2013 Belgian Grand Prix Preview

2 Comments

Formula One returns after its summer break to the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium. A favorite among fans and drivers, Spa is renowned for its great changes in elevation and high-speed corners, the most famous of which – Eau Rouge – has a special place in the heart of all F1 personnel. As the drivers get back in the saddle and prepare to attack the second half of the 2013 season, an explosive and exhilarating Belgian Grand Prix could be in the offing.

Belgian Grand Prix Talking Points

Mercedes plan assault on Red Bull

With Sebastian Vettel enjoying a 38-point lead over Kimi Raikkonen and Red Bull leading Mercedes by 69 points, you could be forgiven for writing off both championships with barely half of the season gone. Judging by their recent form, Mercedes are the only team well-placed to challenge the defending champions; starting off with a win in Spa would certainly put the Silver Arrows in good stead for the rest of the season.

Ferrari and Lotus try to keep a grip on their coat-tails

For Ferrari, this season is becoming increasingly about damage limitation. No wins since May and more references to the troublesome wind tunnel suggest that finishing in the top three would be a good result come Interlagos for the Italian team. Lotus’ outlook is far brighter following two strong results in Germany and Hungary, and Spa is a big race for the team as the “King of Spa” Kimi Raikkonen chases a fifth win in Belgium – with or without ‘the device’.

Who will come back with renewed vigor?

The summer break gives drivers a chance to relax and take a break from the stresses of the sport, making it a key point of the season. Last season, Felipe Massa returned from his holidays a completely different driver, laying down a remarkably consistent run of results in the final stretch of the season. Therefore, for the drivers hoping to move up the grid in the coming few weeks, Spa is an important race to get the second half of the season off to a good start.

This season versus next season

Another big question surrounds the development paths that teams will choose to take. As Brawn proved in 2009, planning ahead of a change in the regulations can pay great dividends. Therefore, the teams have to decide whether they want to plan ahead and sacrifice the second half of the year, or secure some good results in 2013 and trail at first in 2014. Despite their lead, Red Bull have to think about getting the championships sewn up to avoid losing out at the beginning of next season.

Kimi, Ricciardo and Red Bull – a decision close?

This week has seen the news break that Kimi Raikkonen may no longer be in the running for the Red Bull seat after a breakdown in negotiations. Therefore, with the door now open for Daniel Ricciardo, an announcement may be close. However, with so many teams still to confirm their line-up for next season, the world champions may yet bide their time further.

Track: Spa-Francorchamps
Laps: 44
Corners: 19
Lap Record: Sebastian Vettel 1:47.263 (2009)
Tire Compounds: Medium (Option); Hard (Prime)
2012 Winner: Jenson Button (McLaren)
2012 Pole Position: Jenson Button 1:47.573
2012 Fastest Lap: Bruno Senna 1:52.822
DRS Zones: Main Straight (T19 to T1); T4 to T5

Friday – Free Practice 1: 04:00am ET
Friday – Free Practice 2: 08:00am ET (LIVE on NBCSN)
Saturday – Free Practice 3: 05:00am ET
Saturday – Qualifying: 08:00am ET (LIVE on NBC Sports Live Extra)
Sunday – Race: 08:00am ET (LIVE on NBCSN)

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
0 Comments

Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.