Spa-Francorchamps, home of the Formula One Belgian Grand PrixEnlarge Photo
After the summer break, the 2017 Formula 1 World Championship returns this weekend with round 12, the Belgian Grand Prix.
The race will take place at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in the beautiful Ardennes. Its fast, undulating sweeps are a stern test for car and driver, and with an average speed approaching 145 mph, it’s one of the fastest laps of the season.
Spa is also the longest circuit of the season. Stretching 4.35 miles, Spa is so big that it’s not unusual to have varying weather conditions at different parts of the track. For example, rain at one end and sunshine at the other. Fortunately the weather outlook calls for fine conditions throughout the weekend.
The track surface is on the abrasive side, meaning tires get quite the workout. Pirelli has nominated its ultrasoft compound for the first time at Spa, together with its supersoft and soft compounds.
During practice on Friday, Mercedes AMG’s Lewis Hamilton proved the fastest. He was closely followed by Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen and fellow Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas. Earlier in the day, Williams’ Felipe Massa ran off the track. The damage caused required a replacement chassis for his car.
Going into tomorrow’s qualifying session and Sunday’s race, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel leads the 2017 Drivers’ Championship with 202 points. Hamilton is second with 188 points and Bottas is third with 169 points. Last year’s winner at Spa was Nico Rosberg driving for Mercedes.
In other F1 news, McLaren has confirmed it will retain Stoffel Vandoorne as a driver in 2018. Whether McLaren’s other driver, Fernando Alonso, stays with the team is undecided.
And Mick Schumacher, the 18-year-old son of seven-time Formula 1 World Champion Michael Schumacher, will be at the Belgian Grand Prix for an exhibition drive behind the wheel of a 1994-spec Benetton F1 car. The drive is to commemorate the 25th anniversary of his father’s first F1 win which took place at Spa in 1992.