The 2021 Formula One World Championship continues this weekend after the summer break with the Belgian Grand Prix, the first race in a triple header that also includes races in the Netherlands and Italy.
The first half of the season ended with Mercedes-Benz AMG's Lewis Hamilton passing Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen to claim the top of the leaderboard. However, there's just six points separating them, so the title fight is still very much alive as we enter the second half.
The Belgian Grand Prix is held annually at Spa-Francorchamps. The famous circuit in the beautiful Ardennes features an unrelenting track that serves as 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. How tough is it? Drivers experience over 5 g in some turns, such as Turn 10, known as Pouhon. The cars also run at full throttle for almost 80% of the lap.
Stretching 4.35 miles, Spa has the longest track on the calendar. In fact, it's so big that it’s not unusual to have varying weather conditions at different parts. For example, rain at one end and sunshine at the other. Looking at the weather forecast, we're likely in for wet conditions during both Saturday's qualifying and Sunday's race.
Spa-Francorchamps, home of the Formula One Belgian Grand Prix
Spa's track surface is on the abrasive side, meaning tires get quite the workout. Pirelli has nominated its P Zero White hard (C2), P Zero Yellow medium (C3) and P Zero Red soft (C4) compounds for the weekend, the same nomination as last year. However given the weather forecast, it's highly likely the Cinturato wets will also be used.
After the first practice session on Friday, Mercedes-Benz AMG's Valtteri Bottas was fastest, followed closely by Verstappen and AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly.
Going into the weekend, Hamilton leads the 2021 Drivers’ Championship with 192 points, with Verstappen in second with 186 points and McLaren's Lando Norris a distant third with 113 points. In the Constructors' Championship, Mercedes leads with 300 points, versus the 290 of Red Bull and 163 of McLaren. Last year's winner in Belgium was Hamilton driving for Mercedes.
If watching this weekend, keep an eye out for Haas' Mick Schumacher. He will be wearing a special helmet marking the 30th anniversary of his famous father's debut F1 race, which took place at Spa back on August 25, 1991. Schumacher Snr. was driving for Jordan at the time.