Lewis Hamilton is a race fan. And, like most race fans, he wishes Formula 1 was a little more competitive right now.
The six-time Formula 1 champion has won five of the first seven races this season and has built an impressive 47-point advantage to his nearest rival in the Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship. In fact, Hamilton probably would totally understand if a few fans find themselves watching the start of the races, snoozing for an hour or so, and then coming back for the last few laps—and in time to watch Hamilton spraying the Champagne.
After all, Hamilton has been there. He remembers watching Michael Schumacher’s five-year run between 2000 and 2004 when seven-time champ Schumacher won five consecutive championships and 48 races in 85 starts (56%).
Hamilton’s current run of dominance is more like seven years–six titles, and wins in 67 of 128 races (52%) since 2014.
“I was a teenage kid,” said Hamilton of the Schumacher years of the most dominance. “I would have woken up, had my bacon sarnie (sandwich) and probably watched the start and gone to sleep and then woke up to watch the end.
“If I was watching today I would do the same most likely and watch the highlights because it’s much shorter, unless a friend told me there was a super exciting race on TV so that you watch the whole thing.”
Hamilton led every lap on Sunday at Spa. Actually, that’s not all that surprising, as there has yet to be a pass for the lead on track in Formula 1 in 2020. The only two times a driver has given up the lead this season (Bottas lost the lead to Hamilton in the second race at Austria, and Hamilton lost the lead to Verstappen for one lap in Hungary) were due to pit cycles.
In Hamilton’s last four victories, he has led 231 of 232 laps. The only lap he didn’t lead was due to a pitting one lap earlier than Verstappen in Hungary.
“It’s just perhaps not as fun for people to watch, but when you’re in it, it’s a little bit different,” Hamilton said. “But of course, I would love to have a real race. I’ve definitely had races in the past here which are a little bit closer, trying to follow the Ferrari and stay on top of them but they could overtake because they had all that extra power. I hope the next races, we have the … I think the Red Bulls have improved. I really hope that we have more of a race because I think everyone wants to see us all battling together.”
Don’t blame the drivers, he says.
“Ultimately the decision makers who design the cars, who set rules and those kind of things, are the ones that you could apply pressure to to ultimately do a better job moving forwards, if that’s possible,” Hamilton said. “I’m hopeful that’s what they’re going to do in 2022 and with that new type car, maybe we’ll see a different form of racing where you can follow.
“Wouldn’t that be something if we can follow closer and have more close races?”
Ferrari Sinks Further
A year ago at Spa, Ferrari was dominant, with Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel qualifying 1-2. Leclerc won the race and Vettel finished fourth.
This year, different story. While most of the field has improved, the Ferraris are slower than a year ago. As Autoweek F1 writer Joe Saward pointed out, “the only way things could have been worse would have been if the two drivers had collided while fighting for 12th place, and in fact they even had a brush but fortunately got away with it.”
Vettel and Leclerc finished 13th and 14th (only 17 cars finished the race) and had even been overtaken by Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen, who was driving for a team that uses Ferrari customer engines. The only teams racing at the end that Ferrari was able to outrun were Haas and Williams—two teams that have combined to score 1 point this year.
The race at Spa marked the second time in seven races this season that both Ferrari drivers failed to point in the same race. At least in the second race of the season at Spielberg, Austria, the two Ferrari drivers had an excuse for finishing outside the points—they crashed each other out.
“We are disappointed and angry, as indeed are our fans and with good reason,” Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said. “It’s a difficult moment in a season that we knew from the start would be a tough one, but it’s at times like this that we need to stand firm and look ahead in order to get over this difficult period. It’s the only way we will get out of this situation.”
Lewis Hamilton broke the track record twice in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix and posted a new record of 1 minute, 41.252 seconds around the 4.3-mile, 19-turn Spa-Francorchamps circuit on the way to his 93rd career pole.
In addition to the pole record at Spa, Hamilton extended a number of personal career F1 records, including most podium finishes (157), most consecutive starts (257) and most consecutive races finishing in the points (40).
Next time out, he can tie Michael Schumacher for most career races finishing in the points. Schumacher’s record is 221.
Yes, folks, we’re watching the Babe Ruth of Formula 1 here
Haas Hopefully One and not Done
It was another scoreless race for the American-based Haas F1 Team, as Romain Grosjean finished 15th and Kevin Magnussen 17th at Spa. It marked the 17th consecutive race outside of the top-10 for Grosjean.
Fortunately for Haas, the Williams team was also scoreless on Sunday. Haas remains in ninth place in the Constructors Championship with 1 point. It’s been a tough year for the fifth-year Formula 1 team, which is now on pace for three points this season (we’ll round up).
The team’s lowest single-season points total came in 2019, when it scored 28 points on the way to a ninth-place finish. The team’s best season was 2018, when it scored 93 points and finished fifth in the Constructors’ Championship.
“We needed something to help us today, weather or something, but we didn’t get any,” Magnussen said.
When you’re praying for Mother Nature to bail you out, it’s never a good sign.
The Drivers’ Standings
No one had a more frustrating day on Sunday at Spa than McLaren’s Carlos Sainz Jr., who’s car revealed exhaust issues during the warm-up lap which let to a retirement before the race even started.
The retirement helped drop Sainz a couple places to 11th in the F1 Drivers’ Standings. McLaren, thanks to a solid seventh-place finish from Lando Norris after starting 10th, held on to third place in the Constructors’ Championship—two points ahead of Racing Point and seven points up on struggling Ferrari.
Oh, yeah, and Sainz moves to Ferrari next year just as McLaren appears to be passing Ferrari in the pecking order of competitive F1 teams.
The Top 10, Plus 1
1, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 157
2, Max Verstappen, Red Bull, 110
3, Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, 107
4, Alexander Albon, Red Bull, 48
5, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, 45
6, Lando Norris, McLaren, 45
7, Lance Stroll, Racing Point, 42
8, Daniel Ricciardo, Renault, 33
9, Sergio Perez, Racing Point, 33
10, Esteban Ocon, Renault, 26
11. Carlos Sainz Jr., McLaren, 23
The Constructors’ Battle
Mercedes can probably go ahead and book the party suite for late December (with proper social distancing, of course) as the team left Spa with a 106-point lead in the Constructors’ Championship over Red Bull and an almost insurmountable 196-point advantage over third-place McLaren.
That battle for third through six is a fun one, if you enjoy battles for third.
The Top 10
1, Mercedes, 264
2, Red Bull, 158
3, McLaren, 68
4, Racing Point, 66
5, Ferrari, 61
6, Renault, 59
7, AlphaTauri, 20
8, Alfa Romeo, 2
9, Haas, 1
10, Williams, 0
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