The long mid-season break is over, and the second half, or more accurately, the final nine races of the season is about to get underway as the Formula One grid heads to the historic Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium for the 2019 Belgian Grand Prix, Round 13 of the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship, and there has been a big change at Red Bull Racing-Honda for the rest of the season.
Red Bull Racing-Honda have decided to drop Pierre Gasly (63 points), who is currently a distant sixth in the championship, back to Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda, and have promoted Alexander Albon (16 points), who is currently 15th in the standings, up to the main Red Bull team to partner Max Verstappen (181 points), who sits currently in third in the world championship behind the two Mercedes drivers in Lewis Hamilton (250 points), and Valtteri Bottas (188 points).
Verstappen arguably has been the best driver in 2019, and is the only non-Mercedes driver to win races (two) this season, and has been performing to a level that is out of this world, seemingly out-performing his car race in, race out in comparison to Gasly, so it is going to be interesting to see if Albon is freakishly good, like Verstappen is, or whether his performance level is similar to Gasly’s, or whether Albon’s level is somewhere in-between over the course of the final nine races of 2019.
Talking about Hamilton, it was an amazing performance by him, and his team at the Hungaroring to defeat Verstappen and Red Bull in what a blisteringly great performance by both Hamilton and Verstappen, with Hamilton taking his 81st career victory, and now has a 62 point lead ahead of his teammate Bottas, whose future is still up in the air as to whether he stays at Mercedes, or whether he will need to search for greener pastures for the 2020 season.
Meanwhile at Ferrari, it hasn’t been a good season for them so far after so much promise before the start of the season, but it hasn’t been returned in equal measure with Sebastian Vettel (156 points) and Charles Leclerc (132 points) fourth and fifth in the world championship with no wins, and only really performing on circuits that have allowed their straight-line speed to shine.
Ferrari will be looking to utilise that strength over the next two races in Belgium and Italy to hopefully get a race victory or two before the end of the season.
Behind the Top Six in the championship, Carlos Sainz Jr. (58 points) is just five points behind Gasly in seventh for McLaren-Renault, while Kimi Räikkönen (31 points) for Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari, Daniil Kvyat (27 points) for Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda, and Lando Norris (24 points) for McLaren-Renault complete the Top 10 in the standings.
In terms of the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (438 points) leads by a dominant 150 points over Ferrari (288 points), while Red Bull Racing-Honda (244 points) are 44 points behind Ferrari in third.
Behind the Top Three, McLaren-Renault (82 points) look to have fourth position under lock and key, while Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (43 points) and Renault (39 points) battling for fifth, with Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari (32 points), Racing Point-BWT Mercedes (31 points), and Haas-Ferrari (26 points) looking to join that battle before the end of the season, while Williams-Mercedes (one point) is last.
So, who is going to win the 2019 Belgian Grand Prix?
You feel that this is Ferrari’s best chance (or at least one of their best chances) to claim a race victory in 2019, and you feel like that they will be favourites to claim pole position this weekend, but throughout most of the 2019 season, Mercedes have generally had the best race pace out of the entire field on a consistent basis, so should at worst be on the podium, but I think Sebastian Vettel is the one to beat this weekend!
What a race in Austria! What a duel between Andrea Dovizioso and Marc Márquez! A duel that went all the way to the final corner, and it was the Italian who got past the great Spaniard at the final corner to grab a memorable victory, his 14th in the premier class, to keep Ducati’s undefeated run at the Red Bull Ring alive!
However, can Dovizioso back up and defeat Márquez for a second race in a row? We will find out as MotoGP heads back to Great Britain, the spiritual home of motorsport and grand prix motorcycle racing, and to Silverstone for the 2019 British Grand Prix, Round 12 of the 2019 MotoGP World Championship.
Márquez (230 points) for the Repsol Honda Team had his sizeable championship lead cut to 58 points by Dovizioso (172 points) from Mission Winnow Ducati, but you feel like the Spaniard has got this world championship under complete control, and hasn’t gone two races in a row without a race victory in 2019, so you think he is the man to beat at Silverstone.
As for Dovizioso, he needs to win again if he is to keep his slim championship hopes alive, and given the characteristics of Silverstone, it should be a great chance for Dovizioso to claim just his third win of 2019.
