Belgian GP Preview | Time for a Spa treatment, F1 style

Preview the 2017 Belgian Grand Prix as F1 returns from its summer break.

Sun, sea and relaxation. They’re all in the past as Formula One heads to Belgian for its annual Spa treatment, marking an end to the summer break and re-engaging the Hamilton versus Vettel title fight. At least the sun is expected to still be shining as F1 returns, although that can never be guaranteed at Spa-Francorchamps.

Formula One in 2017 has been a titanic fight between two greats, Ferrari and Mercedes. Finally pitching Hamilton against Vettel for the World Drivers Championship without one in a far inferior car.

In the early stages of the season, the leading car was clear to see in Rosso Corsa as the smaller wheelbase on the Ferrari handed Vettel an early edge of Hamilton. But once Formula One arrived at the faster circuits, the Ferrari’s edge was minimalised and the Silver Arrow came back.

The return to form of the team that has dominated Formula One since the hybrid-era began saw Lewis pull to within just a single point of Vettel going into the Hungarian Grand Prix. Leaving the title lead in sight with the summer break approaching.

Vettel, however, had the edge in Budapest as the narrow track better suited the Ferrari and Sebastian led home Raikkonen for a Scuderia one-two. Lewis meanwhile could only finish in fourth place having handed a podium position back to Bottas in return for allowing him the chance to attack the Prancing Horses ahead earlier in the race.

Valtteri Bottas leads Lewis Hamilton across the line after regaining third place on the final lap of the Hungarian Grand Prix. Photo credit: Mercedes AMG F1 Team.

Lewis left it late to hand the spot back to his team-mate, though, backing off massively approaching the last corner on the very last lap. Risking falling to fifth as Verstappen continued to gain in the closing stages on far fresher Pirelli’s.

Irrespective of the threat, however, Hamilton did let Bottas back through. Something many doubt he would have done had Nico Rosberg still been his Silver Arrows stable-mate thanks to years of continuous high-pressure in their relationship.

Where Hungary’s Hungaroring better suited the Ferrari, Belgium’s Spa-Francorchamps presents a track more fitting with the Mercedes. With the long run from La Source to Les Combes via Eau Rouge and Raidillon the perfect hunting ground for the cars running Mercedes’ M08 EQ Power+ power unit.

This advantage could see Hamilton, or Bottas as the Finn continues to pick up strong points in his debut year at the front of the grid, eat into the points lead Vettel holds over him once more. With the Hungarian GP results seeing Vettel re-extended his championship lead to 14-points.

Sebastian Vettel kisses the winners trophy at the 2017 Hungarian Grand Prix. Photo credit: Scuderia Ferrari.

One guarantee for Ferrari, though, is Raikkonen piloting their car for at least one more year to come after the Italian outfit re-signed the 2007 World Champion for 2018. Also signed up for 2018 is McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne after the Woking-based outfit announced they would be retaining the services of the Belgian currently competing in his first full Formula One campaign.

Also signed up for 2018 is McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne after the Woking-based outfit announced they would be retaining the services of the Belgian currently competing in his first full Formula One campaign.

With his future secured, Vandoorne will be hoping 2018 presents a better chance of regular points than 2017 with the Honda power units limitations regularly holding the team back from the top half of the grid.

This weekend, unfortunately, will more than likely be another one of the weekend’s McLaren will want to forget sooner rather than later. With the track’s design, which plays to the advantage of Mercedes, the complete opposite for McLaren with Honda down on power to their engine rivals.

Honda’s lack of power remains a key reason as to why Fernando Alonso is yet to tie himself into another year with McLaren, too, despite the team boasting the second most wins in Formula One – but without a win since the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix.

Alonso McLaren

Fernando Alonso getting plugged in. Photo credit: McLaren

The circuit has many famous features none less significant and iconic than turn three, Eau Rouge. The corner that translates to red river, named after the water flow that crosses the circuit, is one of the most challenging corners on the F1 calendar as drivers change elevation and direction in a short flick of the steering wheel ahead of the crest that is Raidillon.

The opening and final sectors long straights allow for high speed overtakes as the downforce stricken cars launch themselves by. While the cars carrying more downforce will benefit in the twisty sector two.


Spa-Francorchamps track map. Copyright:

As Formula One returns from its summer shut down, live coverage of the Belgian Grand Prix will be broadcasted in the UK on both Sky Sports F1 and Channel 4.

Sky Sports F1
23/08 – 20:30 – F1 Report: Preview
24/08 – 14:00 – Driver Press Conference
24/08 – 19:45 – Paddock Uncut
25/08 – 08:45 – Practice 1
25/08 – 11:00 – F2 Practice
25/08 – 12:45 – Practice 2
25/08 – 15:15 – F2 Qualifying
25/08 – 16:05 – GP3 Qualifying
25/08 – 16:45 – Team Press Conference
25/08 – 17:15 – The F1 Show
26/08 – 09:45 – Practice 3
26/08 – 12:00 – Qualifying
26/08 – 14:55 –  F2 Feature Race
26/08 – 16:30 – GP3 Race 1
27/08 – 08:15 – GP3 Race 2
27/08 – 09:15 – F2 Spring Race
27/08 – 11:30 – The 2017 Belgian Grand Prix
=> 11:30 – Track Parade
=> 12:00 – Pit Lane Live
=> 12:30 – Race (also Sky Sports Mix)
=> 15:30 – Paddock Live
30/08 – 20:30 – F1 Report: Review

Channel 4 F1
25/08 – 08:55 – Practice 1
25/08 – 12:55 – Practice 2
26/08 – 09:55 – Practice 3
26/08 – 11:55 – Qualifying
26/08 – 11:25 – F1 Meets… David Coulthard
27/08 – 12:00  – Race
=> 12:00 – Build–Up
=> 12:35 – The 2017 Belgian Grand Prix
=> 15:10 – Race reaction

BBC Radio F1
24/08 – 20:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
27/08 – 13:00 – The 2017 Belgian Grand Prix (BBC Radio 5 Live)

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