With the summer break officially over Formula One gets back down to business with the Belgian Grand Prix from the iconic Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. The first 12-rounds of the 2018 world championship have been quite thrilling with both Hamilton and Vettel exchanging places at the top of the standings on a number of occasions. However coming into Spa it is Mercedes and Hamilton that have wrestled the initiative from Vettel and Ferrari, following wins in Germany and Hungary.
The defending champion now has a 24-point lead over his rival Vettel, while the constructors battle sees just 10-points separating Ferrari and the Silver Arrows who top the standings.
Could we see another shift in momentum this weekend or will Mercedes tighten the screw on their rivals at the Belgian Grand Prix.
What happened at the Hungarian Grand Prix?
Despite pre-race expectations that Ferrari had the better package around the Hungaroring, it was Lewis Hamilton that cruised to a record extending sixth win in Hungary, finishing 20-seconds clear of Vettel.
Rain on Saturday hampered Vettel’s pole quest as Hamilton secured the front of the grid, however with dry conditions on race day many expected Ferrari would go on to dominate.
Hamilton surged away from the start with Vettel ending up behind Bottas. Ferrari’s hopes were dashed when Vettel emerged from a slow pit stop still behind Bottas, where he remained for the next 25-laps, effectively ending any hopes of catching Hamilton.
From the outside this looked the perfect strategy for Hamilton with the support of his teammate, although after the race a despondent Bottas openly said that Toto Wolff’s comments of calling him a “sensational wingman” hurt.
2018 Hungarian Grand Prix F1 Debrief
Red Bull endured a very difficult weekend, Verstappen being forced to retire on lap seven with component failure on his Renault engine, while Ricciardo at least managed to steer his Red Bull home in fourth. Red Bull Team Principle Christian Horner directing his frustration after the race towards their engine provider Renault.
While the summer break might have been about time away and relaxation for the drivers and teams, for Ricciardo it was about letting the world know he will be a Renault driver next season, and for Alonso that he will bid farewell to Formula One at the end of the season.
Neither of these announcements will be of any interest to Hamilton and Vettel coming into Spa, securing the points in a championship that is expected to go down to the wire is all that will be on their minds.
Who is on pole position at the halfway point of the season? Read more here
About Circuit De Spa-Francorchamps
Spa is unquestionably one of the most iconic circuits on the F1 calendar. It’s standing in racing history is almost unmatched, not to mention its stunning surroundings in the of the municipality of Stavelot.
This is a circuit that tests the driver skills to the limit and a track that can see four seasons in one lap.
The run down to the first corner is the shortest that the drivers will face and it is an incredibly tight run through the right-handed La Source. Expect to see the drivers using the wide run-off area to make sure their race doesn’t end on the first lap!
The cars then dip downhill and onto Eau Rouge which is a quick kink to the left and a sharp right before it snaps back to the left at Turn 4 (Raidillon). The Kemmel Straight, is the first DRS zone, so it is important for the drivers to carry as much power as possible through this section.
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There is enough room to overtake there before the cars get bunched up again through Les Combes and Malmedy. A good rhythm through this right-left-right combination is important before they move on to the slow-winding Rivage.
The double-apexed Pouhon (Turn 10 and 11) will see the drivers hit tops speed with the track opening up with the ascent through Curve Paul Frere and Blanchimont.
The circuit then feeds to the left before it concludes with a tight right-left chicane, corners 18 and 19.
What to Expect at the Belgian Grand Prix
This is a special circuit to both fans and drivers alike, the perfect race to bring in the second half of the season following the summer break.
That said, summer weather is not expected this weekend with rain forecast on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and temperatures not getting much higher than 15-degrees Celsius.
This will level the playing field and could halt Mercedes run of three consecutive wins at the circuit, or not for that matter. Hamilton winner in 2017, 2015 and 2010, knows how to tackle the circuit in wet conditions and starts alongside Vettel as the 7/5 favourite for the race.
Ferrari’s engine boost over the last few races, thought to be worth almost half a second on straight, will give them the advantage if the weather stays dry, which at this stage doesn’t look to be the case. It has been almost a decade since Ferrari won at Spa, something they will want to address this weekend.
If the rain does come, then I like the look of Verstappen at 10/1. Sure he lacks maturity at this stage of his career, but one thing is for sure, he knows how to drive in the wet.
The two best drivers on the grid are Hamilton and Vettel. Conditions this weekend will test their driving ability to the absolute limit with no margin whatsoever for driver error. I can see Hamilton completing a third consecutive win followed by Vettel and Verstappen.