World champion still rankling after demotion at last year’s Belgian GP
SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium: Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton said he has unfinished business to take care of in tomorrow’s Belgian Grand Prix.
The McLaren driver took a thrilling victory at the Spa circuit last year on his way to the title, but was then demoted to third place after a chicane-cutting controversy.
The previous year he had finished fourth on a weekend overshadowed by McLaren being stripped of all their constructors’ points for having Ferrari data in their possession.
“I hope it is third time lucky. That’s a good way to look at it, I think, especially as we have come off two very good race weekends,” said Hamilton, who was fastest in yesterday’s free practice.
“I always seem to go quite well here, even though this circuit is seriously high downforce so you need to have a good package beneath you.
“I don’t think we have had the best, especially for highspeed corners, but bit by bit we are making improvements” said the 24-year-old, who won in Hungary last month and finished second in Valencia last weekend.
“If we are able to get the balance throughout the weekend then hopefully we will be able to challenge for another podium.
“I definitely want to get that win here. I felt like I won it last year and it would feel good to get that win here,” he said.
Hamilton started the season with a car so uncompetitive that McLaren immediately ruled out being able to challenge for victories. The champion has long given up on any hope of defending his crown.
However, the Mercedes-powered team have made huge strides over the months since the Australian season-opener in March, allowing Hamilton to hope for another strong performance at one of Formula One’s great tracks.
Hamilton also has the benefit of the KERS energy recovery system which gives his car a brief boost of power at the push of a button. “This is one of my favourite circuits and one of the best circuits in the world,” said the Briton.
“You look forward to certain races in the year and this is one of them. This is a serious circuit.
“It is serious high speed, very long. I have always said that it is one of those circuits where you actually feel you are going somewhere as you go up through the woods.”
Toyota’s Timo Glock was second, 0.016 slower, after Italian team mate Jarno Trulli had topped the timesheets in a rainswept morning session.
The sun came out after lunch and Hamilton showed that McLaren’s recent revival was not confined to tight and twisty tracks.
Toyota, still chasing their first win, also looked surprisingly quick, while favourites Red Bull had Australian Mark Webber fourth fastest behind Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, who pulled over in the closing sec- onds. French rookie Romain Grosjean was an impressive fifth for Renault.
Championship leader Jenson Button, who leads team mate Rubens Barrichello by 18 points, was a distant 17th with the Brazilian 18th. Button had been second in the morning before the rain fell.
Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, fourth in the championship but 25 points adrift of Button, sat out the first session to save his engines after blowing two in Valencia last weekend but was 10th in the afternoon.
The 22-year-old has only two fresh engines remaining and will collect a 10-place penalty on the starting grid at any race where he has to go over his offi- cial allocation of eight engines for the season.
“Having two failures within two days was not a good thing ... it affects the programme for the rest of the season,” he had said after arriving at the circuit.
“The last thing we want is to take a penalty, so the question now is what can we do.
“We are considering now all our options and possibly this means less running for myself on a Friday, so less practice which for sure is not an advantage.”
Ferrari stand-in Luca Badoer looked ragged on a track that he at least has previous experience of. The 38-yearold Italian was 10th in the morning, his time flattered by the capricious weather conditions, and then slowest in the afternoon with a time more than two seconds off Hamilton’s best.
Compatriot Giancarlo Fisichella, who would love to replace Badoer, was sixth fastest for Force India. – Reuters
IN THE GROOVE: McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton shows clinical precision as he sweeps through one of the Spa Francorchamps’ high-speed corners in preparation for tomorrow’s Belgian Grand Prix. The current world champion clocked the fastest time of the day.