Written by Marcus Woodhouse, Edited by Meghana Sree
This weekend, the glorious world of Formula One is bringing one last ride to your screens before the summer break. Legends have told of the impact that this iconic circuit has had on the sport today, and they don’t exaggerate. Combining its rich history with some of the most renowned sections of tarmac in the world, the Spa-Francorchamps circuit is truly something to behold.
When the lights go out on Sunday, it’s a short run down to the acute La Source, before the drivers fearlessly navigate the grandeur of Eau Rouge and Raidillon. With adrenaline pumping through their veins, they will all be trying to get a slipstream down the Kemmel Straight, some using DRS (Drag Reduction System) to aid their overtaking attempt. Les Combes and Malmedy await at its eventual end, then the hairpin of Rivage. Pouhon comes up soon after, preceding the high-speed Turn 11, before the drivers have to try to maintain their speed through the twists and turns that lead into Blanchimont. Finally, the Bus Stop Chicane causes a heavy braking zone, which is followed by a DRS zone across the finish line.
The recurring sprint format makes another appearance this weekend, meaning a stand-alone sprint competition on Saturday separates Friday’s qualifying and Sunday’s race.
Schedule (in BST)
Free Practice One - Friday, 12:30 pm
Qualifying - Friday, 16:00 pm
Sprint Shootout - Saturday, 11:00 am
Sprint Race - Saturday, 15:30 pm
Race - Sunday, 14:00 pm
Low track temperatures contrast the sweat baths of recent races, and moderate chances of rain for the entirety of the Grand Prix weekend leave room for strategic masterclasses and gambles to shake up the order somewhat. However, fans will certainly be wary of a repeat of the farcical 2021 Belgian Grand Prix, in which rain limited Sunday’s action to a token two laps behind the safety car.
Major Talking Points
Red Bull’s Benchmark - Plenty of talk last week was about Red Bull breaking the record for the most consecutive victories by a constructor, but the question now becomes how high can they set the benchmark?
Alpine’s Anguish - While teams like McLaren have shot forwards in recent weeks, the French outfit is going the other direction including a disastrous double DNF last race, so can they give the team something to cheer about heading into the summer break?
Piastri’s Podium Pursuit - Speaking of McLaren, the papaya boys have been lavishing in their recent upturn of form, taking two podiums and a huge haul of points in the last two races, but the champagne has so far evaded their Australian rookie, Oscar Piastri, so can he make it stick in Spa?
Spa-Francorchamps in Years Gone By
Ever since Juan Manuel Fangio led home his Alfa Romeo teammate Giuseppe Farina in 1950, this circuit has seen many thrilling moments. One such moment was the catastrophic race start in 1998, when wet conditions led to a huge pile-up before they even got to La Source. Another example was in 2000 when Mika Hakkinen made a daring move on Michael Schumacher, expertly utilising the position of a backmarker to make his way through. Finally, F1 fans’ hearts were in their mouth when Sebastian Vettel lost grip in 2010, causing him to plough into fellow title contender Jenson Button.
Last Race Recap
Last weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix saw a highly promising grid order turn into a slightly disappointing Sunday, with a dominant display from Max Verstappen to take victory by a staggering 33.731 seconds. Nonetheless, there were still some dramatic moments and intriguing results, such as another podium for Lando Norris and yet another comeback drive from Sergio Perez as he sought to repair the damage of another qualifying disappointment. Lewis Hamilton managed to take a hugely impressive pole position, but Mercedes simply didn’t have the race pace to challenge Verstappen. Meanwhile, an unfortunate first lap collision ended the races of both Alpine drivers extremely prematurely.
Drivers to Watch
Max Verstappen - Dominance Personified
If you’re looking for a safe bet for victory this weekend, look no further than the flying Dutchman, who has yet to finish outside of the podium this season. His performance in Hungary left the rest of the field very much in his wake, so in a dry race the outcome may be inevitable. Changing conditions may put the result in some jeopardy, but Verstappen’s mastery of the rain is well documented as well.
Lando Norris - Purple Patch
The young Brit has set the track alight in recent times with some truly breathtaking drives, aided by McLaren’s unbelievable rise up the pecking order. Norris has impressed at Spa before as well, including when an engine failure cruelly denied him of a fantastic fifth place finish in his rookie season. With McLaren’s lightning pace seemingly going nowhere any time soon, the opportunity presents itself to Norris to go one better than second place this weekend.
The Other Contenders
While Hamilton managed to snatch pole away from Verstappen in Hungary, their race pace was clearly lacking and that seems unlikely to be resolved in a week. Ferrari have gone nowhere this season, and will be hoping the summer break serves as both a respite and a reset. Perez is always in with a shout if he could sort out his qualifying form, and something were to happen to his teammate. Lastly, Piastri has pretty much kept up with his teammate this season, so there’s every chance that he could be the one to capitalise on the conditions this weekend.
Despite the chances of rain, it will surely be a Verstappen victory and an extension of Red Bull’s record-breaking run. Much like last week, it should be a battle between McLaren and Mercedes for the remaining podium spots, with a charging Perez to contend with as well. However nothing can be certain if the rain comes, so even the Ferrari boys can dream big on Sunday.
Please go ahead and comment down below any wild predictions you have, and enjoy the last race before the summer break!
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