Sebastian Vettel enjoyed a commanding victory at Spa knowing that the best is yet to come.
The Red Bull driver is now 46 points ahead of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso in the standings as Formula One soon heads to Asia where the German has dominated in past years.
In a total of 14 Asian races towards the end of the past three seasons, Vettel has been on the podium 12 times and won nine of them.
With eight races left of the season -- beginning with the Italian Grand Prix in Monza in two weeks -- it will be hard to catch Vettel now.
“Vettel victory moves season closer to non-contest,” Britain’s Guardian newspaper headlined Monday. And like many, the paper’s commentator believes the title could be decided early.
“Vettel is beginning to dominate as he did in 2011...This championship could be over before it gets to the United States and Brazil at the end of the season,” a report said.
Vettel himself does not quite see it that way after the comfortable Belgian GP win, but knows that Monza, the fastest track in the calendar, could also favour the Red Bulls.
After easing to a fifth win of the season, he said it would be wrong to think too far ahead, a strategy he also adopted after building up a big lead in 2011.
In 2011 “we had a fantastic season but we were working very hard, step by step, race by race and surely not working towards a certain race to seal the championship with a couple of races to go,” he said.
“I wasn’t relaxed at that time, I was as nervous as I am today, hopefully. Therefore, as I said, it’s really step by step and not trying to be too smart, too clever and think too far ahead.” Vettel improves to 197 points, with Alonso on 151, with Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes on 139 and Kimi Raikkonen now fourth on 134 after the Lotus driver retired with a brake problem, the first time he has failed to finish since his comeback last year.
Alonso remained optimistic after finishing second from ninth on the grid. Last year he was 39 points ahead of Vettel after the Italian GP but six points behind three races later.
“It can change very quickly. We just need to keep trying to improve our performance and try to turn it around,” said the Spaniard, who now looks forward to a home grand prix for the Ferrari team.
“Last year we were very close to repeat the victory that we get also in 2010, so we arrive fully motivated again and in Monza we would like to give some smiles and some satisfaction to the tifosi and we will try our best,” he said.
After his fourth successive pole position, Hungary GP winner Hamilton soon realized he could not cope first with Vettel’s speed and then with Alonso, but is upbeat after his fifth podium finish of the season, a place ahead of team-mate Nico Rosberg.
Monza is a track which probably won’t favour the Mercedes, but the team should be more competitive in Singapore, he said.
Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn described the Belgian result as a “pretty respectable” performance, but said the reality was that both cars were still on average half a second off the pace.
“It is a measure of how far we have come in the past 12 months that a race which would have been our result of the season last year now feels slightly average,” he said.