“I love this place,” says Lewis Hamilton. “It’s very high speed, so you have to be very precise and you need to get into a good rhythm if you want to be quick. It’s one of the classic races that every driver wants to win.”
Lewis has won in Belgium once before, in 2010, and he was looking good for a repeat victory after qualifying this year because he took his fourth straight pole position on Saturday afternoon. The session was rain-affected and in the dying moments of Q3, a rapidly drying track ensured that the man crossing the line last would start at the front. And that man was Lewis.
Would his timing be as good in the race?
The Red Bulls lined up second and third on the grid, Sebastian Vettel ahead of Mark Webber, and then came the second AMG Mercedes Petronas of Nico Rosberg. They all rated their chances of victory, as did the Ferraris back in ninth and 10th. Qualifying didn’t work out for the red team, with Alonso knocking up his worst grid position of the year in ninth. Yet the double world champion still found reasons to smile.
“Our car is much faster than we have been able to demonstrate during qualifying,” he said on Saturday evening, “so I’m confident that we can have a much more competitive race tomorrow. But there’s another reason for me to be happy: 10 years ago today I scored my first win in F1. It was in Hungary and it was a very special day in my career, one that I will never forget.”
Despite pre-race predictions of rain, the track remained dry throughout and we could see which teams really had made progress during the four-week summer break in the calendar. Lewis got away from the line well, but he was overtaken by Vettel on the opening lap – a lead that the Red Bull driver would never lose.
Alonso’s progress through the field was dramatic and he even beat Hamilton to the chequered flag to claim second place and give a Vettel-Alonso-Hamilton podium. Will the 2013 world championship be fought between these three for the rest of the season? The Italian Grand Prix at Monza, another majestic racetrack that also hosted a round of the inaugural World Championship in 1950, will give us more answers in a couple of weeks time.