After almost a month, Formula 1 reconvenes after the summer break at Spa-Francorchamps this weekend, in a race that is likely to be very crucial for the title.
This year's champion will most likely be decided long before the final race in Brazil on 24 November if Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari's Fernando Alonso or Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton don’t get their act together and stop the seemingly unstoppable momentum that Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel has managed to gain.
On the back of three successive championships, Vettel has been at the top of his game this year having finished in the podium positions in seven of the 10 races so far, winning four of them and scoring 172 points, 38 ahead of second placed Kimi Raikkonen.
If Raikkonen, Alonso and Hamilton want to do anything about that, they need to start in Belgium this weekend, on a track which, apart from their dominant 2011 season, hasn’t been Vettel or Red Bull’s happing hunting ground.
Although Alonso has been Vettel's main challenger for most of the season, the Spaniard slipped back to third place, a point behind Raikkonen after Hungary, which was a result of Ferrari's sudden slide into oblivion and two strong races for Lotus.
Even if Raikkonen's only victory this year was in the season opener in Australia, he has been remarkably consistent, finishing every race since his comeback to F1 in 2012. He hasn’t been able to make any major inroads into the championship mainly because of Lotus’s inability to provide a car with the outright pace to win on a regular basis.
Despite the fact that the Spaniard only narrowly missed out on the title last year, it was a major miracle that he managed to get that far. Whilst Ferrari did start the year strongly, their attempts to improve the car have not materialised and they have gone from qualifying in the top three on a regular basis to fighting to scrape into the top five or six.
The fundamental lack of outright pace of the Lotus and Ferrari cars have meant that, with six poles in the last seven races, Mercedes and Hamilton could yet prove to be Vettel's biggest threat over the second half of the season.
Hamilton's victory in Hungary under stifling heat, meant that the team might finally have got on top of the excessive rear tyre use that has hampered their race form for the past few seasons. And if Mercedes can keep their tyres in good shape, then the Brit could be a real threat to Vettel, even with a 48-point deficit.
Even though Vettel has been remarkably consistent, as the Hungarian Grand Prix showed, if he is put under pressure, he will make mistakes and he isn’t insurmountable.
Irrespective of what happens this week, whoever tries to pip Vettel for the title, will surely have their task cut out, as it will take nothing sort of a superhuman effort, some consistently outrageous racing and above all, a fair slice of good luck to reclaim the title from the three-time defending champion.
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