Formula 1 returns to action this week following the summer break, which gives us a huge meeting in Belgium. The weekend marks another battle between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, who are clearly the two standout drivers in the sport right now. Will there be another big display from the up and comer, or can Hamilton add to his lead?
While this year started with plenty of contenders for glory, we are likely to get the in-form duo fighting it out for maximum points. However, there’s plenty of post-break talking points here, as teams look to refocus their efforts for the final stretch of races. Hamilton tends to finish strongly, so he should be pleased with his return and confident about the future,
Belgium presents an interesting test for the sides as they return from summer. There’s obviously a few issues for the chasing pack, while Mercedes will be looking to keep their focus and secure a 1-2. They’ve got a long track to navigate this weekend, while they face a race with plenty of history, first taking place all the way back in 1925.
|13/21||Belgium||Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps||308km / 44 Laps|
|Date||Start Time||Finish Time||Forecast Conditions||TV Coverage|
|Practice 1||Fri 30th August||10:00||11:30||Dry / 21°||–|
|Practice 2||Fri 30th August||14:00||15:30||Dry / 23°||–|
|Practice 3||Sat 31st August||11:00||12:30||Dry / 26°||–|
|Qualifying||Sat 31st August||14:00||15:00||Dry / 28°||Sky F1|
|Race||Sun 1st September||14:10||16:10||Dry / 19°||Sky F1|
Last Season’s Result (2018)
When F1 rolled into town a year ago, Lewis Hamilton saw his lead at the top of the standings cut to just 17 points. Even if Hamilton finishes pointless and his nearest rival wins this Sunday, he will still head into the next race with a comfortable 37-point lead. Last term’s win here for Sebastian Vettel was a huge one, but Hamilton was still in the top two, having claimed three previous wins at the Belgian Grand Prix.
Elsewhere, Valtteri Bottas secured 12 points despite starting the race in 17th place on the grid, so that bodes well for the Mercedes duo going into the 2019 edition. However, Max Verstappen secured a respectable finish on the podium a year ago and he’ll be trying to surpass himself following some strong form in the weeks before the break. With decent form behind him at this track, we expect the Dutchman to step up at this weekend’s meeting.
|3||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||7||15|
|5||Sergio Perez||Force India||4||10|
|6||Esteban Ocon||Force India||3||8|
|9||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso||10||2|
Analysis: Contenders Ready for Final Nine
We’re also in the countdown stage of the F1 campaign, as we look towards the final nine races of the season. There’s going to be a lot of jostling for position, with Mercedes now aiming to prove themselves by getting Bottas into second, given that the title is practically theirs. There’s a 69 point lead for Hamilton over third-placed Max Verstappen, so regardless of what happens in Belgium this weekend it is hard to argue that we have a title race.
Intent from Mercedes
Heading to Belgium we’ve been spared the usual bold claims of Mercedes, who have changed their tune. No longer are they the inexplicable underdogs, but they’ve vowed to stay ahead of Ferrari and Red Bull. They have committed to raising the bar in the second half of the season, which is ominous given their current stranglehold on the sport.
The Silver Arrows are approaching Spa this weekend like it’s the start of a brand new campaign. Boss Toto Wolff is looking to keep focus among his drivers, especially with the chance to land some impressive results; so long as they can hold off the challenge from the Red Bull and Ferrari contenders. That marks out this weekend’s return to action as a crucial Grand Prix.
Flying Start for Hamilton
We expect the Mercedes man to make a perfect start to the second half of the season. This is the best start Hamilton has ever made to an F1 campaign, which has left him set for a sixth world title. He can take a huge step towards that success with another victory this week. He has won eight of his 12 races so far this season, so we think that odds of 11/8 for him to win are very generous. With three previous wins here, he has recent form and circuit form, making him a worthy favourite.
While Hamilton has made the most of this season so far, Verstappen remains a breakout star. He pushed Hamilton before the break, while he returns to Belgium following last season’s strong top three showing. He has taken 78 points from his last four races, which has shot Verstappen into the top three in the overall standings. We’re expecting him to follow up on that, with his price of 2/1 to finish inside the top three this weekend looking far too good to ignore based on his recent displays.
