BELGIAN GP - 2019 RECAP & 2020 PREVIEW
Everything you need to know ahead of this weekends Formula 1 race at Spa-Francorchamps.
Round 7 of the 2020 Formula 1 season will take place this weekend in the Ardennes forest for the Belgian Grand Prix. Spa-Francorchamps is a favorite circuit for both drivers and fans alike with a glorious collection of high-speed corners, including the famous Eu Rouge-Radillon combination.
The circuit traditionally marks the end of the summer break for the sport and the start of the second half of the season. Not so for 2020, with the last race in Spain just two weeks ago and Belgium kicking off the third and final European triple-header of the year. Although it's worth noting that the middle-eastern trio of races at Bahrain (twice) and Abu Dhabi that conclude this season, announced earlier this week, will also be a triple-header.
The death of Formula 2 driver Anthoine Hubert marred the 2019 Belgian Grand Prix weekend after a horrific accident in the feeder series' feature race on Saturday. Charles Leclerc, the top pole winner of the 2019 season, started a fantastic run of four consecutive pole position starts that day. His first F1 race victory promptly followed, and he dedicated the win to his friend Hubert with muted celebrations on the podium.
Leclerc led his Ferrari to victory despite late pressure from Hamilton's Mercedes behind. Earlier on in the race, Ferrari, with a mysterious upturn in pace following the summer break, looked set for a 1-2 finish at their first 2019 win. But tire degradation on Vettel's car proved too much, and the German had to pit, leaving the two silver arrows to join Leclerc on the podium instead.
It was Alex Albon providing most of the overtaking action in his first race for Red Bull. The Thai driver swapped seats with Pierre Gasly in the summer break and promptly repaid the faith shown in him by overtaking his way from P14 to P5. Notable highlights include a brave move around the outside of Daniel Ricciardo after the Rivage hairpin and a last-lap pass of Sergio Perez on the grass of the Kemmel Straight. Albon scored all of Red Bull's points on his debut Grand Prix for the team. Max Verstappen collected Kimi Raikkonen on the inside of the first corner ending his race before it even started.
What to look out for
Despite the Belgian Grand Prix taking place in the height of the European summer, rain always seems to threaten the race weekend. When the heavens open, Spa produces some of the most challenging driving in the F1 championship. Due to the formation of the hills that the circuit sits on, and the long length of the track, it's common for rain to be lashing down in one sector while another bathes in sunshine. Pirelli designs their F1 tires for dry or wet weather, not both. Races have been won and lost by teams and drivers gambling on which compound is best for the changeable conditions.
Of all the current drivers, new fans may be surprised to learn that Kimi Raikkonen is the most successful at Spa, with four victories. The Iceman won three successive Belgian Grand Prix in the mid-00s, with his last triumph in 2009. Vettel and Hamilton have three wins apiece, and it's Ferrari who has won the previous two events here. Lewis Hamilton doesn't have many chinks in his armor, but he doesn't enjoy as prolific a record in Belgium as he does at many other tracks around the world.
The proposed ban on the so-called "party mode," which allows drivers to unleash their car's full power for a brief time, has been delayed until the Italian Grand Prix. The FIA had initially announced the restriction on engine mode selection was to take place from Belgium but have since postponed the rule change by a week with no reason given.
There have been no home heroes for the race at Belgium since Stoffel Vandoorne lost his seat in F1 at the end of 2018. The Belgian fans can at least claim their man is the latest Formula E winner (and will be for some time) after his maiden FE win in Berlin two weeks ago.
With the Dutch Grand Prix officially canceled, Max Verstappen could view this weekend as the closest he'll race to home this year. The Orange Army that cheers Max on around Europe descends en masse to Belgium thanks to the proximity to the Netherlands. In a rather bizarre statistic for such a quick driver, Verstappen has only scored points in one of four attempts when driving for Red Bull – his third-place finish in 2018.
Valtteri Bottas holds the race lap record at Spa from 2018 when he set a 1:46, but the ultimate record belongs to Sebastian Vettel. Vettel achieved a 1:41.501 in qualifying that same year, which he set in Q2 before the rain descended for Q3 destroying any chance of times tumbling further.
With just over 7km of circuit length, you would expect a few action spots, and sure enough, Spa delivers. The very first corner, the tight La Source hairpin, has witnessed many overtakes as F1 cars tackle the slowest corner on the track. The Kemmel Straight that follows Radillon is a DRS zone that allows for drag racing. As does the final sector, despite it looking like a sequence of corners, thanks to the amount of downforce modern F1 cars generate.
Circuit length: 7.004 km / 4.352 mi
Race length: 308.052 km / 191.414 mi
Lap Record: 1:46.286 (Valtteri Bottas, 2018)
Originally published at https://fortloc.com