Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton

Inside Line: Savour what is a title battle for the ages

Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton

In the wake of the Belgian Grand Prix I am confused by some of the reaction of some Formula 1 fans, and even media, who thought the race was boring and also questioned the need for a safety car.

I for one felt that it was an tense and intriguing race with a proper duel for top honours between the two title favourites – Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel – both at the very top of their game while peddling some pretty thrifty race cars.

The pair were glued to each other throughout the race. I recall few occasions where the gap was not under two seconds. Vettel in the Ferrari stalked Hamilton throughout the race, while the Mercedes driver had to dig into every bit of his arsenal to keep him at bay.

I must be honest and admit that after the safety car, with Vettel on the Pirelli ultrasofts and Hamilton on the more conservative softs, I believed Mercedes had erred and expected the Ferrari to make use of the stickier rubber to reel-in and beat Hamilton.

That Vettel was unable to do so is testament to Hamilton delivering the type of drive that only he can. Digging deep to keep that gap above a second and prevent Vettel from having the luxury of DRS. The pair swapping fastest laps, and lap records for that matter, in the process.

At the same time it was clear that Mercedes had dialed the power on the Merc to maximum, which in the end probably made the difference between victory and second place.

In my mind the afternoon, it also confirms that on the fast tracks such as Spa-Francorchamps the Silver Arrows horsepower has the legs over the Prancing Horse… for now. But the gap has narrowed considerably, even when compared to Silverstone (in July) where Ferrari seemed to be in far deeper trouble than Mercedes at low-downforce venues.

Ferrari have made obvious progress since then, but are still lacking a bit when the power is maxed out as it was on Sunday and a day earlier in qualifying at Spa.

Nevertheless you feel that Vettel can compete, and if they can find an extra bit in qualifying things could pan out differently for the Reds in the remaining races.

All-in-all we could not have asked for a better scrap than we had on the day. This is what Formula 1 should be and is about. Sure there are times when they will slug it out wheel-to-wheel, but this time out it was more a chess match than a boxing bout. To me the contests are equally enthralling.

And this is only talking about the top two guys.

Down the order there was so much to enjoy from the boys in pink turning their civil war into a contact sport, Daniel Ricciardo making the most of opportunities presented to him, Fernando Alonso always providing good value even if it is only briefly while his radio these days is priceless.

Throw in Kimi and Valtteri chasing and trying to keep up with their teammates, the Toro Rosso feud, will Lance bin it,  what now for Jolyon, etc etc and we have not only a main event but also a myriad of highly entertaining sideshows.

Perhaps the only downside is the wretched luck young Max Verstappen is enduring at the moment. I always anticipate something magical or dramatic from the Red Bull driver, but right now luck has deserted him totally – but it will come to him again and inevitably he will provide a special ingredient to proceedings.

Formula 1 at the moment is as good as it gets in my book.

As for questioning the safety car period on the day, as mentioned I find that confusing too. Granted even Hamilton had a dig at the timing of the deployment, and of course this helped ignite some silly conspiracy theories.

The facts are that the shenanigans between the Force India duo resulted in a broken wing and an immediate puncture for Sergio Perez, plus substantial debris on the racing line.

In the aftermath of their coming together, carbon fibre shards and splinters littered the track on the run down and entry to Eau Rouge. Although the marshals bravely got rid of the big pieces, there was still the danger of uncleared fragments being picked up had racing been allowed to continue unrestricted.

At this daunting point on the track a puncture is the last thing one wants and could have had catastrophic results had someone driven over a sharp piece of sharp pink stuff. As far as I am concerned, it was a good call to send the safety car out and allow marshals to clear the track of any potential danger. 

The Belgian Grand Prix, Round 12 of this championship, was a fitting return from the holidays for the Formula 1 circus. The race set the tone for what will be eight more fascinating episodes, including the last race of the season in Abu Dhabi where I predict the title will be decided.

Right now I cannot ask for more of Formula 1 and I think fans should relish what they are witnessing, this is a title battle for the ages between two of the top drivers of this generation plying their trade with two of the sport’s most iconic teams.

Antone who does not appreciate and savour this might be following the wrong sport…

Big Question: What did you make of the Belgian Grand Prix?