About the Brazilian Grand Prix
There are few more iconic and well-known racetracks in the world than Spa, situated in Stavelot, Belgium. The track is the longest on the F1 calendar and is often thought to be a brutal test for both drivers and cars.
It’s been about in some form since 1920 and was originally developed as a speed course, with many of those original features still on show today. Over the years, as the cars have developed, the track has had to be modified as it’s claimed many lives in the years it’s been open.
The track is often referred to as the “spiritual home of F1” and is held right in the middle of the circuit and as part of the European swing of races. At just over 7km it remains the longest circuit of the season, including long straights and fast, sweeping corners, coupled with its picturesque setting, mean that many regard it as the greatest racetrack in the world.
The changeable weather and big elevation changes of over 100m, along with legendary corners such as Eau Rouge and Blanchimont maintain its reputation as one of Formula 1’s most demanding challenges. The track is very much a part of the old-school and that’s how it’s set up to be. Fans from all over the world travel to the track to see a possible piece of history in the marking.
The run into turn 1 is very short, in fact, it’s one of the shortest in the calendar. The turn isn’t all that tight, but at the start of the race will offer some room for overtaking and can be utilised later in the race as well.
They then head down the bank as the car rapidly accelerates due to the elevation change and into the first of the iconic corners; Eau Rouge. The drivers need to take a deep breath – literally- as the compression from the elevation change is heavy at the base of the hill then very light as it comes up over the top, almost as it were to take off.
The cars then come up to the top straight and it’s not uncommon for cars to be hitting over 340kmph as they approach the chicane section. Turn 5 is very open and has a relatively short breaking zone. The cars are then flung straight into turn 6 which pulls the car across to the kerb and then going through turn 7 pretty much flat out, using the whole apex and the kerb on the apex.
The cars start to the steep decent again through turn 8, which is a sweeping hairpin. The driver must clip the kerb early before positioning the car into the middle of the road and gaining the correct approach for turn 9.
Turns 10 and 11 are probably the most iconic on the race track. Drivers are pretty much flat out between the two sweeping left handers, reaching speeds of 280 kmph in each, barely lifting between the two and using as much kerb as they dare to get a better racing line.
The run to turn 12 allows the drivers to take a quick breather after the almost 5G that is created in the previous two turns. Speeds decrease to around 180 kmph and sees a short run out through turn 13. They then approach Turn 14 and what is regarded as the end of sector 2. This is a point of reference for the driver to signify if they are on a good lap or not.
The drivers are then flat out through turn 15 and onto the back straight. It’s one of the most secluded parts of the racetrack with stunning views of the surrounding forest and very few spectators. It’s the fastest part of the track as well as cars are flat out through this section and through the kink at Blanchimont.
The driver then comes up to the relatively new chicane. A good line and run in here is vital to get good traction through the last turn and then back through the finish line. Drivers are required to have both great skill and bravery, especially in the back straight section where only the bravest will be able to keep their foot to floor and gain vital time over their opponents.
The track has changed considerably over the years since it first opened in 1920. But, the characteristics haven’t changed. Form what was once a fast, sweeping tracking is very much what you see today, although with added corners and safety measures to ensure driver safety is a priority.
2004-2009 – KIMI’S DOMINANCE
Kimi Raikkonen will always be regarded as one of the best around the Spa circuit. From 2004 through to 2009 (race wasn’t run in 2006) he won an incredible 4 times from 5 races. The one race he failed to win was in 2008 when he crashed after just 4 laps after having managed to jump from 4thposition on the grid to second in his Ferrari.
1998 – CHAOS & CARNAGE
The 1998 Belgium Grand Prix at Spa is one of the most iconic in the sports history. The race was eventually won by that of Damon hill, fending off Ralf Schumacher, his team mate by little under 1 second. But, it was what happened at the start of the race that everyone remembers.
On the first lap, David Coulthard lost control of his McLaren which caused a huge crash that involved 13 cars in total. 8 of those cars would retire after not even completing 1 lap and the race only had 8 cars finish the race, ironically, with 1 of those being that of Coulthard’s that has caused so much destruction at the start…. albeit 5 laps down on the winner!