The Formula One circus moves on to Spa-Francorchamps for this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix.
Championship leader Lewis Hamilton holds a 37-point advantage over Red Bull driver Max Verstappen in his bid for a record-equalling seventh world title.
Here’s a look at five talking points ahead of the weekend’s action.
Mercedes vow to conclude “unfinished business”
Better start packing. 🧳✈️ We've got a lovely Spa break planned this weekend. 😎 pic.twitter.com/kBWCWyc7Vw
— Mercedes-AMG F1 (@MercedesAMGF1) August 25, 2020
Hamilton will arrive in Belgium following one of the most crushing victories in recent Formula One memory. The world champion finished 24 seconds clear of Verstappen and lapped the entire field up to third at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya to extend his championship lead on a seemingly inevitable march to match Michael Schumacher’s title record. However, the 35-year-old Briton has not won on Belgium soil since 2017. It is hardly a disaster, but the statistic suggests Hamilton is vulnerable at one of the sport’s most iconic circuits. That said, Mercedes, and in particular Hamilton, have been in mesmerising form in 2020, and they will start the weekend as favourites to triumph again on Sunday. Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said: “Our next race takes us to Spa where we have not won since 2017 so it feels like there’s unfinished business.”
Could rubber choice hand initiative to Verstappen?
Final moments at home pic.twitter.com/LhyLN8pVtK
— Max Verstappen (@Max33Verstappen) August 26, 2020
The only sour note for Mercedes this year arrived in the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone when Verstappen triumphed. The Dutchman drove brilliantly in his Red Bull to take the chequered flag and see off Mercedes’ challenge which was thwarted by tyre woes. The all-black machines failed to get on top of the softer compounds – the same selection chosen by Pirelli for this weekend’s action. Like Silverstone, the Spa-Francorchamps track is also one of the speediest on the calendar and that, coupled with the soft rubber, could cause Mercedes problems. Verstappen will be ready to strike if the world champions come unstuck again.
One last hurrah for Hamilton’s “party mode”
DRIVER STANDINGS: ROUND 6 🏆@LewisHamilton takes a commanding lead as we head into a two-week break 👀
— Formula 1 (@F1) August 16, 2020
The FIA has confirmed that a qualifying engine power boost – a setting Hamilton has previously referred to as “party mode” – will be outlawed after this weekend’s race. Hamilton’s Mercedes team have proved the masters of the mode which has helped them to exert a staggering one-lap advantage over the field this season. Indeed, they have taken pole position at all six races. Mercedes’ rivals will hope the new FIA directive might allow them to provide a stiffer challenge to the sport’s all-conquering team.
Leclerc braced for challenging weekend ahead of Hubert anniversary
The sport will mark the one-year anniversary of Anthoine Hubert’s death this weekend. The French driver, 22, was killed following a high-speed pile-up at the top of the fearsome Eau Rouge corner during last year’s Formula Two race. Charles Leclerc was close friends with Hubert and took his maiden grand prix win just 24 hours after his death. Speaking ahead of this weekend’s race the Ferrari driver said: “The Spa-Francorchamps circuit has a special place in my heart. While it is here that I took my first win, it is also where we lost our friend Anthoine last year. It will be difficult to return to this track and he will be in our thoughts all weekend.”
A reminder of the 𝘾𝙃𝘼𝙊𝙎 at Spa in 2010! 💥⛈
— Formula 1 (@F1) August 24, 2020
While Hamilton marched to a comprehensive victory at a dry and sunny Spanish Grand Prix, the weather could provide the Briton with a less straightforward time of it. Rain is on the radar to strike the Ardennes throughout the weekend which could help to spice up the show following Mercedes’ run of dominance.