Formula 1 Preview: 5 things you need to know ahead of the 2021 Belgian GP
The 2021 Formula 1 season finally comes out of its summer break hibernation and hits the ground rolling at Spa-Francorchamps. Spa is not only the longest racetrack on the present F1 calendar but arguably the most beautiful as well. Moreover, this year marks 100 years of the track as it was built in 1921. With 20 corners on the 7.004km circuit and two DRS detection zones, let’s take a look at how things could pan out. Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 leads the championship for the first time since they lost the top spot to Red Bull Racing at the Monaco GP. But the two teams are just 12 points apart, and the Bulls will be on a charge this weekend. McLaren Racing and Scuderia Ferrari are tied at third in the constructors championship. Meanwhile, at the back of the field, Williams Racing have finally scored their first points at Hungary since the German GP in the 2019 season and are now looking to ride their forward momentum this weekend.
With that said, here are five things you need to know ahead of the 2021 Belgian GP!
McLaren v Ferrari
New overtaking award
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After a long dominance of Mercedes throughout the turbo-hybrid era, Honda and Red Bull have finally taken the fight to the Silver Arrows in 2021. Even though Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 currently leads the championship with 303 points, Red Bull Racing is breathing down its neck with 291 points. With roughly 12 more races to go, this title fight is far from decided.
Hungary and Silverstone were a setback for Red Bull as they managed to score only two points. At the same time, Mercedes have made the best of the opportunity and have scored 61 points from the last two races.
This has helped Mercedes get back the lead in the championship they lost at the 2021 Monaco GP. But there is a catch. Red Bull has a car that is faster than the Mercedes W12 E Performance on the slow corners and the back straights, and that makes them the favourites heading into the weekend at Spa-Francorchamps.
McLaren v Ferrari
McLaren Racing and Scuderia Ferrari are currently in a stand-off at the championship table with both teams earning 163 points after 11 races. Lando Norris has performed brilliantly for McLaren, scoring in 10 out of the 11 races so far. He is also third in the drivers championship table with 113 points and has managed to keep McLaren in the fight. Moreover his teammate, Daniel Ricciardo has not been performing as expected with the new team and arguably has been the driver to struggle most with the team swap. This has built pressure on the Australian to perform close to the levels of his teammate and help McLaren become the ‘best of the rest’ team in the 2021 Formula 1 season.
Scuderia Ferrari had their fair share of problems with the car as they entered the 2021 season but they managed to come out fighting in every race weekend. They faced heavy tyre degradation problems during the French GP but the Maranello-based team improved the SF 21 over the weekend and came out swinging at the Styrian GP. Moreover, Charles Leclerc nearly won the Silverstone GP if not for their inferior race pace over the Mercedes on the hard tyres. Ferrari has improved a lot and quite drastically through the season and now they have Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc who are constantly providing results on most weekends. Ferrari’s tyre woes may come to an end with Binotto confirming an upgrade that has fixed this, though it may come at the expense of time over a single lap. That said, races aren’t won over a single lap.
Spa-Francorchamps is a power-hungry circuit with a few slow-speed corners and really long straights. So chances are that Ferrari might be the ones chasing the papaya-coloured cars. But with Ferrari’s constant rate of improvement over the weekends, a clear favourite is a little hard to tell, and the tie for P3 in the championship table clearly explains the dilemma.
Australian GP, Singapore GP and the Japanese GP have been called off from the 2021 Formula 1 season calendar. The tracks have withdrawn their names from the calendar due to the current pandemic situation. FIA are discussing to either fill them up with new tracks or organise double header on the same tracks with the latter being the more probable option.
Italy has already been assigned to fill up one of the empty slots on the 2021 calendar. Now, whether they race on the same track or try out Mugello again is something we’ll have to wait and find out. Moreover, Monza GP will be the second track to try out the experimental race weekend with sprint qualifying, with the third being the Brazil GP. While Turkey has been selected to replace Singapore, Qatar has shown interest to fill in the remaining empty slot in the calendar with the Losail International Circuit.
New overtaking award
Formula 1 has announced the brand-new Crypto.com Overtake Award to reward the individual driver who makes the most overtakes through the season. The award is the first of its kind and is aimed to bolster the partnership between Crypto.com and Formula 1. Crypto.com is a cryptocurrency platform that has become the sport’s seventh Global Partner and Title Partner of the three Formula 1 Sprint Events this season.
New live broadcast graphics have also been announced to be introduced for each race. New overtaking possibilities and potential moves graphics are also to be introduced in the races to come. Moreover, a chart will also be introduced for the fans to keep track of the drivers’ statistics for the award. Speaking of statistics, Sebastian Vettel leads the pack for the award after 11 races in the 2021 season so far.
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The next three weekends will be action-packed for a motorsport fan as the Formula 1 circus travels non stop between Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy. In the first stop, we take to the beautiful Spa-Francorchamps located in Stavelot, Belgium. Then we move to Zandvoort on September 3, which is making a re-appearance in the Formula 1 calendar with quite a lot of facelift done to the profile of the track. The track was supposed to make its appearance at the 2020 Formula 1 season, but the Dutch government delayed the introduction of the track due to the pandemic.
Finally, we move to Monza or better known as the ‘Temple of Speed’ on September 10. Monza will also be the second track on the Formula 1 calendar to use the sprint qualifying weekend format. This will add a lot of drama to the weekend and will be a proper end to the triple header.
With all that said, one thing is certain that the Belgian GP will be a banger of a showdown between the teams and drivers in the Formula 1 grid. With the title fights being so close and intense between the top two teams in the championship that missing the race would be a hard task to accomplish. The Belgian GP weekend will start from August 27 to August 29. The Qualifying session starts at 6:30pm IST on August 28 while the race starts at 6:30pm IST on August 29. To get live updates on the race, follow Motorsport India’s Twitter handle and to watch the race live, you can tune into Hotstar, Star Sports Select or the F1TV app.