Danilo Petrucci (136 points) is still in third in the world championship for Mission Winnow Ducati despite finishing a disappointing ninth in Austria, and is set to come under pressure from Álex Rins (124 points), who finished sixth for Team SUZUKI ECSTAR, as well as the two Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP riders in Valentino Rossi (103 points) and Maverick Viñales (102 points) after stronger fourth and fifth-place results at the Red Bull Ring.
Petronas Yamaha SRT rider Fabio Quartararo (92 points) has overtaken both Jack Miller (86 points) from Alma Pramac Racing and Cal Crutchlow (78 points) from LCR Honda after finishing a brilliant third in Austria, capitalising on the crashes of both Miller and Crutchlow.
Crutchlow’s teammate Takaaki Nakagami (62 points) is just inside the Top 10, and is ahead of Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider Pol Espargaró (61 points), and Franco Morbidelli (58 points) from Petronas Yamaha SRT in the standings.
So, who is going to win the 2019 British Grand Prix?
Last year, the British Grand Prix was cancelled due to dangerously wet conditions, but the weather is set to be fine all this weekend at Silverstone, with the temperatures hovering around the mid-to-high 20s (degrees Celsius), and if that is the case, you would expect a duel between Marc Márquez and Andrea Dovizioso, although you wouldn’t be surprised if others do challenge the two leading men in the championship for a fair portion of the race, and if others can challenge, it will be a race to remember!
The MotoGP grid returned from their mid-season break, along with the same story that has dominated this season so far, the dominance of Marc Márquez!
Márquez not only grabbed his 50th premier class victory, his sixth race victory of the season in the Czech Republic, being the only rider so far in 2019 to have more than one win to his name, but before that, Márquez in changeable conditions took a remarkable 58th premier class pole position to equal the record held by Mick Doohan!
So, the question about whether anyone can challenge or stop Márquez will be the main storyline, along with whether Márquez can break Doohan’s pole position record in the premier class as we head into the 2019 Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring, Round 11 of the 2019 MotoGP World Championship.
Márquez (210 points) leads the championship by 63 points for the Repsol Honda Team over Mission Winnow Ducati Andrea Dovizioso (147 points), and even Dovizioso, along with the rest of the grid, is wondering how are they going to get on terms with the five-time MotoGP World Champion, despite finishing second in Brno.
It is one thing doing it at one venue every few rounds, like what could happen this week at the Red Bull Ring, with Ducati being a strong chance of challenging Márquez, it is another thing doing every round, and right now, no one else on the MotoGP grid can match what the great Spaniard is doing!
Dovizioso’s teammate Danilo Petrucci (129 points) is third in the world championship, losing ground to his teammate in battle for second in the championship after a disappointing eighth-placed finish at the Czech Republic Grand Prix, while Team SUZUKI ECSTAR rider Álex Rins (114 points) maintained his challenge for third in the standings despite finishing fourth.
Behind the Top Four in the world championship, we have the two Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP riders in Maverick Viñales (91 points) and Valentino Rossi (90 points) after finishing sixth and 10th respectively in Brno.
As a team right now, Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP should be embarassed about where they are right now, and with the exception of the single race victory by Viñales in Assen, they haven’t looked genuinely close to winning a race in 2019 on merit, and right now are being challenged by Jack Miller (86 points) from Alma Pramac Racing after finishing a brilliant third in the Czech Republic from second on the grid.
If he continues this kind of form for the rest of 2019, Miller will finish ahead of both factory Yamaha riders in the championship!
Cal Crutchlow (78 points) is eighth in the world championship for LCR Honda after finishing fifth behind Márquez, Dovizioso, Miller, and Rins, and is in a close battle for this position in the standings with Petronas Yamaha SRT rookie Fabio Quartararo (76 points), who finished two places behind the British rider in seventh, while Pol Espargaró (61 points) completes the Top 10 in the championship for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, ahead of Crutchlow’s teammate Takaaki Nakagami (57 points), and Quartararo’s teammate Franco Morbidelli (52 points).
So, who is going to win the 2019 Austrian Grand Prix?
This race should suit Ducati because of the long straights, the hard-braking sections at the end of the long straights, and the general point-and-squirt nature of the Red Bull Ring. However, Marc Márquez was right there with the Ducati of Jorge Lorenzo last year, like he was with the Ducati of Andrea Dovizioso in 2017, and with Honda taking a big step forward with their bike in 2019 in regards to straight-line performance, Márquez has to be the man to beat at every circuit for the rest of 2019!