SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS • Lewis Ha- milton can become only the third driver to win 50 grands prix when Formula One returns from its month-long August break and gets back to business at Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix.
The triple world champion ended the first half of the season in blistering form, opening up a 19-point lead in the standings over Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg with six wins from the last seven races.
His win in Germany last month was his 49th, and only Michael Schumacher (91) and Alain Prost (51) have reached the half century.
Hamilton, who trailed Rosberg by 43 points after May's Spanish Grand Prix, is determined not to ease off.
"The first half of the season was a bit of a roller coaster, so it's great to be in the position I'm in with more than half of the races behind us," said the Briton, who spent his break in the Caribbean, Costa Rica and the United States.
"I'm feeling refreshed, re-energised and ready to go."
But dark clouds will hang heavy over the famous Spa-Francorchamps circuit deep in the forest of the Ardennes, for Hamilton knows there is trouble to come.
Drivers are punished along with their teams if their cars suffer mechanical failures and Hamilton has used up his allocation of vital engine parts, meaning that any further replacements will trigger grid penalties. That could see him forced to race from the back of the grid in pursuit of Rosberg.
The rules say that drivers are allowed five penalty-free changes of six different engine components. Hamilton has already used five turbochargers and his set of MGU-H energy recovery devices. Replacing them means a grid penalty of up to 15 places each.
The Briton will be gunning for victory in Spa on Sunday to give himself a points buffer for the Italian Grand Prix a week later, where he will probably elect to take his new components - and his penalties.
REUTERS, THE TIMES, LONDON