By Neil Leverett
- F1 resumes after mid-season break at Spa, Belgium
- Sebastian Vettel holds 14 point lead in Drivers Championship
- Lewis Hamilton seeks to bounce back after fourth placed finish in Hungary
SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, BELGIUM – As the Formula One seasons resumes in Belgium this weekend, can Lewis Hamilton close the gap on fierce rival Sebastian Vettel, or will the German stamp his authority on Spa?
Formula 1 calendar revs up
After almost a month’s recess following events in Budapest, Hungary last time out, the Formula One travelling roadshow resumes at Spa- Francorchamps for the Belgian Grand Prix this weekend. After Sebastian Vettel won his fourth race of the campaign at the Hungaroring, the German holds a fragile 14-point advantage over rival Lewis Hamilton, with the Briton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas a further 19 points adrift.
August has largely been a month of down-time, however as racing has neared its resumption, this week has seen an almost infinite stream of sound-bites and opinions exploding back into action, as rivalries themselves begin to simmer once more.
Hamilton-Vettel rivalry given new twist
Events of this season, have decidedly blackened the blood between Hamilton and Vettel. As racing resumes, both men will be bent on gaining the slightest advantage for the remaining nine races between now and November.
In the background however, suddenly lingers the prospect of motor racing’s bitterest rivalry becoming one which could re-ignite familiar team battles under the Mercedes banner.
Before Nico Rosberg’s retirement after winning the World Championship last year, there was little love lost at Mercedes between Hamilton and the German, as two head-butting stags in the paddock.
With Vettel catapulting himself back into the title picture this season, rumours abound that another British-German duel could be on the cards for next season.
The Hamilton himself has his doubts of such an occurrence. As the Briton explained to BBC Sport;
“I know he doesn’t want to be my team-mate. He wouldn’t have the position he is in now in terms of how his team operates if he was here.”
Hamilton’s words speak volumes. There is clearly resentment on the part of the Brit and regardless of whether the out of contract Vettel could remove Bottas from the secondary throne at Mercedes remains to be seen. What it does do however, is add yet more flame to an already roaring furnace.
More drama at Spa?
The F1 calendar has been accused of a dumbing down in the drama stakes in recent years. Spa, however is not one of said races that have made the sport ‘boring’. The 4.352 mile lap circuit, housed within the municipality of Stavelot in the country, has become renowned for fireworks in both qualifying and on race day itself in recent years.
1998 saw perhaps the most infamous multi-car incident in recent history, when in torrential rain, almost the entire field were involved a veritable domino-alley of cars as debris littered a sodden Spa track. Often accompanied by hazardous conditions, last year’s race was no exception. Hamilton finished third, as Rosberg won his first-ever race in Belgium.
The race was punctuated in part by the 32-year old Briton’s surge from the back of the grid, to finish on the podium in an enthralling contest 12 months ago. It will also be remembered for Kevin Magnussen’s huge accident at the top of Eau Rouge. This brought out the red flags and caused a lengthy delay, but, remarkably, the Dane walked away with only bruises.
On what will be modified race circuit – with faster engines, flexible tyre choices and quicker lap times – this weekend’s 44-lap race is set to follow in similarly dramatic fashion, with heavy showers forecast for Sunday afternoon in the area.
The Belgian Grand Prix takes places this weekend at Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, with the race on Sunday afternoon at 1pm.
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