Hamilton hopes to play his cards right

Wed Aug 20, 2014 8:31am EDT
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By Alan Baldwin

SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS Belgium (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton says his Formula One title duel with Mercedes team mate and championship leader Nico Rosberg is like a game of poker but the dominant duo may not hold all the aces in Belgium this weekend.

Resurgent Williams have the same engine as the Mercedes works team and both Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa have been looking forward to Spa - and Monza in Italy after that - as their best chances of winning this season.

Spa is the longest circuit on the calendar and 70 percent of the 7.004 km lap is at full throttle - putting engine reliability and power at a premium.

The Mercedes power unit is the pick of the field and the four teams using it should be strong in Spa. Williams have already shown their car has both straight line speed and aerodynamic efficiency.

"I think in theory Spa and Monza should be the next really good ones for us, maybe the best opportunities of the season," Bottas said before Formula One embarked on its summer break after Hungary at the end of July.

Spa, the 12th of 19 races, marks the start of the decisive phase of the season with teams and drivers refreshed and raring to go.

Last year it proved the springboard for a remarkable run of nine wins in a row by Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel that culminated in the German's fourth successive championship.

There is no chance of that happening this time, even if Red Bull went into the break on the back of Daniel Ricciardo's victory at the Hungaroring. Vettel has been eclipsed by the Australian and is yet to get back on top of the podium.   Continued...

Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain prepares for the first free practice session of the Hungarian Grand Prix at the Hungaroring circuit, near Budapest July 25, 2014. REUTERS/David W Cerny