With the summer break now over, the 2018 Formula 1 World Championship picks up again this weekend with the Belgian Grand Prix.
The race is once again being held on the 4.35-mile Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium's Ardennes region. It's an historic circuit that has been the venue of some of the most spectacular races in F1 history. Corners like Eau Rouge are known around the world and the race always attracts a huge and very enthusiastic crowd.
Though beautiful, the Spa circuit features a notoriously tough track layout. Over 70 percent is taken at maximum throttle, which is tough for drivers but particularly so for power units that need to deliver good top-end power, drivability and responsiveness to negotiate Spa’s fast corners. The fast corners and varying grip levels mean tires also get a good workout. Pirelli has nominated its medium, soft and supersoft compounds for the weekend.
Arriving at the correct setup is also difficult for teams as they need to find the right balance to handle the track's combination of long straights, considerable changes in elevation and the aforementioned fast corners. A driver will want to have enough downforce to be quick through the corners, but at the same time not carry too much drag for the long straights.
One final factor is the changeable weather. Since the track is so long, sometimes drivers will face rain in one place and the next corner it can be dry. Fortunately, the current weather forecast calls for fine conditions for both Saturday's qualifying and Sunday's race.
Even at the midway point of the season, both the Drivers’ and the Constructors’ Championships are extremely tight and given the performance of the top teams it should be a close battle all the way through to the final race in Abu Dhabi.
Going into the weekend, Mercedes-AMG's Lewis Hamilton leads the Drivers' Championship with 213 points versus the 189 of Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel and 146 of fellow Ferrari driver Kimi Räikkönen. Mercedes leads the Constructors' Championship with 345 points versus the 335 of Ferrari and 223 of Red Bull Racing. Last year's winner in Belgium was Hamilton for Mercedes.
In other F1 news, the Sahara Force India has been branded Racing Point Force India by its new owners. The rebranded team is considered a new entity by the FIA so loses all of the points earned by the previous incarnation. However, drivers Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon keep their points in the drivers’ standings.