The 12th round of the 2017 Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Formula One World Championship takes place this weekend at the famed Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium, and with nine races remaining in the season, the battle between Mercedes and Ferrari is set to explode!
Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel (202 points) leads the world championship by 14 points over Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton (188 points) as the Formula One grid returns to racing after the summer break.
Vettel comes into the 12th race of the season having won four times in 2017 (Australia, Bahrain, Monaco, and Hungary), as well as claiming a further four podiums (China, Russia, Spain, and Austria) as he aims to win his fifth world championship, and win Ferrari their first drivers’ world championship since 2007.
Hamilton has also had four wins this season (China, Spain, Canada, and Great Britain), but only a further two podiums (Australia, and Bahrain), and has dominated on Saturdays, claiming six pole positions, as he aims to claim his fourth world championship.
Talking about pole positions, if Hamilton does grab pole position for the Belgian Grand Prix, he will equal Michael Schumacher’s record for the most pole positions in Formula One, at a place where Schumacher has won on six occasions.
However, as far as the championship is concerned, both Vettel and Hamilton have to be wary of Valtteri Bottas. The teammate of Hamilton is currently on 169 points, 33 points behind Vettel in the championship after taking two victories (Russia, and Austria), as well as a further six podiums (Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Azerbaijan, Great Britain, and Hungary) as he looks to challenge for his first world championship.
In fourth in the drivers’ world championship is Daniel Ricciardo. The Red Bull driver is on 117 points, 85 points behind Vettel in the championship after taking a single victory in 2017 (Azerbaijan), as a part of a run of five consecutive podiums, which included podiums in Spain, Monaco, Canada, and Austria.
Kimi Räikkönen is fifth in the world championship on 116 points, and will remain at Ferrari until the end of 2018. While he hasn’t taken a race victory so far in 2017, he has had four podiums (Russia, Monaco, Great Britain, and Hungary), and will be looking for another one at Spa-Francorchamps, a place where he has won at four times.
Max Verstappen is sixth in the world championship on 67 points in a troubled season where he has encountered a number of reliability issues, and been involved in a number of on-track incidents, most notably in Hungary, where he collided into his teammate Ricciardo, causing Ricciardo to retire from the race, and receiving a 10-second time penalty as a result, costing himself and his team a number of points.
The two Force India drivers follow in the world championship standings, with Sergio Pérez (56 points), and Esteban Ocon (45 points) separated by just 11 points in their intra-team battle, with at least one Force India driver finishing in the points in 10 of the 11 races so far in 2017, with double-points finishes in nine of those races.
Carlos Sainz Jr. is ninth in the drivers’ world championship for Toro Rosso on 35 points, ahead of Renault driver Nico Hülkenberg, who is 10th in the championship on 26 points.
As far as the Constructors’ World Championship is concerned, Mercedes lead the way on 357 points, 39 points ahead of Ferrari, who are on 318 points. Red Bull are comfortably in third spot on 184 points, with Force India in fourth on 101 points.
After this, there is a massive battle for fifth in the constructors’ championship, with Williams (41 points), Toro Rosso (39 points), Haas (29 points), and Renault (26 points) all within 15 points as we head into the final nine races of the season.
McLaren are ninth in the world championship on 11 points, with Sauber behind them on just five points.
Looking at who I think will do well at Spa-Francorchamps, I think this circuit should suit Mercedes extremely well, with the long, fast straights in sector one and sector three, and the long medium and fast speed corners suiting this year’s Mercedes perfectly.
And while you cannot rule out Ferrari here, you would suspect this is the perfect place for Hamilton, who will start in his 200th Grand Prix on Sunday, to make a charge towards his fourth world championship.
The first two practice sessions (90 minutes each) are on Friday at 10am and 2pm local time (6pm and 10pm AEST).
The final practice session (60 minutes) and qualifying is on Saturday at 11am and 2pm local time (7pm and 10pm AEST).
The 44 lap race is on Sunday from 2pm local time (10pm AEST).