Following the summer break, the 2019 Formula One World Championship resumes this weekend with round 13, the Belgian Grand Prix, held at Spa-Francorchamps, one of the sport’s most historic circuits and also one of the most beautiful.
The 4.35-mile circuit in Belgium's Ardennes region 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 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 C1, C2, and C3 tires.
Arriving at the correct car setup is also difficult for teams as they need to find the right balance to handle the circuit'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.
After some early practice on Friday, Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc were topping the time sheets, with Vettel just slightly faster than his teammate. Almost a full second behind them were Aston Martin Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen in third and the team's newcomer, Alexander Albon, in fourth.
Going into the weekend, Mercedes-AMG's Lewis Hamilton leads the Drivers' Championship with 250 points. Fellow Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas is second with 188 points and Verstappen is third with 181 points. In the Constructors' Championship, Mercedes leads with 438 points versus the 288 of Ferrari and 244 of Red Bull. Last year's winner in Belgium was Vettel driving for Ferrari.