There’s perhaps no better circuit than Spa-Francorchamps to resume this year’s Formula One (F1) season after a summer break. Home to the Belgian Grand Prix, this iconic and scenic circuit will see Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen fight it out again as the battle for the 2021 championships picks up pace. The 44-lap race will take place on 29 August.
Before the two-week summer break, Alpine’s Esteban Ocon became the 111th driver to win a world championship race with his victory at the Hungarian Grand Prix earlier this month. The 24-year-old French driver will hope to capitalise on his win heading into Spa, where he has performed well in recent seasons.
At one point, Hamilton was trailing in the final position in Hungary but managed to fight back into the podium places, while Verstappen finished 9th after his Red Bull car suffered considerable damage in an opening lap crash that saw five drivers retire from the race. The gap between Hamilton and Verstappen in the drivers’ championship now sits at just 8 points.
This weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix is also the first in a crucial triple header, with back-to-back races in the Netherlands (Dutch Grand Prix) and Italy’s Monza circuit (Italian Grand Prix) to follow. Whoever (between Hamilton and Verstappen) manages to emerge from the three races with maximum points could have a massive advantage for the remainder of the season.
The 2021 season had a total of 23 races planned, but that now looks set to be modified after the recent announcement that the Japanese Grand Prix slated for October had been cancelled due to covid-19. This could mean a further reshuffle to the calendar after races in Australia, Canada, Singapore and China were also called off earlier this year due to the pandemic. While there’s no doubt that F1 should be able to organise enough races to make this a championship season, as it did in 2020 with 17 rounds of racing, it remains to be seen how these changes could alter this year’s battle for the title and the performances of the other teams.
This summer break also added further intrigue to what might finally happen at Mercedes: who will partner Hamilton for the 2022 season? Will it be his current teammate Valtteri Bottas? Or, will George Russell finally make the long-anticipated switch to the Silver Arrows from his current team Williams? Recent news reports have suggested that a decision has already been made, but that we might have to wait till September to find out who finally takes the coveted seat next to Hamilton.
Whatever transpires at Mercedes could have a cascading effect across the rest of the paddock and the driver market. If it is indeed Russell who joins Mercedes, where does Bottas go? Does he head back to his former team Williams or will another outfit take a punt on the experienced Finn? Alfa Romeo is another team that faces a decision with no certainty around the futures of their current drivers Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzii. Could Bottas possibly be an option for Alfa Romeo next year? It’s set to be an intriguing second half in the 2021 F1 season, and it all starts at Spa this weekend.