Red Bull are one step ahead again as Vettel dominates at Spa

By Gary AndersonBBC F1 technical analyst
Highlights: Dominant Vettel wins in Spa

Sebastian Vettel's dominant victory in the Belgian Grand Prix is bad news for the rest of the field - and damages hopes of a close championship.

It was not as if Red Bull introduced any major new developments to improve Vettel's car at Spa.

They used a slightly revised front wing, but that was about it.

What made the difference was that they were able to run their cars with a small rear wing to suit the long straights but still carry a lot of front wing.

In short, that allowed them to go faster than their rivals. who had to reduce the downforce on the front of their cars in order to balance the lack of grip at the rear.

The writing was on the wall from Friday practice, when Red Bull were stupendously quick.

But what happened to team-mate Mark Webber? He was evenly matched with Vettel throughout practice and qualifying only for another poor start to impact negatively on his race.

There are conspiracy theories about why this seems to happen so often to the Australian, especially when he is close to Vettel on the grid.

But I can't believe Red Bull want to throw away the potential for more points by doing anything to compromise Webber's car.

Is the clutch to blame? Well, clutches are complicated. They get bedded in on a rig to map their characteristics so the team know how they work. Then they are fitted to the car. After warming up the cars, the drivers then do a couple of practice starts to find the bite points.

Webber says his was like a clutch from a tractor. However, his race starts have been poor for the last three years.

Perhaps he does not quite have the reaction time of his team-mate. Perhaps he gets into a bit of fluster at the start of a race. Perhaps his control engineer is not as good as his rival's.

The driver does play a big role in the start procedure and my guess is that, every now and again, that part falls down a bit.


Fernando Alonso may have been beaten by Vettel but the Spaniard was best of the rest - and that is a big improvement for Ferrari.

Alonso revealed in Belgium that Ferrari engineers had put less focus on peak downforce and gone instead for more consistent aerodynamic behaviour. At long last, someone is thinking the same way as me.

Peak downforce is all very well, but it is useless if the car is unstable and unpredictable. It is much better to have slightly less overall downforce but a car that is stable and consistent.

Why? The driver has the confidence to push harder, which, in turn, improves lap times.

Alonso, who finished second at Spa after starting ninth on the grid, can drive anything fast, but even he will benefit from a consistent car.

What I want to see now is Vettel and Alonso together on the front of the grid so they can have a pure race.


Lewis Hamilton put his Mercedes on pole for the fourth straight race, but that was more down to the Englishman's skill at driving in wet conditions than the car's outright pace.

Mercedes never looked their best in the dry and Hamilton faded to third, with team-mate Nico Rosberg behind him in fourth.

I was surprised by that outcome. I thought Spa would suit them well.

They did not suffer the tyre problems they experienced as recently as Germany two races ago, but they still cannot find the consistency between qualifying and race pace.


In Hungary, Romain Grosjean was given a drive-through penalty for a beautiful overtaking manoeuvre on Ferrari's Felipe Massa.

Unfortunately, the Lotus driver was punished because all four wheels strayed just beyond the white lines that demarcate the edge of the circuit.

On Sunday, McLaren's Sergio Perez received the same penalty for forcing Grosjean off the track while attempting an overtake.

It was a simple DRS-assisted manoeuvre but Perez was stupid and in the wrong. The Mexican could have put Grosjean in the wall and caused £500,000 of damage to the Frenchman's car.

Di Resta dramatically crashes at Spa

So one bloke makes a fantastic pass and gets a penalty. Then, at the next race, another acts like an idiot and gets the same penalty. Something is wrong.

Pastor Maldonado was equally idiotic when he drove his Williams into both Force Indias at the Bus Stop chicane on Sunday.

After going off-line to defend his position against Sauber's Esteban Gutierrez, he tried to come into the pits but failed to take into account the other cars in the vicinity.

How could he drive straight across the line like that without looking? It's absurd.

He got a stop-and-go penalty but was out of the points anyway. And he took Paul Di Resta out of the race.

In my view, the FIA needs to revisit the penalty system and consider docking people points for bad driving.

It always seems to be the same group of drivers who offend.

Maldonado has history and there have been quite a few occasions this year when Perez's driving standards have been questionable.

Something needs to be done to stop them committing these offences.

The top guys do not make these type of errors. They race close, hard and fair. They respect other drivers.


Everyone in the pit lane has their fingers crossed at the moment that nothing serious happens to the tyres.

There were two perfectly normal punctures in Friday practice at Spa, but, because of all the other problems there have been this season, there was huge drama.

Now, following the intense scrutiny on tyre manufacturer Pirelli, there is talk that Michelin want to return to F1 next year.

Watch highlights of the 2005 US Grand Prix

On one level, that would be great. Michelin is a superb tyre company that understands its industry better than anyone I have ever worked with, although we should not forget the 2005 US Grand Prix only featured six cars because Michelin underestimated the demands of the Indianapolis track.

On another level, Michelin's tyre philosophy is very different from Pirelli's - and that could cause major problems for teams.

Given Michelin's tyres possess a softer sidewall and stiffer tread, the aerodynamics of the cars could be impacted significantly.

And with teams already well advanced with their 2014 designs, they would have to make substantial changes if Michelin made a return.

It is also worth noting that Michelin would never do what Pirelli has done and deliberately produce a tyre that wears purposely to spice up racing.

No, Michelin would build durable tyres that would result in one-stop races at most tracks. And some would say that would lead to boring races.

Gary Anderson is the former technical director of the Jordan, Stewart and Jaguar teams. He was talking to Andrew Benson