Amid a fascinating 2017 Formula 1 World Championship battle, Lewis Hamilton is predicting that the title battle will go down to the last race in Abu Dhabi.
Speaking after a hard earned victory at the Belgian Grand Prix, Hamilton said, “I can’t predict it, but just from what we have experienced up until now and how close we were [at Spa], for sure it’s how it’s going to be and it’s going right down to the wire.”
It was an intriguing contest between Hamilton and championship leader Sebastian Vettel in Belgium. The Mercedes driver had the Ferrari large in his mirrors throughout the race at Spa-Francorchamps.
The gap between the two was almost always around a second or a second and a half, Vettel stalking Hamilton relentlessly waiting for an opportunity to pounce.
When there was the slightest of chances to attack for the lead, at the restart after a safety car period late in the race, Vettel made his move as the pair blasted up the Kemmel Straight to Les Combes.
But the Mercedes was fully dialed-up and Vettel fell a tad short. In the end he had to settle for second place and saw his points lead reduced from 14 points, before the race, to seven after the chequered flag waved at Spa.
Hamilton recalled the duel in the Ardennes, “I am sure he was hoping I was going to make mistakes, but that was not happening. I think that’s what it can come down to, reliability, it can come down to the pendulum shifting a millimetre in performance either way and it’s down to us, and consistency.”
Indeed the pendulum has swung from end-to-end since the start of the season:
Vettel won the first race in Australia, Hamilton took top honours next in China, then Vettel took maximum points in Bahrain.
Then Valterri Bottas claimed his first Formula 1 victory in Russia. Hamilton was back on the top step in Spain, but in the next race Vettel led a Ferrari one-two at Monaco, then Hamilton won the next one in Canada.
Daniel Ricciardo won Round 8 the controversy packed Azerbaijan Grand Prix, with Bottas taking his second win of the season in Austria two weeks later.
Hamilton bounced back in style to lead a Mercedes one-two at his home race at Silverstone, but the tight confines of Hungary suited Ferrari and Vettel was back on top heading another Ferrari one-two in the process.
The summer break followed and when the season resumed, last weekend at the iconic Spa-Francorchamps, Hamilton was on fire as he equalled Michael Schumacher’s record of 68 pole positions with a mega lap in qualifying and then 24-hours later took top honours ahead of Vettel.
Mercedes chief Toto Wolff said of the constant changes, in the balance of power, between the contenders, “I think first of all it’s difficult to attribute patterns of circuits to specific cars. We’ve seen this year, you think you’re good and then you’re not as good. What we’ve seen is that we weren’t great on the high-downforce, slow races such as Hungary and Monaco.”
“We need to improve that for Singapore. It’s a tough fight with Ferrari. Everyone is extracting the maximum to win this development race. We need to bring performance to the car every race in order to get our nose in front. In so far, not surprised,” added Wolff.
Now the title battle moves to hallowed ground – Monza – Ferrari’s home-track where the tifosi will be expecting. Vettel will be determined to celebrate a most important victory on Sunday at the venue where he has won on three occasions (2008, 2011, 2013), but never wearing Ferrari red.
While Hamilton will be going all out to take the championship lead, which victory on the day will guarantee him. Thus the stage is set for another epic battle at the sport’s ‘Temple of Speed’.
Big Question: Who will win the championship: Seb or Lewis?