The summer break for the Formula 1 season will come to an end this weekend in Belgium at Spa-Francorchamps. This race will start the second half of the season and reignite the championship points battle between the Mercedes duo of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.
- Practice 1: 4 a.m. 8/22 EDT
- Practice 2: 8 a.m. 8/22 EDT
- Practice 3: 5 a.m. 8/23 EDT
- Qualifying: 8 a.m. 8/23 EDT
- Race: 8 a.m. 8/24 EDT
At this race last year, it was Sebastien Vettel who took home the win in commanding fashion with a 16.87 sec. gap to second place. Don’t expect Vettel to run away with it again with the season he’s been having. He has failed to score a win yet this year and only has 88 points so far. At this time last season, Sebastien was well in command of the championship with a 38 point lead on Ferrari driver (then Lotus) Kimi Raikkonen.
Valtteri Bottas could be in contention for his first win of the season this weekend. With the longest race on the circuit, we could be seeing some reliability concerns from the Mercedes and Red Bull teams. The silver arrows have had three technical failures this year, only trailing Red Bull by one. These problems have hurt Mercedes, and in particular Lewis Hamilton, on several occasions already this year. Williams on the other hand are in a much better position. With one technical failure (Bottas in Monaco), the Williams chassis has been one of the most reliable of the season.
The odds are giving Lewis Hamilton a 57.8% chance of winning, but that doesn’t account for the possible technical failures described above. His teammate Nico Rosberg comes in with a 34.8% chance. Williams driver Valtteri Bottas is on par with Daniel Ricciardo, both with a 5.9% chance of victory. However, if reliability becomes an issue, those numbers won’t mean a thing if we lose one or both of the Mercedes drivers in the race.
There are a maximum of 225 points available to any one driver for the rest of the 2014 season. If Lewis Hamilton hopes to take a shot at the Driver’s World Championship, he’ll have to start beating Rosberg soon. Granted, Hamilton does have more wins than Rosberg (five to four), but the second technical failure in Canada really put him behind. Hamilton will need to improve his form in the second half because he has two major things going against him already.
- Nico has been historically better than Hamilton in the second half of the season. In the second half of the 2013 season, Rosberg’s average finish improved to 6.7 from 8.3, a 1.6 place difference. Hamilton’s average finish has gone the opposite way, increasing from 4.5 to 7.5. Lewis will need to consistently beat out his teammate if he hopes to break the 11 point lead Nico has on him.
- The double points race in Abu Dhabi could mean a huge swing in the championship points in the last race. If a failure or poor qualifying showing were to happen in the final round, you want to be the driver on top when it goes down. If Nico Rosberg crashed out of the last race with the points lead he has today, Hamilton would still have to finish seventh or better to secure a championship. Sure, it may not be too hard, but the other driver will still have to work for it.
Two drivers will also be making their Formula 1 debut this weekend. The first, Andre Lotterer, will drive for Kamui Kobayashi in the Caterham chassis. Lotterer will be one of the oldest drivers on the grid this weekend-Lotterer is 32- but certainly not the most experienced. The second driver is American Alexander Rossi who will drive for Max Chilton in the Marrusia. Rossi will be the first American driver to compete in a Grand Prix since 2007 when Scott Speed ran the European Grand Prix.
With F1 back in action, we’ll have to see how the championship will play out within the next eight races, and keep an eye on young American Alexander Rossi. We take a deeper look into different championship scenarios in an article here.
Let us know who you think will win the Belgian Grand Prix in the comments below, as well as your thoughts on Lotterer and Rossi running this weekend.
Update: Max Chilton was back in the car Friday morning for practice, replacing (his replacement) Alexander Rossi. The American’s first Formula 1 race start is in question for Sunday.
– Drew Bennison