Finally, Formula 1 returns following a lengthy summer break. The drivers cannot wait to fire up their engines in anger once more and the team factories are a hub of activity again. The withdrawal symptoms are starting to fade and that all too familiar engine noise is here again. After several weeks of calm, the racing circus returns to a place of history and drama – Spa-Francochamps.
The teams have a fight on their hands if they are to dethrone Sebastian Vettel’s reign. It can be done but his, very infrequent, bad luck will need to begin soon.
One of the longest circuits on the racing calendar, strategy will dictate who is successful this weekend. Tyre wear is one such problem the drivers and teams will face upon their return to the tarmac – this helped to contribute to Jenson Button’s 2012 win though a repeat performance does seem decidedly unlikely.
Its unpredictability combined with its iconic corner, Eau Rouge, has made it a place of fan pilgrimage for many a decade. The weather too, could prove crucial. Indeed, many drivers suggest the excitement of Eau Rouge is only really justified in the wet as the tyre temperament fades.
I have spoken before about my love affair of the 1963 Belgian Grand Prix, so I will not bore you with the details again. The mere fact that I, despite never watching it live or during that decade, can feel such a powerful connection to that enthralling race, speaks volumes to the type of racing we see year on year.
From 68 years, Ferrari have 16 victories to their name. Fernando Alonso will need the racing gods on his side if his 2013 campaign is to prove fruitful. This is not an overwhelmingly impressive statistic but does show that the prancing horses can get it right.
Rather unsurprisingly, Michael Schumacher has claimed the most victories at this circuit with a total of six to his name. Ayrton Senna sits second on five wins whilst Kimi Raikkonen remains the most successful driver currently racing – he will be one to watch this weekend. Four victories could well become five by Sunday.
To master this circuit can garner great attention. Although not in Formula 1, one would be foolish to overlook the affinity Kevin Magnussen has with this circuit. Four consecutive Formula Renault 3.5 poles in Spa have got him noticed by the great and powerful of Motorsport. Jim Clark mastered it and sits as a true legend of the sport. Perhaps we can therefore forgive Romain Grosjean for his mistake in 2012?
I will let you decide that one for yourself.
Belgium may not have a Formula 1 driver, yet, but they have a very talented young hopeful, McLaren Junior, Stoffel Vandoorne. We will see him on the grid soon enough and I cannot wait to see the crowds – usually filled with fans who have travelled from every part of the globe – to be filled with a home grown buzz. Potentially, it could inspire a generation.
That will have to wait.
For now, all eyes will be on the twenty-two drivers who not only fight for points but, potentially, their career futures. I cannot wait.