afternoon was evidence of that, Lewis Hamilton, so fast yesterday in the wet, went backwards again to finish nearly half a minute behind Sebastian Vettel who took his fifth win of the year. Fernando Alonso consolidated a breathtaking opening lap to finish second — seven places above where he started.
Good points then for Alonso and Hamilton, but more still for Vettel who is now 46 points ahead with eight races left to run. Worryingly for us — all of us including Vettel’s fans — who want a good fight for the title, Red Bull do seem to have sorted the problem with their car, its straight line speed in a drag race.
Vettel was not going to be beaten today. Hamilton may have got the jump at the start, rounded La Source ahead and seemed comfortable into Eau Rouge, but Vettel took a big bite out of Raidillion and comfortably drafted Hamilton up the hill to Le Combes. And that, Ladies and Gentlemen was that, the traditional Red Bull catch-me-if-you-can lead of over one second was in place at the end of the first lap and by lap three Vettel’s carphone was buzzing with the similarly traditional request to slow down. That doesn’t normally come until three laps form the end.
Meanwhile Fernando Alonso, who looked confident yesterday despite bagging a lowly ninth on the grid was showing us just why. Blazing away from the lights, he stumbled across the slow starting Paul di Resta and must surely have had last year’s first line mess flash across his mind. But he kept his foot in and put the F138 on the very inside of La Source, just behind Mark Webber whose start was as poor as Alonso’s was good. But ‘Nando knew what to do and didn’t lift off all the way into Eau Rouge by which time the position was his. F1 drivers don’t take any time to play themselves in.
It was a better performance from Ferrari and Alonso and both he and Stefano Domenicali seemed happier after the race. Raining on their carnival however was another ordinary performance from Felipe Massa who now has one race to prove himself worthy of a turbocharged Ferrari F1 car in 2014.
More likely in that car — and nobody is saying it’s not going to happen — is Kimi Räikkönen, now officially the third of the challengers for the title after his first DNF in something like 200 years, dropped him behind Alonso and Hamilton. More worryingly Lotus didn’t look good today. For the record Vettel is on 197 points, Alonso on 151, Hamilton on 139 and Kimi on 134.
Nico Rosberg added to Mercedes’ haul in fourth, Mark Webber — who is already looking like a man who can’t wait to be handed a Porsche key — was fifth. Jenson Button was sixth and likewise can’t wait for a new car, a car which is apparently now the focus of McLaren’s attention. The fact that it was suggested McLaren might be celebrating being ahead of Force India in the championship says it all.
Adrian Sutil was able to grab a couple of points for Force India, Paul di Resta having been taken out by Pastor Maldonado who for once, was probably not guilty of precipitating the accident. In more news from the ‘wild ones’ column, Sergio Perez came out worse in a head to head with Romain Grosjean and got landed with a drive thru’, dropping him out of the points. Daniel Ricciardo, the man who Red Bull believes is the cream of the next generation, bagged the last point. That doesn’t sound great, but then he did start 19th.
It wasn’t a very exciting afternoon though, was it folks? Sorry about that, we were convinced it would be. Then again we were convinced it would rain too. And it didn’t. Then again nor was this a game of rubber roulette for once. Maybe a little nudge to remind us that a bit of randomising — however contrived — can be a good thing?