2015 Belgian Grand Prix Preview

0 Comments

Following the month-long summer break, Formula 1 bursts back into life this weekend with the Belgian Grand Prix at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.

Spa stands as one of the most popular and fearsome tracks on the sport’s calendar, combining long straights with fast-sweeping corners such as Eau Rouge, which is widely regarded as being the best in F1.

The 20 drivers will have spent the last month relaxing and detoxing after a busy first half of the 2015 season, but will now be fully focused on the challenge that lies ahead.

A relentless run of nine races in the next 15 weeks will take the drivers from the classic circuits of Spa and Monza to the modern wonders of Singapore and Abu Dhabi, culminating with the latter’s grand prix on November 29.

Lewis Hamilton heads into the second half of the season as the championship leader after producing an escape act last time out in Hungary, but with Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg still within striking distance, there is everything to play for this weekend.

Here is our full preview of the 2015 Belgian Grand Prix.

2015 Belgian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Hamilton and Rosberg return to the site of their clash

One of the biggest turning points in last year’s championship battle came at Spa last year when, on lap two of the race, Nico Rosberg clipped Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton when trying to pass the Briton for the lead at Les Combes (pictured above). Rosberg bounced back to finish second, but ultimately caused Hamilton to retire, thus painting himself as the villain for the remainder of the season.

This time around, the tension between the two drivers has been defused. In fact, things have been rather tame since the Chinese Grand Prix when Rosberg last spoke out against Hamilton. With the Silver Arrows likely to lock out the front row once again though, all eyes will be on the duo when they head down to Les Combes for the first time on Sunday.

Can Ferrari surprise again?

Sebastian Vettel’s dominant victory in Hungary last month came as a shock to the majority of the F1 world as Ferrari genuinely outpaced and outclassed Mercedes in the race. All eyes will now be on the German driver to see if he can carry this form into the second half of the season at a track where he has won before.

The ban on driver aids for starts also comes into force for this race, placing even more pressure on Hamilton and Rosberg. As they found out in Hungary, it’s much, much harder to chase than be chased.

Pressure off, Kimi hopes to flourish at Spa

No driver racing in F1 can boast a more impressive record at Spa than Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn is a four-time winner of the Belgian Grand Prix, and could yet be a dark horse for this weekend’s race if Ferrari can upset Mercedes once again.

Yesterday we received the somewhat surprising news that Raikkonen would be staying with Ferrari for 2016, ending months of speculation about his future. With the pressure off, can Kimi rekindle some of his old form at his favorite track?

The driver market dominoes begin to fall

Speculation about Raikkonen’s future may have been nipped in the bud, but attention now turns to the rest of the field. Had the Finn left Maranello, we would most probably have seen a number of changes for 2016.

Now, it looks like the status quo will remain much the same. Valtteri Bottas would be foolish to race with anyone bar Williams, Nico Hulkenberg’s only option other than Force India appears to be Haas, and Jenson Button has less room for manoeuvre should McLaren opt to drop him for 2016.

Silly season may not be quite so silly in 2015, but it’s just about to heat right up.

McLaren hopes to build on Hungary success

After recording its first double-points finish of the season last time out in Hungary, McLaren arrives in Spa after the summer break with hopes of a repeat thanks to a number of engine upgrades from Honda.

Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button do not boast the best of records in the Belgian Grand Prix, yet both should not be ruled out of more points this weekend if the upgrades do deliver a sizeable pace increase.

At a track where the grunt of one’s power unit will be decisive, though, it will need to be a very big step for McLaren if it is to repeat its fifth-place finish from Hungary.

2015 Belgian Grand Prix – Facts and Figures

Track: Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps
Laps: 44
Corners: 19
Lap Record: Sebastian Vettel 1:47.263 (Red Bull, 2009)
Tire Compounds: Soft (Option); Medium (Prime)
2014 Winner: Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull)
2014 Pole Position: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 2:05.591
2014 Fastest Lap: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 1:50.511
DRS Zone: Main Straight (T19 to T1); T4 to T5

2015 Belgian Grand Prix – TV Times

Free Practice 1: NBC Sports Live Extra 4am ET 8/21
Free Practice 2: NBCSN 8am ET 8/21
Free Practice 3: NBC Sports Live Extra 5am ET 8/21
Qualifying: CNBC 8am ET 8/22
Race: NBCSN 7:30am ET 8/23

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
0 Comments

IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10-3 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 7 p.m. to USA Network. Peacock will have flag-to-flag coverage.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III