Spa-Francorchamps kicks off second half

2017-08-23 06:01

THE 2017 Formula 1 season resumes this weekend at the celebrated Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium. As one of the most iconic and beloved circuits in the world the Belgian race weekend is eagerly recommended as one of the great races to attend in your lifetime.

The reason isn’t only the grand circuit, which encompasses such memorably brave corners like Eau Rouge, Pouhon or Blanchimont. Instead, it’s the atmosphere created by the fervent supporters, being in the heart of the Ardennes forest, and watching the best drivers in the word’s most elite racing series attempt to conquer the most classic circuit of them all.

Often classified as a driver’s track at 7.5km, Spa comprises of everything that makes a circuit great. Several elevation changes, off chamber corners and a slew of overtaking opportunities should make the 44 laps a must watch.

The high average speed of the circuit, and its layout, calls for a low downforce setup to be coupled with a good amount of power output. It sounds tailor-made for Mercedes and they will start the race weekend as favourites.

Their most likely challengers are unlikely to be either Daniel Ricciardo or Max Verstappen. One of the most disappointing aspects of the 2017 season is the fact that Red Bull didn’t hit the ground running.

With the major regulation change it was expected that the Austrian-based team would be challenging for the titles in 2017 but this aspiration is a bridge too far for them now with only nine races remaining in the season.

Nevertheless, team principal Christian Horner believes that his team will “at least” be able to match Ferrari’s pace for the remainder of the season.

Their rate of development has been impressive, especially since the Spanish grand prix.

But it’s a bold statement given that Ferrari will be throwing everything at the remaining races in order to secure the respective drivers and constructors’ championship titles.

The championship battle between Ferrari and Mercedes is likely, and hopefully, one that will go down to the wire at the season-ending Abu Dhabi grand prix. However, a single misstep in any of the next nine races could put serious pains to gaining the coveted trophies.

For Mercedes, the gains have to come from improving the downforce of their 2017 car especially for the races that follow after the Belgian and Italian grand prix.

“We definitely do have work to do, they [Ferrari] are quick through the corners and we need to work on that. We need to work on our maximum downforce package, that’s the main thing,” Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas confirmed.

It’s not straightforward for Ferrari either. They’ve been lacking a bit of pace at certain races, most recently, Silverstone.

However, the last race before the summer break was a momentum-building, and important, one-two victory. It means that Ferrari will arrive in Belgium with confidence and with two drivers who can run right at the sharp end. What’s more, championship leader Sebastian Vettel firmly believes that the team has identified its areas of weakness and is now more able to set about improving the car.

Arguably, Spa is one of the circuits where Kimi Raikkonen excels most.

As a five-time winner and with impressive performances in the last two Raikkonen isn’t too bad a bet for victory this weekend, if Vettel isn’t in second.

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