Mike Stevens | Aug 30, 2010

Lewis Hamilton took the lead of the World Championship from Mark Webber on Sunday, by beating the Australian to victory at slippery Spa-Francorchamps.

As the fickle Belgian Ardennes continued to produce changeable weather conditions, the mere 20-point gap that had separated the top five title chargers blew out to more than 40.

One big loser on Sunday was Fernando Alonso, initially taken out by Rubens Barrichello at the start of the race before crashing on his own at the end.

Also now a long way behind in the Championship - 35 points - is Jenson Button, who was innocently taken out by Sebastian Vettel as the Red Bull charger lost control during an overtaking attempt.

"It's a massive blow -- a massive blow," Button said on BBC television, shortly before Vettel said "sorry" in his own media scrum.

There is clearly no love lost between the drivers' management, with McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh admitting he thinks Vettel "got off lightly" with a drive-through penalty.

Red Bull's Christian Horner naturally adjudged the penalty "a bit too hard".

"What else can you give him?" said Button. "It was a racing incident, he didn't do it on purpose."

Horner added: "You need to take into account the difficult weather conditions and that Jenson braked early."

Vettel, scoring no points at Spa and now 31 points behind his teammate, also had to serve extra pitlane time after cutting a tyre on Tonio Liuzzi's Force India.

"Everything that could go wrong for Sebastian went wrong today," boss Horner told German Sky television.

In the sister Red Bull, Webber's second place on Sunday leaves him just 3 points adrift of Hamilton and well clear of the next challenger.

He intimated to reporters that the team might now be wise to back him for the last six races of 2010.

"It depends how hungry they are," he said.

But Horner said: "It's too early for that. Sebastian is still in it. We have seen already how quickly the tide can turn."

(GMM)

 

Whitmarsh Slams Vettel After Button Crash

Martin Whitmarsh was highly critical of Sebastian Vettel after Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix.

Vettel, 23, lost control of his Red Bull at Spa-Francorchamps while attempting an overtaking move and took out McLaren's Jenson Button.

McLaren team boss Whitmarsh commented he thought the German "got off lightly" with a drive-through penalty.

"Sebastian is an exceptional and very fast driver," he said. "But he makes a habit of colliding with other drivers. Jenson was in a strong position and it hasn't only damaged his world championship chances but it's also bad for our team."

"A mistake like that is something you usually only see in junior formulas, not in Formula One. He is a likeable guy and we know we didn't do it on purpose.

"He's developing. But when you're fighting for the title, this sort of thing is not easy. It affects not only him but also those around him," Whitmarsh said.

"I'm sure he'll learn a lot from this but it hasn't happened only today."

The comments come at the end of the flexible front wing saga, where Whitmarsh was among the loudest critics of Red Bull's RB6 car.

Red Bull's Christian Horner admitted Spa was "not a great weekend" for the team's young driver but said Button also contributed to the incident.

"I think Jenson took him by surprise with how early he braked for the bus-stop and (Vettel) tried to avoid him," said the Briton.

(GMM)

 

Ferrari Not On Side With Predictions Of Red Bull Weakness At Monza

Stefano Domenicali is not yet writing off Ferrari's Championship chances, but he also doubts Red Bull is set to suffer a performance dip.

Red Bull figures are predicting that Monza in two weeks will be the Austrian team's weakest venue of the season, but on the similar Spa-Francorchamps layout this weekend, Mark Webber secured pole and drove to second place.

"I hope it's true, but I don't believe it," the Ferrari team boss told reporters in Belgium. "They have a very good car; perhaps it's part of the tactical game."

Ferrari looked set for a strong showing at Spa early this weekend, but Fernando Alonso has now fallen more than 40 points behind the title lead.

And the forthcoming Brazilian GP will mark two years since a red car has been on pole.

"It's definitely not a good sign because it means we do not have the best package. In Germany, we were very close, but now we seem to have fallen back a bit."

The Italian insists, however, that the famous Maranello based team is still in the running.

"In 2007 we were 17 points behind with two races to go and we became champion. We will continue to push, because today, three of the five contenders did not score.

"We were one of them, but maybe next time it's the other way around, so we have to keep going," added Domenicali.

Another worry for Ferrari is the September disciplinary hearing over the Hockenheim controversy, and the possibility of a further points loss, but Domenicali said he is "sure the World Council will understand our point".

He also confirmed that, unlike Renault and perhaps McLaren, Ferrari is not planning to drop the F-duct from its package for Monza.

And he jokingly commented on speculation that until very recently, Korean organisers were still to lay the asphalt at its new formula one venue.

"I think a cancellation would be a problem for everyone in the championship fight," Domenicali said.

"But right now I am expecting that the race will take place. If there is still a gravel road, then we will have to get Kimi (Raikkonen) back!" he said.

(GMM)

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