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Quick Thinking and Tactics Kept Hamilton Ahead at Spa

Lewis Hamilton took a commanding win at the Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday beating Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to the chequered flag. But it was not the easy victory Mercedes and Hamilton usually experience over a weekend. It took some clever tactical driving from Hamilton after the safety car restart to keep the charging Ferrari of Vettel behind.

The safety car was deployed after contact between the Force India pair of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon left debris on the track on the run to Eau Rouge. This was essentially a free pit stop which seen the leaders dive into the pits for fresh rubber. The two Mercedes drivers switched over to the soft tyres, while Ferrari switched to the ultra soft tyres – a set they had saved from qualifying.

It would be an eleven lap sprint race to the end with Hamilton expected to furiously defend against the charging Ferrari.

Hamilton got a good drive on the restart catching Vettel out, but the the grip from the ultra soft tyres enabled Vettel to get close to Hamilton at the exit of La Source. On the run to Eau Rouge Vettel was right on Hamilton’s rear wing, so close in fact, Vettel said that he was too close and he had to lift going up the hill to Raidillion. This slowed his momentum somewhat for a brief period but he got back on the power and was in Hamilton’s slip stream going down the Kemmel straight.

The power of the Mercedes engine was too much for the Ferrari. Vettel was 2-3km/h down on Hamilton when he was side-by-side with the Mercedes coming into Turn 5. Hamilton defended the inside line and shut the door or Vettel.

Over the course of the next few laps, Hamilton was able to open up the gap to Vettel where it remained constant over a second. Vettel got close a few times but was not close enough to effect a pass.

After the race Hamilton revealed that he lifted off the power just before Eau Rouge in order for Vettel to close up to him. This is what broke Vettel’s momentum somewhat and allowed Hamilton to stay ahead on the Kemmel straight.

“Obviously into Turn 1 I struggled with the front tyres – and he was too close on the exit of Turn 1 and he had to lift, which was actually great,” Hamilton told reporters.

“Going down the straight I let off the power a little as well, just to keep him right up my tail, because if he was further away he would have had the chance to gain momentum and then slipstream past.

“That’s what he really wanted and I didn’t give him that, so when we got to the top of the hill he was there and as soon as he pulled out he was facing the full force of the air just as I was and he had no hope – so I was really happy with that move!”

After the race in the cool down room Vettel exclaimed to Hamilton that he was too close into Eau Rouge to which Hamilton responded: “I lifted”

“My restart in the initial part was too good. I was too close, so yeah, for sure if I had to do it again maybe I would try something different but at the time I… we know that they have very good straight line speed in their quali mode and at the start of the race I obviously felt how strong they were up the hill on the start, so I did not want to be too far either,” Vettel said in the press conference after the race.

“Lewis also lifted a bit down to Eau Rouge, which I think he could afford because he knows he has a very good top end at the top of it.

Hamilton eventually took the chequered flag with Vettel 2.358s behind.

We don’t have long to wait, the Italian Grand Prix is back-to-back with Spa and it’s another track that will suit Mercedes.

 

Photo credit: Mercedes AMG Petronas Fromula One Team

About Ritesh K Bhana

Ritesh likes to think he is a true Tifosi, but he still remains fair to other teams. He supports two other teams which are not Red Bull and McLaren. Follow Ritesh on twitter @Humanshield_1

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