The summer break is over and Formula One roars back into life with the Belgian Grand Prix. Four weeks is a long time to mull over the second half of the season, but it all starts now – here are a few pointers before the cars hit the track for the rest of 2017.
Kimi sticks it out for another year
The first call of business to discuss ahead of Spa is the news that Ferrari has retained Kimi Raikkonen for the 2018 season.
Was it a boring choice? Depends on your thoughts when it comes to the Finn, but there’s no denying that he’s fallen into the role of second driver to Sebastian Vettel well this season, which keeps Ferrari in the hunt for the constructors title.
And that might be exactly what the 2007 World Champion is now – an expensive second driver. Looking his stats, it’s 10 years since that title, eight years since a win at Ferrari, four years since a win in general. The Kimi we all love is there in personality, but not on the track, and hasn’t been for some time. Can he survive for another year? Might be a bit early to start the 2019 sepcualtion already.
These 2017 cars will be mega in Belgium
When these beefier, faster F1 cars were tested for the first time in Barcelona back in February, there was unanimous approval from the drivers that they were a challenge to drive once more.
The increase in downforce meant that lap times would drop and driving would be a challenge. Of all the circuits they were looking forward to trying them out on, though, Spa was number one by some distance. This is the perfect playground for the 2017-spec cars to be pushed to their limits on.
Prepare for a sea of orange
Belgium may have Stoffel Vandoorne to cheer on this weekend – which may be hard considering the 35-place grid penalty he’s already been handed – but the support will be coming in droves across the Netherlands border for one Max Verstappen.
While this season hasn’t gone the way we’d all hoped, mainly thanks to the reliability of the Red Bull, but that won’t distract the tens of thousands of fans will don orange and make the short trip across the border from the Netherlands into Belgium, creating one of the most electric atmospheres at a circuit on the F1 calendar.
Will they be smiling come Sunday night? That all depends on the fragility of the Red Bull and it’s Renault power unit, but the Orange Army will be backing their man every step of the way.
Mercedes vs Ferrari is as fascinating as it comes
Part of a great championship is not just a battle between drivers, but between teams trying to push their levels of development further and further.
Ferrari started the season on top as Mercedes struggled to understand its Rubiks cube of a car, yet the Brackley squad worked tirelessly to understand what was happening.
The Scuderia ended a two-month win drought in Hungary courtesy of Vettel, enjoying a pace advantage that appeared to peg Mercedes back, after the latter looked dominant at Silverstone.
Spa should be a track that suits Mercedes’ W08 car, giving Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas the edge. They will need to work hard to ensure they capitalise on their advantage, though, keeping us as fans looking at the teams as well as the drivers.
Vettel and Hamilton rekindle the fight
With the return of F1 comes the return of the title battle that we’ve been discussing all season – Sebastian Vettel vs. Lewis Hamilton. What started as a bromance became a nasty spat in Azerbaijan and it’s had a bit of needle since. Which, of course, is great for us a viewing fans.
Vettel heads into the second half of the season with a 14 point lead, but the pendulum has swung from Ferrari to Mercedes and back again over the first half so much it’s not only hard to predict who will win each and every race. As long as the narrative stays intriguing then we could be in for a classic title fight for the ages.