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Saturday, 24 August 2013 00:00

Belgian grand prix preview: Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso can still reel Sebastian Vettel in

Contenders must start winning to ursurp world champion
by Alex Ballard

Formula One: With the summer break done and dusted, hostilities begin anew in Formula One in Sunday's Belgian grand prix and the two men aiming to dethrone world champion Sebastian Vettel couldn’t have ended their respective summer breaks in more contrasting fashion.

Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso are the only drivers with even an outside chance of preventing the Red Bull star from winning his fourth-straight world title and it is imperative that both outperform the German at Spa.

Vettel has been utterly imperious for most of the season so far, often looking to be on a different level to his rivals.

But though he looks likely to claim number four in comfortable fashion, both Raikkonen and Alonso could still catch him if they start winning races.

Unfortunately for Raikkonen — not to mention neutral fans of the sport — the omens do not bode well.

Though impressive since returning to F1 with Lotus last term, the Finn has struggled to pick up wins this year when it has really mattered.

Raikkonen has also had his head turned by both Red Bull and Ferrari in recent weeks, prompting some hacks to imply that the iceman’s absence from the paddock yesterday — the first day back after the summer break — was more due to the glare of media heat rather than falling ill, as was stated by his team.

Regardless, the ongoing speculation has the potential to upset both Raikkonen’s focus and that of his team, which will not aid his already slim title chances.

In stark contrast, Ferrari have signalled their intent to fight for the world crown to the bitter end. Team principle Stefano Domenicali led the way earlier this week, claiming that the Italian team will never accept defeat.

As well as espousing a commendable never-say-die attitude, Domenicali also stressed his belief that Alonso could still deliver the side’s first drivers’ title since Raikkonen in 2007 if given the right support.

And while his call to arms won’t give the Spaniard’s car that extra burst of speed it so badly needs, at least the Italian marque has made a statement of intent.

Vettel currently sits 38 points ahead of Raikkonen with Alonso a further point behind but with nine races still to go, if either man can take the initiative heading into the second half of the season and hit a good run of form — just as Vettel did at towards the end of last term — then they could still make a fight of it.

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