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Where The Belgian Grand Prix Was Won And Lost: Another Twist In The F1 Title Race

September 01, 2016

- Grant Whittington

It only takes a quick glance at the top of the Formula One Driver Championship to understand that this year’s title is one of the most keenly contested in living memory. With prime contenders Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg separated by just nine points at the top of the charts, even seemingly small and innocuous details can have a huge bearing on the final outcome.

In this respect, last weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix could have provided the seminal moment in the season. After Hamilton was given a 60-place drop for a power-component breach and breaking a gearbox seal, the Mercedes driver was forced to start the race from the back-row. This seemed to afford Rosberg a critical advantage, and one that could have proved decisive in the final reckoning.

How Hamilton Prospered In The Face Of Adversity

As so often during his career, however, Hamilton dug deep into his reserves of courage and skill to overcome such a crippling advantage. More specifically, he produced a fearless ride of breath-taking speed and composure, surging from the back row unchecked as fought for his place at the top of the Driver’s standings. Of course, we have become used to Hamilton’s incredible feats of skill during the last few years, but anyone present in Belgium will have marvelled at the way in which he weaved and powered his way along a treacherous course.

Rosberg, for his part, remained composed as he went about the business of winning the race from pole position. He accomplished this with ease, holding off a spirited but ultimately futile challenge from Red Bull’s talented driver Daniel Ricciardo in second place. Make no mistake; however, he will have been discouraged by Hamilton’s incredible act of recovery, with the British driver himself unsure of mounting a top-10 challenge on the eve of Sunday’s race.

So before the race, Rosberg fully expected to win and supersede Hamilton in the driver’s standings. While he did his part well and won the race at the canter, however, Hamilton’s Houdini-like performance means that he remains nine points adrift in the title race.

A Season-Defining Race, But Not In The Way That We Thought

As Saturday evening drew to a close at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, there was a genuine sense that the Belgian Grand Prix could provide a watershed in this season’s Championship. After all, a win for Rosberg and his ascension to the top of the standings would have triggered a significant change in momentum. After working so hard to sustain a challenge after an appalling start to the season, it may have been a blow that Hamilton would struggle to recover from.

In fact, we turned out to be half-right. While last weekend was indeed a seminal moment in the odds for the F1 Driver’s Championship, it was for entirely different reasons than we had expected. In fact, it marked a missed opportunity for Rosberg to return to the top of the standings, while reinforcing Hamilton’s psychological advantage and highlighting the unique qualities that make him a true champion.

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