The best thing about the summer break is that after three weeks of no racing everyone is raring to get back to the on-track action. Teams, and especially drivers are rested and we’ll see a lot more relaxed, happier smiles around the paddock. It’s extra special that the race we go back to is one of the best on the calendar. Spa Francorchamps in Belgium is widely regarded as the best track to drive in Formula One, with all who race there universal in their praise.
It’s got the best corner – Eau Rouge – along with other special corners such as biff baff and Pouhan. It sweeps up and down through fast flowing corners that just make it such a pleasure to drive. It’s also a rarity in that it’s a driver’s track, but still a track that you can overtake on. The long straights in sector one and three mean it’s possible to draft and get up the inside (or outside) of other drivers. With the extra grip the 2017 regulations have brought, it should make Ear Rouge easy to take flat out at full throttle, meaning it could be more of a low down force circuit, as teams streamline wings for extra top speed– this should aid overtaking even further.
It’s a power circuit and it’s also a track where aero efficiency is important. Both of these things Mercedes excel at. The last track F1 raced at where aero efficiency was so important was Silverstone in Britain. And we all know how well Mercedes went there: Lewis Hamilton and Valterri Bottas finished first and second comfortably.
However do not rule out Ferrari and even Red Bull from challenging well in Spa. Ferrari has made progress since Silverstone and was very impressive at Hungary- where they won- before the summer break. Sebastian Vettel will be strong and as we’ve seen from his years in Red Bull, he’s always stronger after the summer break especially when he’s gone on to win his four world titles. His teammate, Kimi Raikkonen has also signed with the Prancing Horse for another year and I’m especially keen to see how that affects his performance. The Ice Man still has the speed to win I feel, but he just needs to get it all together for a complete weekend.
Red Bull has also made big strides in every area and there is a quiet optimism there that we shouldn’t ignore. Historically these horsepower tracks don’t favour them but I’m not seeing any sign of that bothering them in the lead up to this race. I think they will be a factor this weekend.
Let’s not forget the rain too. It always rains unexpectedly in Spa and sometimes you can get two or even three kinds of weather at different part of the track at the same time. If that happens, you can expect thunder and lighting on the track as well as off it.