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Class of the Field
Adam Barton

A Formula One fan since he was six, back while Häkkinen and Schumacher were having many an epic battle, Adam has seen a great deal. From German domination (twice), to British determination (once) and a Spanish invasion. A near compulsive fan who one day hopes to write about the sport for a living, outside of F1 Adam also authors his own blog One Guy's Opinion.

Button highlights McLaren’s improvement // The best of the best from the Belgian Grand Prix

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Button surveys the scene in Belgium
Credit: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

It appears that even Spa needs a little weather and volatile tyres to spice up the action. There was intrigue in the midfield and between Mark Webber and the Mercedes, but up front, it was a one man show, who I’m sure was on screen about three times during the entire Grand Prix, such was Sebastian Vettel’s dominance.

Red Bull rants and raves

His victory opened up a 46 point lead in the championship, as good as two race victories in old money, but it was the manner in which he dominated that has bookmakers around the world slashing odds that Sebastian Vettel will become only the third man after Michael Schumacher and Juan Manuel Fangio to win four on the bounce. Indeed, only four men, including Alain Prost, have won four world championships in their entire career.

And in my view, that means that it is surely time the FIA stepped in in the interest of competition, just as they did with Ferrari in the 2000s and Williams in the 90s (when Adrian Newey was in his first spell of F1 dominance) and do something that will seriously harm Red Bull’s competitive advantage. The bad news is that they’ve handled everything thrown at them over the past four years. The good news is that the weak link in that team is arguably Renault, who are expected to struggle to match Ferrari and Mercedes when the new engine regulations come into force at the end of the year.

Light at the end of the tunnel for McLaren?

The Saturday rain meant that the sun came out for McLaren and Jenson Button. Instead of their usual conservative strategy, saving tyres for the race, Button went out in a bid to make his wet weather prowess show. And that he did, qualifying sixth, ahead of the Lotuses and Ferraris, giving him a great chance of a shock result, in the wet or dry.

The Brit then made good progress in the race, running a long first stint on the options, setting up a potential one stop strategy. As the pitstops played out, Button was running third, behind Vettel and Alonso, but crucially ahead of the Mercedes and Mark Webber. Could he make the hard tyres last 27 laps? Unfortunately, where McLaren had been brave on Saturday, they cowered on Sunday, pitting Button with ten laps to go, surrendering their chance of a podium, but ensuring that they wouldn’t lose out on sixth place to the one-stopping Romain Grosjean.

Still, a sign of improvement. Let’s hope that it wasn’t simply because Spa suited McLaren’s chassis. Only Monza holds the answer.

Gutiérrez finally showing potential

Gutiérrez in Spa
Credit: Jean-Francois Galeron

I remain to be convinced by F1’s younger Mexican, but the Belgian GP certainly helped his cause. He was of the men who had the right idea in Q1 by changing onto new intermediate tyres for better grip in the crucial final minutes. The trouble was, he was brought in too early, and the grip had deserted him when the track was at its driest. The end result was 21st, recording his worst qualifying of the season.

But he fought back gallantly and was fighting on the edge of the points when it all blew up on lap 26. Gutiérrez showed great racecraft and bravery in fighting Pastor Maldonado, eventually losing grip on the outside, and taking to the AstroTurf on the outside. He yielded the position but used his momentum to overtake the Venezuelan at the Bus Stop, earning himself a penalty, much similar to Hamilton’s for his move on Räikkönen in 2008. This left Maldonado flustered, he drove into the side of Adrian Sutil and in his desperation to dive into the pits for a new nose, he T-boned the unfortunate Paul di Resta.

A drive through was probably deserved, but if you remove it from his race time, he would have been right on the edge of the points in what was undoubtedly the race of his career so far.

Ricciardo (quietly) secures vital point

After being the talk of the paddock for weeks, if not months, Daniel Ricciardo, along with the Toro Rosso team were rather caught with their trousers down in qualifying as they made the same mistake as Esteban Gutiérrez and peaked too soon, ending up with worn out tyres when the track was at its best. Ricciardo finished 19th, behind teammate Vergne, who suffered the same fate, for only the third time this year.

Ricciardo at Spa
Credit: Thompson/Getty

And in the race, Ricciardo appeared to be mired in the midfield, just when he needed a result to prove that he was worthy of a Red Bull seat. But a brilliant last ten laps saw him rise through the midfield up to tenth to secure the final point. He overtook another star of the future in Nico Hülkenberg, teammate Jean-Éric Vergne and Sergio Pérez on the way.

While it wasn’t a stellar drive to a good points finish, where he outdrove the car, it was actually exactly what Red Bull needed to see: a gritty drive in an underperforming car where the Aussie extracted the maximum. Although the decision has been made already (even if the contract isn’t yet signed), Ricciardo backed up his candidacy with a terrific drive on Sunday.

Damage limitation no longer good enough

While Lewis Hamilton and particularly Fernando Alonso got the best out their cars on Sunday, that is no longer good enough if they don’t want to be a footnote to the 2013 F1 season.

A drive that effectively closed the book on the 2013 season

They both secured impressive podiums but, in truth, may as well have suffered a similar fate to Kimi Räikkönen in Belgium, with Vettel being so dominant, in a drive that effectively closed the book on the 2013 season.

That said, the brilliance of Hamilton’s pole lap and Alonso’s first lap, not to mention his battling through the top order show that these guys are still giving it their all, and it was certainly nice to see Fernando back to his best. Unfortunately, it still isn’t good enough.