Formula 1 fans can breathe easy, as the Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday signals the start of the second half of a season that has been unpredictable to say the least.
The first seven races on the calendar produced seven different winners, while no less than five different teams have celebrated a top podium finish. And anybody that thought Sebastian Vettel was a good bet to dominate proceedings has been sadly wrong, as the German went into the summer break after Hungary in third place in the table on 122pts.
That means the Red Bull man is fully 42pts off leader Fernando Alonso, with Marc Webber splitting the pair on 124pts ahead of the weekend’s big race at Spa Francorchamps.
Alonso, the dual champion in 2005/6, has returned to something like his best form of late, having now hit the chequered flag three times in his Ferrari, and his ability to hold position early on will stand him in good stead as they wind through the forest in Belgium. The Spaniard became the youngest Drivers’ Champion at the age of 24 years and 59 days old seven years ago, ending the five-year run enjoyed by Michael Schumacher.
The German is obviously not the force of old, but could be a real dark horse on Sunday, given his record at what has to be one of his favourite venues. Schumacher makes his 300th F1 appearance this weekend, becoming only the second driver in history after former Ferrari team mate Rubens Barrichelo to hit the triple century.
Having made a winning F1 debut in Belgium in 1991 and recording six successes in all there, it would be no surprise should he improve and better last season’s effort when flashing home in fifth after starting at the back of the grid.
Marc Webber’s two victories, including a terrific performance in Monaco, show that he means business, but he’s got Vettel breathing down his neck. The dual world champion has not had a straightforward time of it in the Red Bull car, including when a fault denied him a likely victory in Spain, and if his team can do their part and just leave him to do the driving, a flurry of points can take him closer to the top.
Lewis Hamilton can be pleased with his season so far, despite having to retire in Germany and having a podium finish taken away for a team error in Spain. Victory in Hungary saw him lead Kimi Raikkonen by a point, and further success on Sunday would be in keeping with McLaren’s record over the years in Belgium, the Woking operation having come home first there on 11 occasions to date.
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