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Hamilton Bounces Back In Style

After a shocking Hungarian GP before the summer break, Lewis Hamilton bounced back to dominate the Belgian GP. It had looked as though team mate Nico Rosberg was going to be the man to beat during the weekend, until Saturday morning practise where Hamilton found his groove. He showed his dominance by gaining a half second gap to team mate Rosberg in qualifying thanks to two utterly fantastic laps. From then, Hamilton never looked back and had the race under control from start to finish. Although Hamilton and Rosberg are in identical machinery, Hamilton’s sheer dominance over Rosberg leaves a feeling that the final run in for the title may be a procession. Rosberg has been very open about his team mates superiority, which is slightly unnerving. We have seen over the course of the season that Rosberg can challenge Hamilton on the track, but something seemed to be different over the Spa weekend. Hamilton was in a different race to his team mate and, of course, the rest of the field. Rosberg’s pursuit of Hamilton near the end of the race where he was closing in was only due to Hamilton easing off under the instructions of the team. Rosberg has to go away and have a think about how he can beat Hamilton, and actually believe he can beat, him or the title race will be over sooner rather than later.

Pirelli Forced to Defend Tyres

Two huge 190mph tyre blowouts for Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel over the weekend have forced Pirelli to come out and defend their tyres, not for the first time during their spell in F1. During practise, Rosberg’s tyre blew spectacularly and he somehow managed to keep it out of the wall. Worryingly, onboard camera shots show Rosberg’s tyre starting to tear away near the beginning of the lap, not blowing until near the end. Vettel’s tyre blew right near the end of the race where a podium could have been on the cards for the Ferrari driver. This led Vettel to deliver a damning verdict on the tyre supplier. As usual however, Pirelli’s attempt to come out and explain themselves hasn’t done them any favours. Even if Pirelli are right in what they say, they simply won’t win the argument. Pirelli’s motorsport director, Paul Hembery, came out and said that they had issued a pre-race warning to the teams indicating that the anticipated life on the medium tyres would be 40 laps, almost the entire race distance. The problem for Pirelli here is that Vettel’s medium tyre blew after just 28 laps. Pirelli then issued a press release on the Sunday night stating that in 2013, they had sought it impose a lap limit for their tyres that would have restricted a single stint to 50% of a full race distance. The fact that Pirelli are looking back to the last time nude blowouts were occurring for their excuse is sure to put more scrutiny on the Italian company, who insist they want to stay in F1. After this latest series of blowouts, surely the teams will have concerns heading into the Italian GP where the high speed straights and corners may have a huge effect on tyres once again.


Grosjean Lifts Debt Crippled Lotus

Over the weekend, rumours were circulating that the Lotus F1 cars were to be impounded as the Enstone team’s financial problems hit critical point. Even with Pastor Maldonado’s Venezuelan oil backing the team, things are really bad at the team. So, for Romain Grosjean to score his and the teams first podium since the American GP in 2013 was something special. The fact the place was secured after Vettel’s tyre failure is irrelevant, as Grosjean was nailed on to claim third even after his five place grid penalty. Grosjean was fantastic all race and was constantly there, or thereabouts, all race. It was fitting his podium came at Spa, as this was the track in 2012 where the Frenchman earned himself a race ban after causing a first lap pile up, which also led to Mark Webber labelling him as a "first lap nutcase".

This certainly seemed to be the turning point in Grosjean’s F1 career because he has slowly become one of F1’s most underrated drivers, who deserves a lot more than he is getting at Lotus at the minute. He openly admits to working with a sporting psychologist since the incident, and it seems to be working an absolute treat for Grosjean. Lotus’ trackside chief, Alan Permane revealed that Grosjean’s grid penalty was a result of the team only being able to afford three gearbox units for the 2015 season, again showing the crippling financial problems for the team. The car itself is good, and it showed this at the weekend as both drivers qualified in the top 8 in Spa. At the moment, Renault look like Lotus’ best and only hope of avoiding administration. I certainly hope that Renault buy out the team as it would be a huge shame to see the famous team vanish from its Enstone base where it has held the team under all of its previous guises.

Red Bull and Renault Finally Set for Divorce?

Rumours have been circulating that Red Bull are looking for a different engine supplier for 2016, and frankly, who could blame them? The partnership that delivered four consecutive World Championships has quickly went south, with both sides blaming the other for the poor season that Red Bull have had. Mercedes seemed to warm to the idea of supplying engines to Red Bull, with the stipulation that it wouldn’t disrupt any agreement already in place, then Red Bull say they want an early exit from their contract. Coincidence?

The situation that Red Bull find themselves in deserves some sympathy. All season, Red Bull’s goal has been to fire up Renault to get them to progress and commit for 2016. What Red Bull don’t want is a 2016 season where they are bashing their heads against a wall again. Christian Horner has said he wants to hear what Renault’s plans entail for the future, and has said they will go from there. The spat has not been kept in house at either Red Bull or Renault which has, in my opinion, damaged both outfit’s reputations. Ultimately, Red Bull’s frustration boils down to the fact that F1 is now very engine critical. The first victim of this realisation is Red Bull’s previous firm stance that they could win in any given race and season through chassis design alone. Unfortunately for them, F1 is all about engine power now, not chassis design.

Report courtesy of Simon Gray

Read more on Simon's blog here

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