The formula 0ne circus descends on Spa-Francorchamps this weekend after a three-week summer break for the Belgian Grand Prix. Spa, described as one of the most extreme tracks on the calendar in terms of its reward for horsepower and low drag, plays into the hands of Ferrari SF 90 which is believed to be tailor-made for Spa and Monza. Spa could just spark off the much-needed redemption Ferrari and Vettel needs in the driver’s championship this year.
VETTEL RETURNS TO SPA
After back to back podium finishes ahead of the summer break including a remarkable comeback from 20th on the grid to second place at the German Grand Prix ,returning to Spa where he last won a race in F1 after a year should give the under-fire prancing horse driver a huge confidence boost ahead of this weekend’s race. Vettel, currently fourth on the championship leaderboard is 94 points off championship leader, Lewis Hamilton and is yet to win a race in this year’s competition. Vettel will feel it time to get the monkey of his back as he returns to one of his favourite hunting grounds where he has previously won on three occasions, his last being the August 2018 race.
Ferrari are tipped to respond with a solid performance after a summer of tinkering at the Maranello. Team Principal MattiaBinotto knows all about the power-sensitive circuit in Belgium and must make sure the SF 90 challenger is near perfect to deliver Ferrari’s first win of this year’s campaign.
HAMILTON TO REPEAT LAST YEAR’S SECOND HALF PERFORMANCE
Championship leader Lewis Hamilton dominated the second half of last year’s F1 season winning six of the last nine races. After an amazing start to the 2019 F1 season which has seen him win eight out of twelve races, the momentum is with Hamilton who is closing in on his sixth F1 championship title. Hamilton will start as the outright favourite at Spa because of his excellent first half. Hamilton has won at Spa on three occasions losing out to Vettel despite starting from pole in last year’s race.
Lewis Hamilton after his eighth win of this season’s championship promised a stronger second half than the first half. History favours the English man. Teammate Valterie Bottas has not tasted victory since April 28. Crashes in Germany and Hungary have hindered Bottas fine start to the season leaving him 62 points off Hamilton. Rumours of Mercedes plan to replace the driver with Esteban Ocon may have turned the head of Finn but he must finish the season strongly if he will stay on as partner for Hamilton in 2020.
IN-FORM MAX VERSTAPPEN AND RED BULL’S ALBON GAMBLE
In-form Max Verstappen was disappointed not to have capped a fine race in Hungry with a win but after back to back podium finishes in his last two races including a shock win in Germany, Verstappen has proven beyond doubt he can compete. Currently third on the F1 leaderboard with 181 points,69 points off Hamilton and 7points off Bottas a win at Spa could change the whole narrative of the season and could put Verstappen in contention for the title. Red Bull’s ruthless decision to replace Pierre Gasly with Alexander Albon after Gasly’s string of unimpressive performances is a risk but Albon could just give Verstappen that extra push and play an excellent wingman role.
Spa promises to be exciting this weekend and we all wait to see who draws first blood in the second half of the F1 season, lots of undertones, interesting subplots, lots of implications on drivers and constructors and psychological repercussions with regards to how the rest of the season will pan out. The Belgian GP is Lewis Hamilton’s to lose but Ferrari are strong at the Spa and Vettel would be desperate to get off to a winning start after the summer break.
2019 BELGIAN GRAND PRIX SCHEDULE
FRIDAY 30 August
Practice 1: 9:00am -10:30 am
Practice 2: 13:00 pm -14:30 pm
SATURDAY 31 August
Practice 3: 10:00 am- 11:00 am
QUALIFYING: 13:00pm – 14:00pm
SUNDAY 1 September
Race 44laps: 13:10pm -15:00pm
By Raymond Nyamador