Sport

Formula One roars back to life

2019-09-01 07:12

Formula One returns to Belgium this afternoon to kick-start the second half of the season.

The championship resumes after a dominant opening half for Mercedes, where they triumphed in 10 of the first 12 races.

Lewis Hamilton currently leads the drivers’ championship with 250 points – 62 ahead of team-mate Valtteri Bottas’ 188.

However, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says his team won’t get complacent.

Read: Can Mercedes return to their winning ways? 

“We’re leading in both championships, but it doesn’t feel that way,” Wolff said. “In the past few years, we saw teams perform very strongly after the summer,so we know we need to keep pushing.”

Red Bull performed well ahead of the break, with Max Verstappen the only man to beat Mercedes on track so far. He will be joined at the team by rookie Alexander Albon, who has been called up to ride with the frontrunners after a lacklustre performance from previous incumbent Pierre Gasly.

“Not many drivers get the chance to drive a car capable of winning a race so early in their F1 career,” Albon said. “It’s a great opportunity to be driving for Red Bull. We know what the car is capable of and we’ve seen what Max has been able to do this year.”

For Verstappen, who took his maiden F1 pole position last time out in Hungary, the Belgian Grand Prix is the closest he has to a home race, with legions of Dutch fans travelling to the Spa-Francorchamps circuit each year.

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Current standings in Formula One

“I’m refreshed and looking forward to getting started. Especially after we had such a great run of results before the break,” Verstappen said.

“Spa is my favourite circuit on the calendar. There are a lot of long straights, and it’s always a good challenge to find the best possible compromise for the straights and the corners.”

Ferrari come back from the break with a renewed sense of vigour after failing to win a single race so far this year.

Despite three golden opportunities to do so, the Italian marque has come up empty.

For driver Sebastian Vettel, this weekend marks a year since he last won a grand prix, when he bettered Hamilton at the same race last year. Results since have been less than ideal.

But Spa-Francorchamps is a track heavily reliant on engine power, of which Ferrari has the fastest engine in Formula One, leaving the German confident about the weekend.

“You have to get a perfect exit out of Eau Rouge to have as much speed as possible on the run down to Les Combes, where you can overtake thanks to the slipstream effect as long as you have the gear ratios just right. Once you know it, it’s impossible not to love Spa,” Vettel said.

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The Belgium Grand Prix is currently underway

The Spa weekend also heralds the start of the driver transfer market, with rumours beginning to circulate about what the grid for next year and beyond may look like. Much of the speculation surrounds Bottas and his future at Mercedes and at Renault, who must decide whether they keep Nico Hulkenberg in the team.

For now, they must do their talking on the track as the Belgian Grand Prix gets under way this afternoon at 3.10pm.

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November 10 2019