F1 returns after a four week break! Teams and Drivers are eager to get back racing after the summer break and annual August shutdown with Spa-Francorchamps circuit playing host to the Belgian GP.
What happened over the break?
It has not been a quiet break with the F1 2019 grid being shaped after a couple of driver changes. Daniel Ricciardo began the break off by surprising everyone and even Red Bull that he was leaving for Renault at the end of the season. Renault confirmed this and confirmed that Nico Hulkenberg was also staying with the French outfit. Fernando Alonso then decided that he wasn’t racing in F1 in 2019 and was followed with McLaren signing Carlos Sainz Jr as Alonso’s replacement. And then to cap it all off, Pierre Gasly has been promoted to Red Bull, taking Ricciardo’s seat, for 2019 alongside Max Verstappen. Phew!
- Lap record: 1:46:577, Sebastian Vettel, 2017
- Laps: 44
- Circuit length: 7.004km
- Race distance: 308.052km
- Corners: 19
- First held: 1950
- Past Winners: Lewis Hamilton (2017), Nico Rosberg (2016), Lewis Hamilton (2015)
- Past Pole-sitters: Lewis Hamilton (2015 & 2017), Nico Rosberg (2016)
Pirelli have brought the Supersoft, Soft and Medium compound of tyres to this weekend. Spa is one of the longest race circuits on the calendar and with it’s challenging fast corners, a lot of pressure and energy is going to go through the tyres.
The Championship Standings
After the Hungarian GP, Lewis Hamilton increased his lead over Sebastian Vettel to 24 points. Kimi Raikkonen holds down 3rd only 14 points ahead of Valterri Bottas with the Red Bull’s of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen in 5th and 6th with only 13 points between them.
In the Constructors Championship, Mercedes hold a 10 point lead over Ferrari while Red Bull sit in 3rd, on their own, on 223 points – 122 points behind Mercedes. Renault lead the “best of the rest” on 88 points just 16 points ahead of Haas on 66 points. Force India aren’t far behind on 59 points while McLaren are still within striking distance on 52 points. Toro Rosso sit in 8th on 28 points, 10 points ahead of Sauber while Williams sit in 10th and last on 4 points.
Who’s got the upper-hand round Spa this year?
As before the F1 break, Mercedes and Ferrari have been ultra close and little has separated the two teams. Spa is a power-dependant track so teams with good engines typically go very well here. It also helps if the team has got a very good Aerodynamics package as well. Ferrari have pushed hard on engine development this year and many believe it is the best engine on the grid. Ferrari pushed Mercedes hard here last year and their engine boost could be the deciding factor. Although, Ferrari haven’t won at Spa-Francorchamps in almost a decade.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has not had the results he should have. Although, qualifying has gone well for the Dutchman, his 8th place finish in 2015 is the best he has achieved round here. Last year, he was forced to retire during the race and parked up opposite a large crowd of Dutch supporters. Fingers crossed that he has a better time this year.
As mentioned earlier, teams with good engines go well round here. Haas and Sauber, who both use Ferrari engines should go well with Haas eager to claim 4th in the Championship. Since returning to the sport in 2015, Honda have found the engine regulations difficult and have for the majority of the time, been the worst performing engine supplier. Although, Toro Rosso, who run Honda engines this year, managed to claim 4th at a very power-dependant Bahrain GP with Pierre Gasly guiding his STR13 to Honda’s best result since coming back to the sport. Who’s engine will power them to success this weekend?
Norris to make F1 debut with McLaren
McLaren’s reserve driver, Lando Norris is to make his F1 debut as he takes over from Fernando Alonso to drive in the first free practice session on Friday.
Norris, who currently lies 2nd in the F2 championship, drove for McLaren in the post-Hungarian GP test. McLaren’s Sporting Director Gil De Ferran hinted that Norris could get further opportunities later in the season to drive the MCL33 in a few practice sessions.
McLaren, who during the summer break signed Carlos Sainz Jr, are currently evaluating potential options of a couple of drivers to partner the Spaniard next year with Norris’s name being thrown in. This could be an exciting step for the young Brit for what is an important weekend.