Lewis Hamilton column: Alonso and Raikkonen to challenge Vettel

 

In his latest BBC Sport column, Lewis Hamilton talks about working hard on his fitness during the summer break, his love of Spa and who will challenge Sebastian Vettel over the rest of the season.

I go into the Belgian Grand Prix this weekend feeling very refreshed after the four-week Formula 1 summer break.

For the last six years, I have gone on holiday in August and just relaxed and not done a huge amount of training. But this year I trained six days a week.

I kept myself really busy, never went out to dinner or party and went to bed early every night - always by 11.30pm.

In fact, I only had two days' holiday - I went to my place in Colorado for two days last weekend with a group of friends. We did rafting, buggying, hiking, chilling by the pool and it was fantastic.

Chasing physical perfection

I've really learned a lot about my health and physical wellbeing in the last three weeks. It has been a real focus for me.

I'm 28 and I have to be aware that as I get older, the racing does take a toll on my body.

I pulled something in my back when I was doing some abdominal crunches in training and I had to go and see an osteopath. It was fascinating because he pointed out loads of things I didn't even know were going on in my body; areas I can improve on.

It has opened up a new spectrum of fitness and made me wonder whether I need to expand my physical team.

I have a new diet, too, and at the moment I feel great on it all. I'm trying to get down into the details even more than in the past.

It is hard for people who don't do it to appreciate just how physical it is driving an F1 car. The drivers are used to it, but we do have to train really hard.

Because of the position we are in when we are driving, the strain is on different parts of your body.

I didn't know until just recently, for example, that my left hip flexor muscle is my weakest point. I thought I had a pretty strong butt! But I have to strengthen it up because it affects all sorts of other muscles.

I have always worked hard on this, but now I have taken another step in how I can make things even even better.

Aiming for more wins

All in all, it has been a really productive summer and arriving in Spa on Thursday morning, I just felt great.

Heading out to Belgium from Monaco there was the most incredible view as the sun came up   and it really reflected my positive mindset about the final nine races of the season.

I'm in a really good place. I feel very open-minded about what's possible. I feel massively determined, more focused than ever and generally excited about what's ahead.

I'm confident in the team and their abilities and the things we have planned for the car.

I visited the factory on Tuesday for the first time since I won the last race in Hungary. It felt as if there was a really positive vibe there.

Classic F1 - Belgian Grand Prix 2008

I was able to go in the simulator and try out some of the new parts we have for this race.

The simulator has been developed a bit since I last drove it, and that feels good because I feel I've been a part of where it's now beginning to go.

I have been able to point out some aspects that it was missing and it's great to feel that some of the suggestions I have been able to offer are now coming on stream.

I feel we are in a good position as a team. We have a good car and we should be competitive but we have to take it one race at a time.

The championship is always in the back of your mind, but you never know what's going to happen on any given weekend. I come here to Spa wanting to win more than ever but it's about managing expectations.

We have a good car so we should be competitive and that gives me a great feeling because I know if I'm at my best I should be able to eke out even better results.

But I don't think I'm Sebastian Vettel's main challenger in the championship, as some people are saying.

I come here knowing Ferrari have probably made a step. Fernando Alonso is going to be competitive and Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus is going to be hard work as well.

I still feel Sebastian's Red Bull is the best car. So they are going to be tough to beat, but I don't feel it's impossible.

Spa - one of the great races

Spa is a cool place. The track is spectacular and if the weather is good, as it was on Thursday, it's a really nice place to be.

F1: What makes Spa so special?

It's quite chilled. It's not an intense weekend, generally. It's like a real race weekend you would have back in the day.

There's no crazy media demands, or massive amounts of guests. It's just a real race weekend. Monaco is the glitz and glamour; this is just a pure race track. I really like that.

I've won here twice - although the record books say it's only once. I'm still not happy about the way the win was taken off me in controversial circumstances in 2008!

After this, we have Monza, where I won last year, and then Singapore, which has been good for me for many years. It's a cool part of the season and I feel really positive about it.

Lewis Hamilton was talking to BBC Sport's Andrew Benson.

Belgian Grand Prix, day one

  • Friday 23 August: First practice at 08:55 BST, plus live text commentary online. Second practice at 12:50 BST on BBC Two plus live text commentary online

Belgian Grand Prix, day two

  • Saturday 24 August : Final practice at 09:55 BST on BBC Two, plus live text commentary online. Qualifying at 12:10 BST on BBC One plus live text commentary online

Belgian Grand Prix, day three

  • Sunday 25 August: Race coverage at 12:10 BST on BBC One & BBC Red Button at 13:00 BST, Radio 5 live, plus live text commentary online. F1 Forum, 15:15 BBC Red Button (IPTV only). Highlights, 19:00 BBC Three & BBC Red Button