- Round seven of the 2020 Formula 1 season rolls into Spa for the Belgian Grand Prix this weekend
- Lewis Hamilton holds 37-point World Drivers Championship lead ahead of Max Verstappen
- Charles Leclerc seeks repeat of last year’s win, on emotional weekend for Ferrari driver
SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, BELGIUM – As Formula 1 resumes this weekend after a fortnight hiatus, will Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton continue to rule the roost at Spa?
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F1 Spa rehab
After a fortnight’s break, the 2020 Formula 1 season resumes afresh this weekend at Spa-Francorchamps, for the Belgian Grand Prix.
Picking up his fourth win of the season so far, Lewis Hamilton opened up a 37-point advantage over Max Verstappen in Barcelona two weeks ago.
Enjoying a veritable romp to the chequered flag in the Catalan heat, the 35-year-old Briton now stands just three F1 victories off Michael Schmacher‘s 91 race wins, in his quest to equal the German’s seven World Drivers’ Championships this campaign.
Though few circuits have posed a threat to Mercedes’ ongoing motor sport monopoly on the calendar, Spa however, is a venue where neither Hamilton or Valtteri Bottas have won at since 2017.
Indeed, Ferrari have taken the spoils in Stavelot for the past two years. Hamilton has won here three times since 2010, however, with cool and wet conditions forecast, might Mercedes struggle to fire the AMG unit in Belgium?
Could we see another Spa classic in 2020?
Poignant weekend for Leclerc
Returning to the scene of his maiden F1 win last season, a return to Spa for Leclerc meanwhile, will bring mixed emotions in what will be a poignant few days for the Monagesque driver.
Taking victory 12 months ago, the 22-year-old finally built on a hugely impressive start for Scuderia last spring, having only witnessed to death of friend Anthoine Hubert on the same track less than 24 hours before.
Involved in a high-speed crash in the Formula 2 race on the Saturday, Hubert died as a result of his injuries in hospital shortly after the accident.
Long-time friends since their time in F1’s breeding ground competition, as Leclerc stated to BBC Sport, Spa will always be special after his win, but acknowledges the memory of the Frenchman will never be far from his mind this weekend.
“Spa-Francorchamps has a special place in my heart.
While it is here that I took my first win, it is also where we lost our friend Anthoine last year. He will be in our thoughts.”
Will Vettel fight back?
As one half of Ferrari garage approach a weekend of mixed emotions, could Spa see the return to the pack of Sebastian Vettel, as the former four-time champion attempts to salvage what’s left of his final season in Prancing Horse colours?
Putting in a dogged drive to come home seventh last time out, Vettel’s continuing ill-relations with his soon-to-be-departed team were however, never far from the narrative in Spain.
As documented, Ferrari have won the Belgian GP for the last two years, but with Leclerc’s enforced retirement in Barcelona and only a fourth at the 70th Anniversary GP to speak of, a trio of wins would seem unlikely.
Vettel however, is nothing if not a proud man and winning here in 2018 – with a looming appointment with Racing Point next year on the cards – Spa for the German could be a literal rehabilitation for both himself and Scuderia.
Verstappen clinging to coat-tails
In the case of Verstappen, the Dutchman arrives in his country of birth sitting in second in the points standing, as the filler of a Mercedes sandwich.
Though Hamilton may be close to 40 points ahead in the table, Verstappen retains a five-point lead over Bottas.
Having to shift his focus to holding his lead over the Finn in the meantime, the Red Bull driver is like hand to glove to the speedy environs of Spa this weekend and despite having failed to finish in half his Belgian GP races, remains an existing threat – not least in what could be unpredictable race and quali conditions.
Red Bull won three times at Spa between 2011 and 2014 and ahead of another likely toasty trip to Italy for the next two weekends, Verstappen will be eyeing at the very least remaining in Hamilton’s championship rear-view mirrors.
The 2020 Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix takes place at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium this weekend.
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