The 2023 Formula 1 World Championship continues this weekend with round 13, the Belgian Grand Prix, which takes place at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit and will see the Saturday Sprint race return.
The Spa circuit is nestled within the beautiful Ardennes hills and features a long, unrelenting track that serves as a stern test for car and driver. The average speed approaches 145 mph, making it one of the fastest laps of the season, and drivers experience over 5 g in some of the 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, resulting in the race lasting only 44 laps—the lowest on the calendar. The track is 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. The current forecast calls for heavy rain throughout the weekend, which has already resulted in some calls for the race to possibly be canceled.
The first and third sectors at Spa feature long straights and flat-out sections, but the second sector is twisty. This makes it challenging to find the right balance and set-up compromise, particularly with the wing level.
Spa-Francorchamps, home of the Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix
The track surface is on the abrasive side, meaning tires get quite the workout. Pirelli has nominated its mid-range compounds: the C2 as the White hard, C3 as the Yellow medium, and C4 as the Red soft.
The Belgian round will mark 2023's third running of the Saturday Sprint race, after the Azerbaijan and Austrian Grands Prix. This season, the Sprint race has been made a standalone event rather than the qualifier for the main race, as was previously the case. It still has championship points on the table for both drivers and teams, however.
The round is the last stop before the summer break and will see some teams run upgrades, including Mercedes-Benz AMG whose cars will feature a new design for the side pods.
Going into the weekend, Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen leads the 2023 Drivers' Championship with 281 points. Fellow Red Bull driver Perez is second with 171 points and Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso is third with 139 points. In the Constructors' Championship, Red Bull leads with 452 points, versus the 223 of Mercedes and 184 of Aston Martin in second and third places. Last year's winner in Belgium was Verstappen, driving for Red Bull.