Lewis Hamilton will be out to show his victory in Hungary could be the launch pad for a title challenge as the Formula One season resumes following a four-week break with the Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday.
The summer break came at perhaps the wrong time for the momentum of the Briton who has given himself an outside chance in his maiden year with Mercedes of winning a second drivers’ championship following his 2008 title with McLaren.
However, Mercedes’ sports chief Toto Wolff said in an interview that there was no point in thinking about what might have been as the teams move to the longest circuit on the F-1 calendar here.
“The break is the same for all the teams and although we won (the last race) in Hungary it is a good thing and also important to let all the workers enjoy this rest,” he said.
Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel holds a 38-point lead at the top of the standings with 172 points after 10 of the 19 races. Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen has 134, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso 133, and Hamilton 124.
“It feels like I have been out of the car for a very long time since the win in Hungary and I can’t wait to get going again,” Hamilton said. “Spa is a fantastic circuit and it’s so much fun to drive. We’re all looking forward to the second half of the season and the opportunity to bring home some more good results.”
Can Hamilton really be in the mix for the drivers’ title — an unlikely scenario when he left McLaren last year to join Nico Rosberg at the team? “That’s a difficult question,” said Wolff. “If you had asked me that six months ago I would have said, ‘that’s unrealistic’. To get out of this way of thinking is not so easy.
“I would say at the present time, the team has developed really satisfactorily in the first half of the season. We have got to grips with some problems; we have a very good atmosphere in the team. We now want to build on this and to deliver the best possible performance race for race.
“We have just reached the half-way mark and to start speaking about the title — if you take into account where we have come from — would be simply presumptuous.”
Raring to go
Team principal Ross Brawn said both Rosberg and Hamilton were “raring to get back into the car again”.
He added, “As usual, we will have a unique aerodynamic package adapted to the Spa layout. We finished the first half of the season on a high and will be aiming for an equally strong second half.”
Vettel’s chief rivals still appear to be Raikkonen, who is looking for his fifth victory at the demanding 7.004km circuit in what is one of the classic GP of the season, and Alonso, who is yet to win in Belgium.
“Spa is a very special circuit that always gets your adrenalin pumping, what with the way the track rises and falls and the very quick corners, which all go to make it a really fantastic experience for a driver,” the Ferrari driver said.
The race at Spa also highlights how McLaren has struggled this season after Jenson Button gave the team victory last year from pole position. Button looks back at that race as “pretty much the perfect weekend” but knows there will be no repeat on what he, like many other drivers, regards as one of his favourite circuits.
The Briton is only ninth in the standings, with 39 points, while teammate Sergio Perez has just 18. “We don’t go to Spa with the package to win, but I’ll still be making the most of every single lap around this place — it’ll still feel incredible,” Button said.