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Spa-Francorchamps

Belgian Grand Prix: Formula 1 Returns From Break At Spa!

Drafting the Circuits

Formula 1 Report

Summer Break August 17

By Steve Aibel

The Formula 1 season will resume this weekend as the paddock returns to action in Belgium at Spa-Francorchamps. Perhaps the most scenic circuit in all of motor racing, this classic and legendary race track blends high and medium sectors with elevation changes, as it courses through the beautiful Ardennes forest. If you watch one race all season, this is the one! Tune in for the pre race excitement and take in all that is Formula 1 in this glorious setting.

Spa-Francorchamps

Spa-Francorchamps

At Spa, too much downforce and the car is slow on the straights. Too little downforce and you lose time in the technical middle sector. Spa is certainly a circuit where engineering compromise must be made when the cars are set up. It is a challenge for all comers and will, again, test all elements of a Formula 1 challenger.

Spa has it all and benefits from the hunger that results from the month long anticipation of the mid summer break.

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This year, Spa will be the beginning of what should be an interesting battle between Mercedes teammates, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, as well as Ferrari long shot Sebastian Vettel. Last year, Hamilton and Rosberg tangled on lap 2 in Les Combes leading to damage to Rosberg’s front wing and causing a puncture in Hamilton’s tire. Hamilton did not score points at Spa last year while Rosberg left the event holding the points lead. The drama exploded off the course and set the table for a furious rally of wins by Hamilton. Spa will once again play the pivot in the championship battle between these two rivals.

Rosberg and Hamilton battled ugly last year at Spa

Rosberg and Hamilton battled ugly last year at Spa

Regulation changes should make for an interesting dash from the lights for the drivers. In an effort to return some of the control of the cars to the drivers, less technical aides will be utilized at the start of the race. The drivers will have much more control over the grid start. Pit wall clutch controls will be reduced and the drivers will need to be significantly more involved in the start for launch procedures.

The expected result is that starts will be much less choreographed, less predictable, and the drivers will shuffle around more by the time the cars fly through Eau Rouge. Defending World Champion Lewis Hamilton expects the starts to be “more unpredictable” and even mentioned the potential for them to be “disastrous”. Toto Wolff, also of Mercedes, agreed with Hamilton stating that F1 would need to closely monitor the rule change and adjust to insure race starts are safe for the drivers.

Either way, Spa will be a strong return for what could be a very interesting second half to the season. The European races will conclude after Spa at Monza in Italy. Then the paddock will embark on the second set of flyaway races ending the season in late November. As it always does, the final 9 races will come fast and furiously with very little time for development. The upgrades we see at Spa and Monza may be everything in the pipeline for the 2015 season. The rest of the in season development could very well be aimed at technology designed for 2016.

And speaking of 2016, we should expect driver announcements to begin some time after the paddock gathers in Belgium. The speculation is rampant surrounding race seats at McLaren, Williams and Ferrari. With Haas F1 Team joining the parade as a new entry, there will be two additional driver slots that could come from the Ferrari development stable. Both Ferrari reserves, Esteban Gutierrez and Jean Eric Vergne, have been mentioned for race seats with Haas.

Jenson Button’s seat at McLaren is also under question. There has been some discussion surrounding Stoffel Vandoorne, current leader in GP2, replacing Button for 2016. McLaren has denied this report. McLaren reserve, Kevin Magnussen insists that he will be racing somewhere next year, but whether that will be with McLaren is questionable. Either way, McLaren has an impressive stable to go along with the two world champions in Button and Alonso. Something will be changing at McLaren.

Jenson Button's 2016 drive remains unclear

Jenson Button’s 2016 drive remains unclear

There may not be any movement until the curtain falls at Ferrari. Kimi Raikkonen has been in and out of the 2016 ride all season, although we still do not have an indication whether Ferrari will retain the World Champion. Valtteri Bottas has been continually linked to a Ferrari ride, but lately the name of Max Verstappen has been mentioned for a 2017 potential ride. In this scenario, Raikkonen might keep his ride for one more season before the young Dutchman is brought on board. Enter the fact that Verstappen has a contract with Red Bull through 2017, and Ferrari could find itself in the same situation with Verstappen that they currently experience with Bottas…an expensive buy out.

There are some interesting names being bantered about and the light will soon shine on the driver picture. What we do know at this point is this?

Formula 1 is back, cars will be on the track and we are certainly expecting an exciting finish to the 2015 season. Roll Spa!

 

Drivers’ Championship

  1. Lewis Hamilton 202
  2. Nico Rosberg 181
  3. Sebastian Vettel 160
  4. Valtteri Bottas 77
  5. Kimi Raikkonen 76
  6. Felipe Massa     74
  7. Daniel Ricciardo 51
  8. Daniil Kvyat 45
  9. Nico Hulkenberg 24
  10. Romain Grosjean 23
  11. Max Verstappen 22
  12. Felipe Nasr 16
  13. Sergio Perez 15
  14. Pastor Maldonado 12
  15. Fernando Alonso 11
  16. Carlos Sainz Jr. 9
  17. Jenson Button 6
  18. Marcus Ericsson 6

 

Constructors’ Championship

  1. Mercedes 383
  2. Ferrari 236
  3. Williams 151
  4. Red Bull 96
  5. Force India 39
  6. Lotus 35
  7. Toro Rosso 31
  8. Sauber 22
  9. McLaren 17
  10. Manor/Marussia 0

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