After a summer break of almost a month, the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship is about to recommence in earnest from arguably the most famed circuit in Formula One, and perhaps the world of motorsport, the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium for the Belgian Grand Prix, and the battle between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel is set to intensify as both of them attempt to claim their fifth world championship crown in 2018.
Hamilton (213 points) leads the world championship for Mercedes by 24 points over Vettel (189 points) for Ferrari as we head into the second half of the season. Hamilton was magnificent, both in qualifying (when it was wet), and in the race at the Hungaroring in claiming his fifth victory of the season, while Vettel was disappointing, considering the expectations of him and Ferrari, in the last two races before the mid-season break, crashing out while in the lead of the German Grand Prix, and Ferrari not performing up to expectations at the Hungarian Grand Prix, despite finishing second.
You sense in the championship battle, Hamilton has the upper-hand, but Vettel has the car with the most potential of world championship glory, but needs to cut out the silly mistakes in order to extract the full potential from the Ferrari.
However, there is a strong battle for third in the championship between four drivers in Kimi Räikkönen (146 points) for Ferrari, Valtteri Bottas (132 points) for Mercedes, and Daniel Ricciardo (118 points) and Max Verstappen (105 points) for Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer, all separated by just 41 points.
Räikkönen has been in fine form in grabbing five podiums in the last five races, but hasn’t been able to get onto the top step, and should he claim his 21st victory in Formula One, it would be his first victory since the 2013 Australian Grand Prix when he was driving for Lotus, but his future at Ferrari (and in Formula One) is firmly under the microscope with Sauber’s Charles Leclerc lined up to potentially take his seat at Ferrari in 2019.
Bottas’ seat is safe though at Mercedes, but will want to improve his performances during the final nine races of the season after a mixed bag of races in 2018, while Ricciardo will be looking to finish his time at Red Bull on a high after announcing at the start of the mid-season break that he will be joining Renault next year, partnering up with Nico Hülkenberg, with Hülkenberg’s current teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. joining McLaren-Renault in 2019 to replace the departing two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, who is leaving Formula One, either for the FIA World Endurance Championship, which he has been competing in this year alongside his F1 commitments, or for the IndyCar Series in order to achieve his quest of becoming just the second driver to complete the unofficial Triple Crown of Motorsport (winning the Monaco Grand Prix, 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the Indianapolis 500).
While back at Red Bull, Verstappen is coming on strong as 2018 is progressing, but will be disappointed with his performance in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix in seventh, before retiring after five laps after losing power. Verstappen will be joined by Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda driver Pierre Gasly at Red Bull next year in a team that will be known as Red Bull Racing-Honda.
Completing the top 10 in the championship is Hülkenberg (52 points) in seventh, Kevin Magnussen (45 points) for Haas-Ferrari in eighth, Alonso (44 points) in ninth, and Sergio Pérez (30 points) for Force India-Mercedes in 10th, with Hülkenberg’s teammate Sainz (30 points) tied on the same amount of points as Pérez.
Looking at the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (345 points) have a 10-point lead over Ferrari (335 points), with Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer (223 points) in a comfortable third. Renault (82 points) have taken a stranglehold on fourth in the championship with a battle raging behind them for fifth between Haas-Ferrari (66 points), Force India-Mercedes (59 points), and McLaren-Renault (52 points). Completing the standings are Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (28 points) in eighth, Sauber-Ferrari (18 points) in ninth, and Williams-Mercedes (four points) in 10th.
So, who will win at Spa-Francorchamps?
I am expecting a tight and tough tussle between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, and I am thinking both the Mercedes and the Ferrari should be well-suited to this circuit, and if that’s the case, it is going to be one amazing race!