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Page last updated at 13:56 GMT, Monday, 30 August 2010 14:56 UK

When five became two

Lewis Hamilton celebrates victory in Spa

Highlights - Hamilton wins in Belgium

BBC F1 analyst Martin Brundle
By Martin Brundle
BBC F1 analyst

Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel all scoring no points in Belgium on Sunday rather torpedoed our exciting five-way fight for the championship.

There remain 150 points on the table but Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber have some headroom at the top of the rankings and frankly they have looked the two most likely to emerge from this competitive season anyway. Webber is a four-time winner and Hamilton has now visited the top step three times.

Webber said to me on the grid that he "just wanted to survive the day" and he was delighted to finish second.

Unsurprisingly he is now calling for sole focus in the title chase from his Red Bull team, and presumably behind closed doors Hamilton will be suggesting the same at McLaren given that he is 35 points clear of Button.

Alonso looked the real deal in the Ferrari on Friday; everyone in the paddock was talking about his pace in the changeable conditions.


Somehow this evaporated a day later and he ended up a lacklustre 10th on the grid, with a wet set-up, and slick tyres.

If that didn't depress him then a sizeable whack from behind by Rubens Barrichello's Williams early in the race would darken his mood before a heavy meeting with the Malmedy barriers finally finished his day.

After the race I saw him heading up to the stewards' office where he would be representing the innocent party in the Barichello incident. Happy he was not.

His team-mate Felipe Massa drove solidly for fourth place and he may now feel that he doesn't have to support Alonso any more this year given the overall points situation. The team may see it differently.

Robert Kubica further confirmed his world class status with third place for Renault.

An improvement in his F1 parking skills would have netted second but sliding wide and long into his final pit stop for intermediate tyres handed second to Webber.

The Renault continues to improve and it seems the team hit a sweet spot straightaway with their version of the F-duct.

Sebastian Vettel crashes into Jenson Button

Vettel crashes into Button in Spa

Kubica and Webber were helped by the collision between Vettel and Button, who was struggling with a handling imbalance after damaging his front wing at the start. It was due to be changed at the first pit stop but he didn't get that far.

Button was defending well against a clearly faster Vettel but the German's Red Bull was bouncing off the rev limiter in top gear when he had a tow up the hill to Les Combes behind the McLaren.

With some frustration he looked for a run up the inside into the final chicane. Button fairly closed the door so Vettel violently flicked to the other side at 200mph.

I think he was further into the braking zone than he realised, and there was a little moisture on the track (although Button did insist afterwards that the track was "bone dry"). Add in the swerve, braking, and downshifting, and he slewed into the side of the McLaren, immediately damaging its radiators.

Luckily for Vettel, he had only damaged the front wing and he was very near the pit-lane entry. The stewards were not so impressed and rightly gave him a drive-through penalty.

A rather surprising decision to put him on full wets at the final stop, plus a puncture after yet more contact with Vitantonio Liuzzi's Force India, finally finished his chances of taking points.

Webber drove well and had the maturity to aim at any position on the podium as a satisfactory result. He sees Spa and the next track at Monza as his Achilles' heel in terms of car performance.

McLaren are maximising their potential better than Red Bull and Ferrari but Hamilton's new-found calmness behind the wheel is making a big difference

I can't help but feel that all the more stringent FIA aero rigidity checks and finger pointing by Mercedes and McLaren have taken away some of the Red Bull performance. Kubica's Renault had the measure of them at Spa, too.

If Webber wants the title he is going to have to beat a mighty Hamilton, who has added maturity and calmness to his prodigious speed.

Hamilton continues to be the driver of the year for me and not just because he is back in the lead of the championship.

McLaren are maximising their potential better than Red Bull and Ferrari but Hamilton's new-found calmness behind the wheel is making a big difference. His radio calls and his actions in high-stress moments speak volumes.

Two years ago he would have whacked the Rivage barriers during his adventure through the gravel trap on slicks as the rain started again on lap 35. Remember the pit lane incident in China 2008?

This time he just calmly coaxed it through to take a great victory, his first official win at Spa in F1.

Next up is the FIA World Council hearing on the Ferrari/Hockenheim team orders debacle.

This could have a major impact on how all of the teams manage their campaigns through to the crowning of the 2010 world champion.

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see also
Title race still open - Hamilton
30 Aug 10 |  Formula 1
Hamilton wins Belgian Grand Prix
29 Aug 10 |  Formula 1
Hamilton hails 'phenomenal' win
29 Aug 10 |  Formula 1
Button blames 'confused' Vettel
29 Aug 10 |  Formula 1
Red Bull 'may have to prioritise'
29 Aug 10 |  Formula 1
Belgian GP as it happened
29 Aug 10 |  Formula 1
Belgian Grand Prix race results
24 Feb 10 |  Results
Belgian Grand Prix photos
29 Aug 10 |  Formula 1

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