Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport‘s chief race engineer, Andrew Shovlin, has said there might be a tighter battle in the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps than there has been in some of the races earlier on in the season.
Drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas start on the front row, but Shovlin recognises it might be more difficult to stay there as their closest rivals, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, have been showing stronger pace during the weekend that they have done in the past.
“It was a bit closer at the front than it’s been at the previous races this year,” commented Shovlin. “We’re clearly running a bit more downforce than the Red Bull and losing a couple of tenths to them on both the long straights but we’re quite a bit faster in the corners and ended up nicely ahead.
“Lewis put together a very good lap; Valtteri was struggling a bit in some of the braking zones and lost a bit of time there, but it’s great that he’s on the front row as well.”
He added that the race should be more interesting as there is a tightly-bunched midfield, also noting it will be a challenge to hold on to their front row start due to the pace which Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo have been showing.
Nonetheless, he said they usually enjoy the circuit, and the appearance of rain might present them with some opportunities.
“The midfield is also very close behind which should make the race quite open,” said Shovlin. “We expect the run to Turn 5 to be pretty exciting; it’s difficult enough to hold the lead here but given that Max is a bit quicker and Daniel looks to have about 8kph on us, so it could get end up getting quite crowded towards the end of the straight.
“It’s normally a fun race though and there’s also a risk of rain to factor in. “