F1 Belgian GP preview: Why Mercedes has ‘unfinished business’ at Spa

Crash.net Digital Editor Lewis Larkam previews the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamaps, Round 7 of the 2020 F1 world championship.
F1 Belgian GP preview: Why Mercedes has ‘unfinished business’ at Spa

After a much-needed week’s break, Formula 1 is back for what promises to be another frantic and important triple-header of races, beginning with the Belgian Grand Prix. 

With the 2020 calendar now formalised following the addition of the first Turkish Grand Prix in nine years and a Middle East finale comprising of back-to-back races in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi, the F1 paddock descends on the Belgium paddock for the seventh round of the campaign finally having a clear picture for the rest of what has been a heavily rejigged season. 

On paper, the 7.004km Spa-Francorchamps circuit should play into the hands of a Mercedes side that has already stormed to six consecutive pole positions this season. Ferrari has won the previous two events at Spa but a victory this time around seems inconceivable given its well-documented competitive slump in 2020. 

It is a track that rewards an efficient car and a powerful engine, two aspects this year’s Mercedes boasts in abundance. While it will be the last chance for teams to deploy their high-performance power unit settings in qualifying, the Brackley squad can be considered the firm favourite heading into the weekend. 

"Our next race takes us to Spa where we haven't won since 2017, so it feels like there's unfinished business as we head to Belgium,” said Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff in a team preview for the event. 

Hamilton is enjoying a purple patch of form having taken four wins from the opening six races. It is this run that has seen the Briton rapidly close in on Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of 91 victories which he could equal at Ferrari’s 1000th Grand Prix at Mugello at the end of this upcoming triple header should he triumph in all three races. 

But the weather could play a factor this weekend, with the likelihood of rain a real possibility throughout all three days of track running in Belgium. 

F1 Belgian GP preview: Why Mercedes has ‘unfinished business’ at Spa

The weather at Spa is notoriously unpredictable with many races affected by mixed conditions over the years. Most recently in 2018 a rain shower in qualifying made Q3 a lottery and resulted in a mixed up grid - though it was still headed by Hamilton, who has already delivered a wet-weather masterclass this season at the Styrian Grand Prix. 

The weekend may well pass without precipitation, but the weather will certainly be an interesting factor to watch out for in Belgium. 

Will tyres give Mercedes another headache? 

Mercedes’ only defeat so far this year came at the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix and was inflicted by Max Verstappen. 

The Red Bull driver was able to capitalise on Mercedes’ tyre woes as the team struggled with severe blistering on both its W11 cars due to a combination of the softer compound selections and a track that heavily punishes tyres. 

For the first time since the second Silverstone round, Pirelli has chosen the exact same combination of C2, C3 and C4 compounds that proved so troublesome for Mercedes for this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix. 

Mercedes conducted an urgent inquest into the issues it suffered and avoided a repeat despite hot conditions in Spain last time out, with Hamilton claiming a dominant victory, though the German manufacturer has since stressed it has not fully understood or resolved the problem. 

The cooler conditions that are expected this weekend should limit the strain placed on the tyres and Mercedes may well evade any troubles. But either way, Red Bull will be primed to pounce. 

F1 Belgian GP preview: Why Mercedes has ‘unfinished business’ at Spa

Remembering Hubert 12 months after tragedy 

Anthoine Hubert will be remembered in the F1 paddock this weekend in Belgium, which was the scene of the horrific accident that claimed the 22-year-old Frenchman’s life last year. 

As the reigning GP3 champion, Hubert starred in a promising rookie Formula 2 campaign in which he had already taken multiple victories to prove he was a genuine talent, backed up by his place in Renault’s academy.

Hubert’s fatal high-speed crash at Spa served as a reminder of the dangers drivers still face even in the present day where safety is so paramount. It also left Juan Manuel Correa with severe leg injuries that he is still recovering from today. 

Both drivers will be on the minds of everyone in the paddock 12 months on from the accident which greatly affected a number of F1 drivers including Hubert’s close friends Charles Leclerc and Pierre Gasly, and Williams rookie Nicholas Latifi, who took part in the F2 race.

F1 Belgian GP preview: Why Mercedes has ‘unfinished business’ at Spa

When is the Belgium GP on TV? 

Friday August 28 

Free Practice 1: 10:00am-11:30am BST (11:00am-12:30pm local)
Free Practice 2: 2.00pm-3.30pm BST (3.00pm-4.30pm local)

Saturday August 29

Free Practice 3: 11:00am-12:00pm BST (12:00pm-1.00pm local)
Qualifying: 2:00pm-3:00pm BST (3:00pm-4:00pm local)

Sunday August 30

Race: 2.10pm BST (3:10pm local)

Belgian GP Pirelli tyre allocation

For the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, Pirelli is bringing the C2 (Hard), C3 (Medium) and C4 (Soft) compounds, the same selections as used during the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix weekend at Silverstone. 

For at least the first eight races of 2020, each driver will have an allocation of eight sets of the red-walled Softs, three sets of the yellow-walled Mediums, and two sets of the white-walled Hards.

Recent Belgian GP Winners: 

2019: Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
2018: Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
2017: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2016: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
2015: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2014: Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull)
2013: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)
2012: Jenson Button (McLaren)
2011: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)
2010: Lewis Hamilton (McLaren)

F1 Belgian GP preview: Why Mercedes has ‘unfinished business’ at Spa

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