Eau Rouge separates boys from men
Competition will be stiff at today’s race, but Hamilton and Rosberg will lead the charge
For many years, Formula 1 fans have complained that the sport is becoming too easy, too safe.
Don’t misunderstand me. No one wants to see a driver, marshal or spectator hurt – a fact that was brought to the fore recently in the US – but we do want to see the men separated from the boys.
Over the years, F1 has managed to throw up several tests for the drivers, with those often becoming the sport’s most hallowed corners.
Arguably, the most famous of them all is Eau Rouge at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium. It is a plunging right-left-right kink that has tested the bravery of drivers for decades. But in recent years, improvements in aerodynamics and grip have put paid to that, allowing drivers to take the corner flat out. This year, they would have to be very brave to attempt that. Changes to the regulations have resulted in a loss of downforce on this year’s cars, and that will be evident when the drivers take on Eau Rouge this afternoon.
Already, world champions Lewis Hamilton and four-time Belgian GP winner Kimi Räikkönen have stated it would be very difficult to take on Eau Rouge flat out, but that doesn’t mean they won’t try.
At a time when F1 is becoming a young man’s sport, it may be left to the elder statesmen to show us how it’s done.
For Hamilton, the winner of the 2010 Belgian GP, today’s race marks the beginning of the end in the race for the 2014 Drivers’ Championship title. The Mercedes driver enters the race trailing his team-mate Nico Rosberg, who has yet to reach the Spa podium, by 11 points in the Championship. And the gloves are off. Mercedes have already announced they won’t get involved in any way, that the powers that be will neither issue team orders nor dictate their drivers’ strategies.
This could result in a repeat of the Hungarian GP, where Rosberg, on a different strategy to that of his team-mate, came up behind Hamilton but could not pass. The team asked the Brit to move over but he refused, saying Rosberg needed the pace to pass him. He didn’t have it. That ultimately cost Rosberg a shot at the victory, which went to Daniel Ricciardo after a late battle with Fernando Alonso and Hamilton.
But today, Ricciardo’s chances of success will be sorely dented by his Renault engine, which lacks the pace and the power needed to challenge the Mercedes runners.
Expect Hamilton and Rosberg to lead the charge for the race win, while many are tipping Williams’ Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa to take the fight to the Merc duo as the high-speed straights and flowing corners of Spa will suit their FW36.