In his latest exclusive feature on, David Tremayne - three time Guild of Motoring Writers Journalist of the Year Award winner and multi-award winning F1 author - takes a look back over the Belgian Grand Prix and a dominant success for Sebastian Vettel...

It says everything about the level of domination that Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing enjoyed at Spa-Francorchamps that it surprised even them.

Beaten in a topsy-turvy qualifying session by the skill and tenacity of Lewis Hamilton, Vettel took less than 30 seconds to deprive the polesitter of the lead. The Red Bull was way faster through Eau Rouge, and simply drove past Hamilton's Mercedes as if somebody had chained it to the fence.

In practice Hamilton had said his W04 was 'all over the road', and clearly its low downforce set-up was nothing like as comfortable as the high downforce configuration with which he had beaten Red Bull in Hungary.

Hamilton and Mercedes came to Spa knowing that they needed to beat Vettel if they are to maintain a realistic chance of stopping him claiming a fourth World Championship. They left ever more aware of the size of that mountain.

So did Ferrari. There were signs of improvement in the F138 in practice, in dry conditions. But qualifying was a disaster, and the red cars started alongside each other on the fifth row. Alonso's remarkable race skills saw him drive another beautiful race to take second place, however, leaving Hamilton in his dust.
But Ferrari, too, knows that it has to take a much bigger step forward than it did in Belgium if the 2013 World Champion is to be Spanish.

The most worrying aspect of Spa, from rivals' points of view, was that Red Bull is traditionally a little off the pace in low downforce configuration. But not this time. The RB9 has phenomenal handling and excellent mechanical grip, and this time Vettel simply blitzed his opposition.

But for another poor start, Mark Webber would have been a lot higher than fifth. This time it was a clutch problem that blighted his chances even before the start, and the slippage off the line left him fighting his way back for the rest of the afternoon.

Almost unnoticed, Nico Rosberg was stunning in qualifying and drove an excellent race to keep Hamilton honest, finishing only 2.1s behind his team-mate, but Felipe Massa's crucial chance of earning the points that he needs to retain his Ferrari seat for a ninth season were hampered by traffic at the start.

Behind the three front-running teams, McLaren had good and bad news. Modifications to the MP4-28 had wrought a fair improvement. But it either wasn't as good as the team had hoped for, or else it failed to get the most out of it. Button still felt there should have been more to come from a car that qualified and finished sixth, and he was unhappy about the strategy that vacillated between one and two stops. He thus ran the race out of sync with others, when an intended one-stop didn't work, but did have the debatable satisfaction of leading part of the 15th lap.

Somebody else's tear-off visor is thought to have lodged early in Kimi Raikkonen's left front brake duct, overheating the disc so much that he had to retire for the first time in 28 races, and an unhappy weekend for Lotus wasn't helped when Romain Grosjean got involved in another silly incident while being overtaken by Sergio Perez. He should have finished a lot better than eighth.

Force India made a return to prominence; Paul di Resta's brave decision to start Q3 on intermediates nearly won him his first pole, and fifth on the grid equalled his previous best. But his race was bitty until Pastor Maldonado forgot where the pit lane entrance was and took him out. Adrian Sutil scored two points, however, though Button's finish moved McLaren back into fifth place at Force India's expense.

Forget the Greenpeace protests (ingenious and well-planned though they might have been); the other aspect of a weekend in which qualifying was the best of the year and the race the worst, was another excellent Q1 performance by Caterham's former karting World Champion, Giedo van der Garde. The first to switch to slicks at the end of the wet session, he impressed hugely with third fastest time, and later drove the wheels off his CT-3 to keep miscreant Maldonado's faster Williams out of P16 in the race.


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