In several aspects there is much turmoil that surrounds Formula 1. There is no argument though that the sport returns, after its month-long hiatus, to the greatest circuit in the world, Spa-francorchamps.
The glorious Belgian circuit situated in the heart of the Ardennes forest encompasses everything that is great about Formula 1. Its spectacular corners like Pouhon are real testers of skill and courage and its dizzying rise up to the crest of Eau Rouge is one of the most famous sites in all of motorsport. The 7,004 kilometre layout is a blend that demands both downforce and straight-line speed with several dramatic elevation changes.
There is something about the legendary Spa circuit which has lent itself to the creation of many memorable moments. It was here 1991 that a young Michael Schumacher made his Formula 1 debut and where, in 1992, he would take the first of his ninety-one career victories. Schumacher remains the most prolific winner around the famous circuit with six victories while Kimi Raikkonen, of the active drivers, has won the race on four occasions.
Last year’s race was remarkable for Daniel Ricciardo’s popular victory considering his team’s lack of performance up to that point. It was memorable too for Nico Rosberg’s exasperated attempt at overtaking teammate Lewis Hamilton into Les combes, the upshot of which was a collision between the two and a boatload of tension for the team.
As the season approaches the halfway mark frustration has clouded many a team’s and driver’s campaign in 2015. After a stellar first year with Red Bull Racing which included three victories and several podium finishes Daniel Ricciardo had expected to have a go at winning the title this season. However, the engine produced by Renault and what Red Bull has offered the Aussie hasn’t been enough. “I came into this season on a high from last year and I was really ready to fight for the title. Mentally I was prepared for doing that.” Ricciardo told Autosport. “It’s not been easy to be honest.”
The Williams team has experienced their own form of frustration having lost ground, and pace, to Ferrari. Despite the team staging a fight back by beating Ferrari in Austria and Silverstone there have been some bizarrely poor weekends, performance wise, such as in Monaco and Hungary. The Belgian track should allow the team to produce a decent result given their low drag aero package and the handy Mercedes power unit at their disposal.
For Mercedes things may not be a given this weekend as the new rule around the starting procedure comes into action. The new regulation will mean that the assistance from the pitwall is restricted and will put the driver in control of the start. In both of the last two grand prix starts Mercedes has been swamped off the line and there is a feeling that this regulation could create further problems for the Silver Arrows. Hamilton has suggested that the starts could even be “disastrous.”
Ferrari went into the summer break with an incredible victory at the Hungarian grand prix in the bank. At Spa Ferrari probably shouldn’t be in the reckoning for victory if you consider that the circuit has a tremendous emphasis on engine power. Yet, there is something about Spa-Francorchamps and Kimi Raikkonen that makes for an extraordinary combination. The Finn won here in 2009 with a dreadfully underperforming Ferrari and last year finished fourth in a significantly underpowered car. So, it may not be too incredible to propose victory number five around the famed circuit for the Iceman.