Our F1 guest writer, Justin Johns, brings you a Belgian F1 Grand Prix Preview.
At the time of writing my Belgian F1 Grand Prix preview, we are not sure if Force India can enter this weekend due to complexities in the business takeover by Lawrence Stroll. A high-level overview is that Lawrence Stroll has acquired all the assets but does not own the race entry, as that is tied up with the Indian banks who have issued the loans to Vijay Mallya.
This means the entity associated with Force India is still under administration through a technicality. McLaren, Williams and Renault are also offering some roadblocks as they have vetoed any prize money earned thus far in the season to be transferred to the Stroll consortium. It will be sad news for the employees and for the sport if they are not allowed to race.
Formula 1 needs to update its race entry processes to override these technicalities for the benefit of the sport. I understand why the Indian banks are doing what they are doing because they want their loans paid, as they should be. I for one am happy that Mallya is finally getting out of Formula 1 as he is an awful person.
People have killed themselves because he didn’t pay salaries in India for his Kingfisher Airline. People killed themselves, and yet Vijay was rolling around the world like a rock star. He drives businesses under, declares bankruptcy and moves on leaving a trail of destruction and sorrow for the people, the people who mean anything, the innocent. I still do not understand why he isn’t in jail yet. We don’t need him and his blood money in the sport. It’s all a façade anyway, he is broke and is living off credit built on deceit. Please go to jail you awful human being. Now to the race ahead, let’s hope Force India will be a part of it.
The greatest circuit
Enough of the soap-opera, here is my Belgian F1 Grand Prix preview. My favorite circuit of all time welcomes back Formula 1 after the summer break. Spa Francorchamps is probably one of the best tracks to have fun on with a Formula 1 machine as the track has some terrific straights and frighteningly quick corners, the most legendary being Eau Rouge and Radillion. The elevation change through these corners is 40 metres, equivalent to a 12-story building. The drivers experience forces of 5G through here. It’s a mystical sequence of corners designed for speed, passion and commitment.
Another grandiose part of the track is Blanchimont which is a left-hand curve taken flat out at over 300 km/h, making it one of the fastest corners in F1. Pouhon is another corner for the brave as it is a downhill, super quick, double left-hander taken at well over 200 km/h and provides heart-stopping moments if you get it wrong.
Spa is a beautiful track, set amongst equally beautiful scenery as it runs through the Ardennes forest. It’s also one of the longest circuits in the season at just a little over 7 kilometres, which yields different weather patterns over different parts of the circuit. This makes for some interesting racing as the rain usually spices things up. The race at Spa in 1998 was, in my opinion, the greatest race of all time, which was won by my favorite driver of all time, Damon Hill. If you have not seen what transpired in that race, please check out YouTube for one of the best treats in the F1 vault.
Summer silly season
The summer break was surprisingly eventful after Daniel Ricciardo announced his move to Renault, Force India was bought by the Stroll consortium and finally, and sadly, Fernando Alonso announced his retirement. Those stories kicked off one of the best silly seasons in a long, long while and it’s not over yet.
We still don’t know who goes where with the possibility of Ocon, Vandoorne and Grosjean not having confirmed seats for next year. There is talk of bringing in Kubica to replace Stroll as soon as Spa. There’s also talk of subbing Vandoorne out to Toro Rosso and bringing in Lando Norris to partner Carlos Sainz at McLaren and we still do not know what’s going on with Kimi and Ferrari. We will cover this in detail in a dedicated article but for now watch this race with the view that many drivers are fighting for their careers, which will be fascinating to watch.
Stoffel needs to step up
Speaking of fighting for his career, local boy, Stoffel Vandoorne must shine this weekend. I rate him; he hasn’t been far off the pace from Alonso and Stoffel was hampered with a damaged car for a few races till McLaren changed his chassis. Stoffel deserves to be in Formula 1, he was just unlucky to be put in a bad car with Alonso as a teammate. Fernando is worth at least two tenths in any car, and that is why Fernando will be one of the greatest of all time.
A sad departure
Alonso’s announcement is sad. I backed him from day one in the Minardi back in 2001, but, I know it’s the right decision. He is wasting his time driving in the midfield. People give Fernando a lot of flak for ruining relationships and so on, but I disagree. Sometimes in the corporate world, you stick to your guns. No one can fault Fernando’s work ethic; I stand by his decisions and mistakes too.
The biggest mistake he made was leaving Ferrari at the end of 2014 as he didn’t believe in a Ferrari without Stefano Domenicali and Luca di Montezemolo. Fernando would have won in 2017 as Vettel demonstrated blowing a huge lead seems to be a characteristic of his now. He blew this year’s lead as well by crashing into Bottas in France and crashing out of Germany. Lewis doesn’t make those mistakes, and you can’t make any mistakes when competing against Lewis.
Fernando would have taken that fight down to the wire and the biggest loss for us as fans, is the chance to see Fernando and Lewis battling it out. The other mistake for Fernando was the deliberate blocking of Hamilton at Hungary in 2007, it was immature and that cost him the championship. He lost that year’s title fight by one point. I can relate, as at the time Fernando was still young, and we all at some point lost our cool at work when we were younger. My success in my career has a lot to do with looking up to people like Fernando Alonso as I draw on their fighting spirit and confidence, and for that I thank you ’Nando, and I thank you for the memories. Watch Fernando take his driving to another level for the rest of the season and put on a show for us, his supporters.
How about that atmosphere?
There’s a lot going on at this race, which is overshadowed by the Force India situation. There is also a definite tension in the atmosphere this weekend for the drivers and teams under pressure. The fight for five is in full swing and unless Hamilton has a retirement, I don’t know how Seb is going to make up the points deficit. If I had to evaluate who should be world champion on the races run thus far, I would pick Lewis.
Vettel has made too many mistakes and needs to dig deep for the rest of the season. Kimi will sadly play the support role even though I, and all his fans, wish for Kimi to win this race. Kimi is the current King of Spa and a win here will cement that title. Bottas should support Lewis and somehow get over the bad luck he was getting throughout the season. Max will also be in the spotlight as this is as close to a home track as he can get for now and he has a ton of fans attending this race. Look out for fully ‘oranged’ out grandstands.
Dear Spa Weather Gods, please bring the rain.
Here’s to a great race.