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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 13 November 2018

Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari will win Formula One double - if they avoid scoring own goals

Ferrari had a good weekend in Belgium, but they have yet to capitalise on their good days
German driver Sebastian Vettel is now even more of a favourite to win the driver's title in 2018. AFP

If there was one lesson to be taken from Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix it was that if Ferrari cut out the mistakes, they will complete the drivers’ and constructors’ championship double for the first time in 11 years.

Sebastian Vettel drove superbly at Spa-Francorchamps to win for a fifth time in 2018 and close the gap on world champion Lewis Hamilton to 17 points with eight races remaining.

It has been the narrative of the season that when Vettel and Ferrari have a clean weekend - by which they have had no problems, errors, or wet weather - they have usually won.

Hamilton tried to put a brave face on his defeat on Sunday, but he knows that unless his Mercedes-GP team find a big step forward, his hopes of a fifth world title this season are in real trouble.

Ferrari have a sizeable engine performance advantage over Mercedes. It was clear throughout the weekend in Belgium.

The first and third sectors of the lap at Spa were made up of long straights and Ferrari gained time on Mercedes there.

In the twisty middle section Hamilton would eke time back, but the fact Ferrari topped the times in every practice session prior to qualifying told the story.

Hamilton took advantage of wet conditions in the final part of qualifying to take pole, but while he disagreed with the notion that he could have taken top spot in the dry, that was unlikely given what had occurred before.

Hamilton was powerless to prevent Vettel charging past him on the opening lap and then could not stay with his fellow four-time world champion.

If there was one consolation for Hamilton it was he only lost seven points to Vettel. Given the performance edge of the Ferrari, the Italian team really should have had a one-two.

Kimi Raikkonen was superb in practice, setting the fastest lap on Friday as he shone at a track he has won four times.

The 2007 world champion was the first to set a benchmark time in wet qualifying, but that proved to be his only lap time as Ferrari had only fuelled him for one fast lap.

That was a big error as in wet sessions, the lap times will constantly improve with more time on track, and as Hamilton and Vettel found more speed, Raikkonen was shaking his head in bemusement back in the pits.

Instead of being on the front two rows, Raikkonen was back in sixth and he ended up being caught up in the first corner melee and suffered a puncture that wrecked his race and led to his retirement.

If he had qualified where his pace should have put him, he would have been nowhere near the drama.

If Raikkonen could have beaten Hamilton, a very likely scenario given his practice pace, Vettel would have taken 10 points, rather than seven, out of his rival’s lead.

This Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix should again benefit Ferrari. With straights and chicanes aplenty power in abundance is needed.

This used to give the advantage to Mercedes, who have won the race the past four years, but as long as it is dry this really should be dominated by Ferrari.

But to do that they must avoid silly mistakes. Driver errors, strategy blunders, bad luck and rain-disrupted races have all played their parts when Ferrari have been front.

Certainly Vettel should have more wins, but for the fastest package on the grid this season not to have had a one-two finish is astonishing.

Questions can be asked about how good Raikkonen is, and his qualifying form has left a lot to desire, but it was the team who let him down in Belgium with the fuelling blunder.

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Belgian Grand Prix: Hamilton and Vettel title fight resumes as F1 returns after summer break

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Ferrari do focus on Sebastian Vettel but Kimi Raikkonen is just as important as he can take points away from Lewis Hamilton as well. Getty Images

Ferrari do focus on Vettel, but Raikkonen is just as important as he can take points away from Hamilton.

Italy and Singapore, the next two races, should suit Ferrari and if they can get one-twos there at the very least, Vettel would be leading the championship by three points.

Ferrari have Hamilton and Mercedes on the backfoot and it is vital they now exploit what advantage they have by having both drivers beat him.

Formula One is a fast-moving sport and Mercedes are sure to be working frantically to improve their own pace, so it is on Vettel and Ferrari to strike while the going is good, for both cars.

That means no more own goals, like fuelling a car incorrectly.

Championships are won and lost on capitalising on your good days. Ferrari have not done that properly yet, but there is still time yet for them to end the Mercedes streak of title success.