Formula 1

PREVIEW: 2021 Belgian Grand Prix – Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps

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Credit: LAT Images

After a long four-week summer break, the FIA Formula 1 World Championship is back and ready to go racing again with the Belgian Grand Prix.

Round 12 sees the teams return to fan favourite Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in the Belgian countryside. It is also the first of three races in a European triple-header. 

What happened at the Hungarian Grand Prix?

Rain caused chaos on the opening lap of the Hungarian Grand Prix. Going into the first corner, Valtteri Bottas lost control of his car, colliding with Lando Norris. Norris was subsequently pushed in Max Verstappen, who clipped his Red Bull Racing teammate Sergio Pérez. Elsewhere, Lance Stroll collied with Charles Leclerc, who clipped Daniel Ricciardo, sending him spinning. The race was then red-flagged.

Out of all the cars involved in the first lap incident, Bottas, Pérez, Norris, Leclerc, and Stroll were all forced to retire. Ricciardo and Verstappen were able to continue, albeit with damaged cars. 

Racing resumed with a standing start but in a Formula 1 first, Lewis Hamilton, who was on pole, was the only one starting the race. The rest of the grid had dived into the pits after the formation lap to change from wet tyres to slicks. On lights out, Hamilton raced ahead but realised he had made a mistake in not pitting and had to change tyres at the end of the lap, meaning he came out last. 

Esteban Ocon and Sebastian Vettel had managed to avoid all the first lap chaos meaning the pair where now first and second in the race. Hamilton managed to charge down the field but was unable to battle Ocon and Vettel due to some terrific defending from Fernando Alonso when the pair were battling for fourth.

Come the checkered flag, Ocon claimed his first win in his career and Alpine F1 Team’s first win. Vettel came in second but was disqualified for overuse of fuel meaning Hamilton came in second with Carlos Sainz Jr.completing the podium. 

Williams bagged their first points of the season with both drivers finishing in the top ten.

What happened at the 2020 Belgian Grand Prix? 

Hamilton was able to claim a lights to checkered flag win at the last Belgian Grand Prix. Sainz Jr. was unable to start the race due to an issue with his power unit, promoting everyone who qualified eighth and below up a space come lights out. 

The race was fairly uneventful. Antonio Giovinazzi brought out the only safety car of the race. He crashed into the wall at Turn 14. The impact detached one of his wheels which hit the Williams Racing of George Russell. Both were forced to retire from the race. 

Hamilton went on to win with Bottas coming in second and Verstappen in third. 

The Circuit

Spa-Francorchamps has a total of 20 corners. Drivers will race around the 7.004km track for 44 laps, the lowest tally on the F1 calendar this year. The total race distance will be 308.052km. 

Bottas currently holds the lap record at a time of 1:46.286, which was set in 2018. 

Credit: Pirelli Media

Sectors, Corners and DRS Zones

Sector 1 sends drivers up into La Source, through Raidillon Eau Rouge and along the long Kemmel Straight.

Sector 2 starts with the three corners of Les Combes before following through Bruxelles, Pouhon, Campus and ending the sector at Stavelot.

The third and final sector consists of Courbe Paul Frère, Blanchimont and the Chicane at finals Turns 19 and 20. 

The track has two DRS Zones. The first Detection Zone is inbetween La Source and Raidillon Eau Rouge, ready for drivers to speed along the Kemmel Straight. The second Detection Zone kicks in just before the final Chicane, ready for the DRS along the start/finish start.

Tyre Strategy

Pirelli has opted for the mid-range compounds for Spa-Francorchamps. C2 will be the white-striped hard, C3 the yellow-striped medium and C4 the red-striped soft.

This is the same compound as 2020, one step harder than in 2019. This is due to the lap being the longest in the F1 calendar. 

What should we look out for this year?

The Mercedes and Red Bull rivalry is stronger than ever. With Verstappen only scoring two pints in two races, it put Hamilton and Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team in the front of the respective Driver and Constructors’ Championships. Verstappen will be hoping his bad luck of recent changes and he can claim the top stop again.

Scuderia Ferrari and McLaren F1 Team are neck and neck with each other on 163 points, with Ferrari claiming third due to their higher finishing positions. If McLaren want to reclaim third, they’ll be hoping Ricciardo can match Norris in the second half of the season. 

Alpine have really put themselves on the map with Ocon’s and the team’s first win in Hungary. With Alonso also signing a new contract, the boys look strong going forward and will be gunning for fifth in the Constructors’.

Williams scored their first points of the season and it was an emotional one at that. Now sitting eighth in the Constructors, they’ll be hoping for more points to keep them there. 

What’s the schedule?

Friday 27 August

10:30 BST / 11:30 Local Time – Free Practice 1
14:00 BST / 15:00 Local Time – Free Practice 2

Saturday 28 August

11:00 BST / 12:00 Local Time – Free Practice 3
14:00 BST / 15:00 Local Time – Qualifying 

Sunday 29 August

14:00 BST / 15:00 Local Time – Race

How can I keep up with the action?

Follow all the action at the Checkered Flag with our extensive coverage, quotes and analysis of every session of the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix. You can watch all the coverage live on Sky F1 and highlights on Channel 4.

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