The Belgian Grand Prix marks the beginning of the end of the Formula 1 season, starting a run of eight races that will decide the outcome of the 2011 world championship. But Sebastian Vettel's rivals will be hoping that the Spa race will be the start of the title battle proper, otherwise the 24-year-old German could have locked out the championship long before the circus gets to the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix in November.
Spa, and the Italian Grand Prix that follows two weeks later, are regarded as a window of opportunity for the rest. Conventional wisdom has it that Red Bull won't be a factor at either track, and although a glance at the record books confirms that Monza is an unhappy stomping ground for the bulls (except for those in their Scuderia Toro Rosso guise), the team's history at Spa suggests that both Vettel and Mark Webber aren't exactly going to be languishing in the midfield.
Why? Because last year Webber was on pole position, only to condemn himself to a fightback from sixth place when he let the revs drop too low at the start. Vettel, too, was quick last year before clattering into Jenson Button. For all the top speed weaknesses of the Red Bull-Renault package (and it is about the package, for the 'works' Renault outfit's speed trap figures have consistently been stronger during the 2011 season), the RB7 can be a factor.
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Edd Straw is Editor-in-Chief of Autosport, overseeing both print and digital versions of the brand. Edd has worked for Autosport since joining as a junior reporter in 2002. He became Editor in November 2014, having previously worked as National Editor, News Editor and Grand Prix Editor.
Originally from Guernsey in the Channel Islands, he joined Autosport shortly after graduating from university. He went on to cover a wide range of categories from club motorsport to the World Touring Car Championship and Le Mans to Formula 3 before switching to F1 full-time at the 2008 French Grand Prix. He continues to cover a range of international events in his position as Editor-in-Chief.
In his spare time, he was formerly a club racer whose abilities did not match his enthusiasm in a variety of categories.