The Formula 1 world championship now seems to be a straight battle between Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso after the German reigning champion comfortably took the checkered flag at Spa on Sunday. Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen was forced to retire due to a brake failure and has now slipped behind Lewis Hamilton, who finished third to keep his slim title hopes alive.
Starting from second, Vettel displayed not only his fine handling but also the supremacy of his Red Bull from start to finish. He breezed past Hamilton on the first lap at Eau Rouge and was not troubled again.
Only Alonso, who started ninth on the grid and moved his Ferrari up to fifth with some brilliant maneuvering on lap 1, appeared to pose a threat. But the superiority of the Red Bull told almost immediately and the chasing pack could do nothing to stop the German easing away from the field. After five laps he was 3.9 seconds ahead of Hamilton and 6.7 seconds clear of Alonso.
The Spaniard eventually passed the Briton on lap 14 when Hamilton’s Mercedes went wide at La Source, allowing the Ferrari to sneak through. From there, Alonso proved the faster and settled into a procession for second place while Hamilton fought a rearguard action to keep teammate Nico Rosberg and Mark Webber’s Red Bull at bay.
“We had to recover some places,” said Alonso after the race. “We were not okay yesterday but everything went okay from the start and then the car had the pace to overtake some cars — then it was a little bit boring after we got into second place.”
Vettel now leads the championship race on 197 points after his fifth victory of the season. Alonso is second on 151 points with Hamilton in third on 139. Raikkonen is five points adrift of the Mercedes in fourth and seemingly out of the running with eight races to go. Next stop is the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, where Alonso will be assured the vociferous support of the crowd as he seeks a first home win for Ferrari since 2010, and will hope to build on his car’s greater productivity at Spa.