2019 Belgian Grand Prix – Preview

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!

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2018 Belgian GP – Preview

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!

 

2017 Belgian Grand Prix – Preview

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).