It’s been a long wait for Formula 1 to return after the summer shutdown, the last race firmly in the record-books, Covid-19 still ever present and the (not so) silly season starting in earnest.
The last race saw Esteban Ocon winning the race, the first time a French driver has won a race in a French powered car since Alain Prost won the 1983 Austrian GP in the Equipe Renault RE40. After all the discussion from Hungary, including Sebastian Vettel’s disqualification died down the Formula 1 world shut down, drivers went away on their holidays, Sebastian Vettel disappeared from public view and the factories closed their doors.
Formula 1 Returns
The Formula 1 circus rolls into Spa for another round in the 2021 campaign, who will come on top? Will Verstappen overtake Hamilton in the Championship? Will Hamilton extend his lead over the Redbull driver?
Before we try to answer these questions the Formula 1 world decided to troll its fanbase by announcing a raft of news over the course of the last few days …none of which included Mercedes!
Alonso was announced as extending his Alpine drive to 2022, in an announcement that shocked… nobody.
Sergio Perez was also announced as conditioning with Redbull for 2022, a wee bit more surprising due to Redbull tendency to change drivers just as much as Lewis complains about his tires!
Formula 1 also decided to get in on the act to announce that Drive to Survive season 4 will be dropping early in 2022 on Netflix.
Just prior to the stat of Quali they also announced a revised calendar, which doesn’t add new races but confirms that the recently cancelled race in Japan will not be replaced, other races have been moved and a “to be confirmed” race to be announced in the coming weeks.
Practice was its usual affair as the drivers and team’s workout the best possible balance for their cars, while also trying to out funny each other on social media ….
Charles Leclerc decided that the Ferrari mechanics needed more work, going off during practice and ripping the left front wheel off his Ferrari, surprisingly this necessitated a chassis change. Max Verstappen also decided to have a wee crash sending his Redbull backwards into the barrier, the car losing its rear wing and damaging the suspension and potentially his gearbox. Luckily Max the accident happened on a Friday meaning he was using his “practice” gearbox, the change of the gearbox will not be at the expense of penalties.
Qualifying and the Rain
In some of the most changeable conditions, it was time to qualify for the race. Unsurprisingly the start of qualifying was delayed by 10 minutes to allow the rain to stop and the track to dry out.
Qualifying 1 was a tricky affair with the ever-changing conditions, was it wet tires? Who would try it in the Inters? It was apparent pretty quicky that the answer was to go for inters, the Williams pair of Latifi and Russell to the risk and it paid off with both in the top half of the time sheets.
Mazepin, Kimi Raikkonen, Mick Schumacher Yuki Tsunoda and Antonio Giovinazzi all drop out Qualifying at the end of Quali 1.
Lando Norris topped the timing charts with a 1min 58.301. the McLaren driver excelling in the changeable conditions.
Qualifying 2 saw the first of the surprises, with both the Ferrari cars failing to make it into the top ten shootout. Charles Leclerc could only manage 11th with his teammate down in 13th. Fernando Alonso in the Alpine was another notable casualty, managing a lowly 14th ahead of the struggling Lance Stroll. The Canadian manging 15th but will start at the back of the grid after a 5-place penalty for his part in the first corner mayhem at the Hungarian GP.
Top Ten in the Rain.
As the start of the final part of qualifying drew near, the rain began to come in again. A few drivers decided to head out sooner rather than later, getting a banker time in in case the weather changed again. One of these drivers was Lando Norris, the Brit impressing again in the last section, giving him a very good chance to take the pole.
Lando’s dream of getting his first Formula 1 pole ended in a big shunt at Eau Rouge/Raidillon. As the McLaren headed o up the hill the car suffered a sudden snap of over steer, unsettling the car, Norris tried in vain to rescue the situation but to no avail. The McLaren MCL35M slid into the barrier backwards destroying the back of the car, the impact of the accident sent the car spinning across the track. The MCL35M looks destroyed. Lando is out of the running.
Norris was out of the car under his own steam and was heading off for checks at the medical centre and hospital.
The session was stopped with just over 8 minutes remaining, allowing for the track to be cleared and the weather to settle.
With the track cleared and the weather calming down, it was time to resume the battle. 9 cars remain, they all decided to head for the inters, much to the shock of martin Brundle in the Sky Sports F1 coverage.
It will all be about timing, Hamilton and Mercedes took pole on the first attempt, by almost 8 tenths of a second. Undeterred the Dutch driver headed back out and put on an amazing performance to stick the car onto pole. another victory for the Redbull team. A surprising candidate for pole emerged in George Russell, the Williams outfit surprising everyone with their performance, Russell flung the Williams onto the start finish straight…. He was SECOND!!! His first ever front row starts in formula 1 and the teams first since 2017.
Valtteri Bottas was hoping to put in a decent performance to limit the damage from his 5-place grid penalty, however this didn’t happen the Mercedes driver qualified in 8th meaning he will start back in 15th. This could be negated slightly if Norris is unable to take his 10th place.
We have all the ingredients for an exciting race, changeable forecast, cars out of position and a Championship title battle on a knife edge …. What more could an F1 fan want??