Lewis Hamilton secured an expected win at the Belgian Grand Prix this weekend to shorten the gap to title leader Sebastian Vettel and put his Mercedes team in the Constructors ascendancy.
This race played out exactly as expected during the build up. The 7km Spa-Francorchamps circuit suits Mercedes down to a tee; it favours engine power and speed, given its long straights and winding bends.
Somewhat surprisingly, however, Ferrari were hardly slouches in comparison to the Silver Arrows. In fact, but for a botched pit-strategy, Vettel could've taken victory here. When Hamilton pitted early on in the race for fresh tyres, the initial idea by the Scuderia was to keep Vettel out for several more laps to develop a gap on the Brit, and entrust team-mate Kimi Raikonnen with the task of slowing Hamilton up in traffic.
In the end, neither of these things happened. Vettel's blistering tyres meant he had to pit only two laps after Hamilton, a time Martin Brundle dubbed as "the no-man's land" of pit-stop overcutting. The first stage of the plan having failed, there was still the option of Kimi holding up Hamilton. However, that plan was destroyed as soon as both the Ferrari and Mercedes sailed up E'au Rouge. Hamilton overtook Raikonnen as if the Ferrari were stationary, and with that move he effectively secured his win.
When the Safety Car came out following debris on the track after an all-Force India collision (more on that in a moment), Vettel threatened to overtake Hamilton on the restart. He built up a better momentum heading into E'au Rouge after the Safety Car pitted and was side by side with Hamilton as they accelerated up the Kemmel Straight. However, it was all a ruse by Hamilton; the Briton had intentionally lifted off the accelerator peddle so as to dampen Vettel's slipstream and momentum, ensuring that he couldn't catapult and take the lead.
It was a move of pure genius; he slowed up to go faster. An idea that boggles the mind, but was dubbed championship winning 'racecraft' by others. Pure brilliance.
The other major talking point of the race was the latest in the Force India cival war. Talented as they are, Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez are incredibly hot-headed and combustible. They should not be team-mates.
As they approached the pit-straight, Ocon clearly had the superior speed and attempted a legitimate overtake on Perez. Not having any of it, Perez narrowed his team mate's overtake route, to the point where Ocon was forced to play chicken with the pitwall. He yielded and the resulting movement into Perez took off a huge chunk of front wing (that almost sailed dangerously into the turnstiles) and punctured Perez tyre. The Mexican's race was ruined in a moment of pure stupidity. Ocon went ballistic over the team radio and questioned his team mate's sanity. Perez more than likely shrugged his shoulders and muttered: "so what?"
The Force India garage were rightly furious and have enforced a no-racing rule against the pair and team-orders are effectively in play. It's a shame given the exciting, racing qualities of the pair, but this is just the latest in a series of clashes that have cost FI a lot of points in the constructors' table.
We move on now to Monza, Italy, home of the tifosi and a circuit that demands a Ferrari victory. They're unlikely to get one, mind. Once again, this track favours high speeds and power, something that Mercedes possess in spades. Assuming Vettel won't secure pole position in qualifying, the aim is a first corner overtake next Sunday, or else it's looking like a Mercedes win.