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Formula 1 refresh
After its’ now annual summer break, Formula 1 reconvenes this weekend in Belgium, as Spa-Francorchamps hosts Round 13 of the 2019 campaign, with the paddock refreshed and with their collective feet on the pedal, towards Abu Dhabi at the end of November.
With 12 races down and nine to go, Britain’s five-time and reigning World Drivers’ Champion Lewis Hamilton holds a decisive advantage coming into the weekend of 62-points over team-mate Valtteri Bottas – who signed on with Mercedes for next year – with a sixth world crown on the horizon in Dubai.
Picking up a much-needed victory in Hungary going into the August hiatus – Hamilton’s eighth win of the season – after something of a blip for the Briton comparatively, having won only 50% of the last four races, to his earlier four-race winning streak from Barcelona to Le Castelet in France this term.
Needing a significant downturn in fortunes to that of the opening half of the season, for the Briton not to claim championship number six will take a large swing in points, but aside from Bottas who looks one of only two men who can deny Hamilton, this weekend’s Belgian-born favourite will be keen to shown what he has left in the tank.
Verstappen in rear-view mirror
As racing resumes in the low countries, Max Verstappen will be looking to hunt down the McLaren-Mercedes duo, as the 21-year-old, born in Hasselt, north of the neighbouring province of Liege – the site of this weekend’s race – seeks to continue a campaign in which other than Hamilton, the Belgian has arguably been the season’s most consistent driver.
With Ferrari having again struggled to keep pace, both Sebastian Vettel and Prancing Horse debutante Charles Leclerc have encountered misfortune, which has allowed Verstappen to slip past on the inside as a main contender.
After an early-season run of top-four placements, Verstappen then converted his excellent season form to take top spot on the podium in both Austria and Germany, finishing runner-up to his Brit rival in Budapest last time out.
Having shed the antagonistic Daniel Ricciardo last winter, Red Bull’s number one has been more focused this term and has turned the much-vaunted talent he possesses into results on the the track.
As Verstappen begins his new pairing with London-born Thai driver Alex Albon, following Pierre Gasly‘s swap to junior team Toro Rosso after a string of poor drives, the Belgian will be looking to keep alive his hopes of making the season’s conclusion a three-horse race, utilising Albon to the best of his and Red Bull’s abilities this weekend.
As Spa-Francorchamps hosts the 75th Belgian Grand Prix, the West Belgian town of Stavelot will again proudly boast its heritage, as housing one of the most iconic circuits in motor sport, remaining hotly anticipated as ever on the F1 calendar.
Having seen seven different winners since Formula 1’s return to Spa’s newly-developed environs in 2007, Belgium has always seen the most unpredictable of Rounds, and with the competition returning refreshed, this weekend is likely to be no different.
With the Belgian GP, often comes an already volatile track doused with rain, but this weekend conditions are set to be benign, and whilst Q1 will see temperatures towards 30 degrees, race day will be significantly cooler, presenting the paddock with differing race day considerations.
Conditions would point to favouring Mercedes, with the German manufacturer having won three of the last four GPs, however Ferrari came out on top 12 months ago. As F1 revs ups for it end of season run-in – and having seen the last few races begin to up the thrill stakes – Spa could again provide more than a few spills on the way also.
The 2019 Belgian Grand Prix takes place this weekend, with the race proper on Sunday afternoon at 2.10pm UK time.
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