F1: 2019 Belgian Grand Prix Preview
Fernando Alonso, formerly of McLaren, crashes with Charles Leclerc at the start during the Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in 2018 (Photo by Mark Thompson,Getty Images)

F1: 2019 Belgian Grand Prix Preview

The summer break is finally over and it’s back to business for the drivers, as Formula 1 prepares for round 13 in Spa-Francorchamps.

matthewwatkinson
Matthew Watkinson

Lewis Hamilton returns with the aim of adding to a comfortable 62-point lead over Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, who after turning 30 this week, will be targeting improvement after struggling prior to the mid-season break.

Max Verstappen narrowly missed out on victory last time out in Hungary but will be hoping his Red Bull can take him one better in Spa, potentially with the assistance of newly promoted teammate Alexander Albon who at the very least will be hoping to be a more effective rear-gunner than Pierre Gasly.

The Thai-Brit has nine-races to impress Christian Horner, with the aim of securing a permanent spot in the team next season.

He tweeted, “Can’t thank you enough for believing in me and making this possible. It’s a big jump into the deep end, but I’ve got my swimming shorts on!”

Albon’s meteoric rise is at the consequence of Gasly, whose under-performance in the first 12 races was enough to face the axe, with the 23-year-old Frenchman hoping to regain his form in a Toro Rosso that initially earned him his dream move.

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The track

Having hosted it's first grand prix in 1950, Spa is a known favourite of drivers and fans alike and is considered one of the most challenging circuits on the calendar.

At 7.004km long, it is the longest lap on the calendar and includes 19 fast-to-medium corners.

The most famous sequence of corners on the circuit is known as ‘Eau Rouge’ and ‘Raidillon’, where the drivers face a sudden change of direction at the bottom of the hill, then face an upwards climb at high speed often flat out, before coming over the crest where from the cockpit the exit is not visible.

Former F1 world champion Fernando Alonso previously said, “It is a crucial corner for the timed lap, and also in the race, because you have a long uphill straight afterwards where you can make a mistake.

"But it is also an important corner for the driver’s feeling, it makes a special impression every lap.”

What happened last year?

This time last year Sebastian Vettel was a genuine championship contender battling it out with Hamilton to clinch his fifth driver’s championship.

The 2018 Belgian GP saw the four-time world champion close the gap on leader Hamilton with a routine victory, but since then Vettel has failed to find his groove having remarkably not won a race in over 12-months.

With such a tight opening corner, Spa has become accustom to major first corner incidents in recent years such as Romain Grosjean’s calamitous error in 2012 which led to a race ban after coming so close to causing serious injury to Alonso.

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A similar sequence of events occurred in last year’s race involving Nico Hulkenberg, who is rumoured to be replacing Grosjean at Haas in 2020, after the German missed his braking point and clattered into Alonso once more and then rookie Charles Leclerc, who had the newly introduced halo to thank for preventing any injury.

After a wet qualifying session in 2018, Spa’s unpredictable weather conditions could cause uncertainty once more with early forecasts suggesting rain could be on the cards in both qualifying and race-day.

When can I watch it?

Friday

Free practice 1: 10:00 – 11:30

Free practice 2: 14:00 – 15:30

Saturday

Free practice 3: 11:00 – 12:00

Qualifying: 14:00 – 15:00

Sunday

Race: 14:10

All times BST.

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