The turnaround in the title battle has been dramatic. After the Austrian GP Verstappen led Hamilton by 182 points to 150, and just two races later he now trails the Englishman by 195 to 187. Red Bull meanwhile had led Mercedes by 286 to 242, and now the Brackley outfit his ahead by 303 to 291.
At Silverstone the level of tension between the rival camps was raised after contact from Hamilton sent Verstappen off the road on the first lap, and the World Champion overcame a 10 second penalty to win. Efforts by RBR to have a stricter punishment imposed retrospectively came to naught.
Prior to the Hungarian GP all the talk was about what might unfold when Hamilton and Verstappen met on track again. In the event that didn’t happen, and it was the other Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas that triggered the shunt that left Verstappen with a crippled car, and put his team mate Sergio Perez out of the race. That didn’t do much good for Red Bull’s view of Mercedes…
The next episode of Hamilton v Verstappen was thus postponed to Belgium. Given how often they have set the pace this year and outrun their team mates, the chances are that they will again be on the front row this weekend.
The mighty Spa, with genuine overtaking opportunities available and the weather often playing a role, is the perfect setting for such a fight. It’s not hard to imagine that at some point on Sunday we will see them battling along the straight to Les Combes.
It’s also a place that lends itself to contact, as both drivers have found out in the past.
Back in 2012 Hamilton was eliminated in the pile-up at La Source triggered by Romain Grosjean, while in 2019 Verstappen was involved in a collision at the same corner that led to a subsequent crash at Eau Rouge.
And then there was 2014, the year that Hamilton was hit by his then-Mercedes team mate Rosberg, and was eventually forced to retire due to damage incurred.
Two years later the pair had an even more costly incident in Barcelona, one that in effect handed Verstappen his first Grand Prix win.
Rosberg went on to win the title that year and then announce his retirement. Among the many hats he now wears he’s a TV pundit, and he’s enjoying watching the current fight from the outside.