Although Lewis Hamilton took pole position, Vettel used his car’s superior traction out of the slow first corner and greater straight-line speed to get past the Mercedes on the straight and claim his 52nd career victory and his fifth of the season
Hamilton is still in the lead in the championship. He won the last two races before the summer break despite lack of form and competitiveness. Although both teams introduced engine upgrades during the break.
The 33-year-old Briton took a stunning pole by more than 0.7secs from Vettel. The rain came as all the drivers took to the track at the start of final qualifying. Despite the pole, he couldn’t get near Vettel who went on to demonstrate a dominant victory in the Belgian Grand Prix.
There was a safety car deployment for the massive first-corner crash which gave vettel concerns but he handled the re-start well and controlled the race from there on.
The Spa circuit raised concerns for Mercedes. It is a power track and Ferrari were the quickest team. The next race is in Monza, home of Ferrari and then on to Singapore.
Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff said he saw “many deficits that are obvious, which caused us not to perform as we expect”. Asked what these were, he pointed to traction and Mercedes’ over-use of their tyres, the latter something of an occasionally recurring theme for the team.
Mercedes were running more downforce on their car. They were marginally quicker in the middle sector of the lap, where the majority of the corners are, through practice and qualifying.
The downforce would help with tyre usage – but also slows the car on the straights. Poor traction out of slow corners also affects straight-line speed.
Hamilton said: “I truly trust and believe in my guys but these next string of races are going to be really telling. The next two or three races will show if they are going to sustain this high performance or it is going to be more tooth and nail.
“This is definitely the hardest season and it is going to continue to get harder and harder throughout. It is going to take the whole package being 100% to out-perform them. Sebastian did a great job today and didn’t make any mistakes. We just have to keep applying the pressure to him.”