F1 Preview: 2018 Belgian Grand Prix

Photo: Getty Images

After the usual summer break, Formula 1 is back in action this weekend for the Belgian Grand Prix at the daunting Spa-Francorchamps. Nine races remain in the 2018 season, with only two being on European soil – from the Singapore Grand Prix to the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, races will be held away from the teams’ European hubs.

Spa represents the first of those two European rounds. And last year, it saw the beginning of the end for Ferrari’s championship hopes.

Sebastian Vettel entered last year’s race with a 14-point lead over Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton went on to win that day, and again one week later at the Italian Grand Prix.

Those wins vaulted Hamilton into the championship lead. And while Vettel captured the pole at Singapore, things completely fell apart on Lap 1, with contact between Vettel, Max Verstappen, and Kimi Raikkonen causing all three to crash out, leaving Hamilton to take the win.

Fast forward to 2018, and it’s Hamilton now with the edge on Vettel. He leads the Ferrari driver by 24 points entering Spa, with Vettel looking to emulate what Hamilton did last year: take a needed victory and use it to launch a championship run in the final nine races.

Talking points ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix are below.

The Seesaw of Momentum

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 25: Sebastian Vettel of Germany driving the (5) Scuderia Ferrari SF71H leads Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes WO9 on track during the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park on March 25, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Ferrari and Mercedes appear very evenly matched. Perhaps Ferrari has a slight advantage in outright speed, but it’s not enough to be noticeable, and it certainly has not resulted in a dominating performance from Ferrari – Vettel is second to Hamilton in the driver’s championship, and Ferrari is currently second to Mercedes in the constructor’s championship.

This is the result of a topsy-turvy season that has seen momentum shift almost at every other race. Vettel had back-to-back wins in Australia and Bahrain to start the year before stumbling in China – Red Bull and Daniel Ricciardo won that day – while Hamilton broke into the winner’s column at Azerbaijan and Spain.

Ricciardo won again at Monaco, with Vettel returning to his dominant form in Canada on the way to victory, while Hamilton languished in sixth.

Things swung back in Hamilton’s favor in France, where he led a Mercedes 1-2, but a disastrous outing in Austria saw both he and Valtteri Bottas DNF with mechanical failures while Ferrari finished second and third with Raikkonen and Vettel – Red Bull took another opportunistic win that day, this time with Max Verstappen.

Vettel won again in Great Britain, while Hamilton rebounded from a Lap 1 spin to finish second, but a Vettel crash in Germany opened the door for Hamilton to get back on top of the podium. A win in Hungary for Hamilton and a second place for Vettel capped a wild opening 12 races.

In short, the 2018 F1 season can best be described as unpredictable, and a track as daunting as Spa can add to that.

While the layout is challenging enough, its size and placement in the Ardennes Forest means weather can wreak havoc – rain has often hit one part of the track and left the remainder dry. And if weather intervenes this weekend, things can get turned completely upside down…again.

Silly Season in High Gear

HOCKENHEIM, GERMANY – JULY 22: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Red Bull Racing prepares to drive on the grid before the Formula One Grand Prix of Germany at Hockenheimring on July 22, 2018 in Hockenheim, Germany. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

There may not have been any races during the summer break, but there wasn’t a lack of news. Daniel Ricciardo kicked things off when he revealed a switch to Renault for 2019, and then Fernando Alonso stole the headlines by confirming his departure from F1 at the end of the season. McLaren then almost immediately confirmed Carlos Sainz Jr. as Alonso’s replacement, followed by Red Bull confirming Pierre Gasly for 2019 (per Formula 1’s website). In short, the silly season musical chairs are in full swing.

A number of drivers and teams are still yet to be confirmed for 2019, so more news on that front could be revealed in the coming weeks.

Home Races for Verstappen, Vandoorne

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY – JULY 26: Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing talks to the media during previews ahead of the Formula One Grand Prix of Hungary at Hungaroring on July 26, 2018 in Budapest, Hungary. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Belgium also represents a home race for a pair of young guns.

Max Verstappen identifies as Dutch and races under the Dutch flag, but his mother is from Belgium, and Spa has been a defacto “home race” for the 20-year-old since he entered F1. And the enthusiasm behind him has grown every year since 2016, so expect a raucous crowd to back him, especially if he can contend for a podium.

Vandoorne does not have the same fanfare Verstappen does, but he’ll be no less motivated to have a strong outing this weekend.

After scoring points in three of the first four races, Vandoorne’s season has come unglued, and he hasn’t scored a point since Azerbaijan. Given that he also is not yet confirmed for the 2019 season, he’ll be looking to end that streak this weekend on home soil.


  • Force India came out of administration quickly after entering it, but they are now competing under a new name: Racing Point Force India (per Formula 1’s website). As such, the team’s standing has been reset – Racing Point Force India has zero points, and the old Force India entry has been excluded from the championship for failing to complete the season. However, drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez retain their placings in the driver’s championship.
  • Sergey Sirotkin is the only driver yet to score a point in 2018. The Williams team has fallen on desperate times, but if a point can be had, it would do Sirotkin’s rookie campaign a world of good.


IndyCar results, points after Detroit Grand Prix


DETROIT — Alex Palou topped the results of an NTT IndyCar Series race for the second time this season, extending his championship points lead with his victory in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver, who also won the GMR Grand Prix (and the Indy 500 pole position) last month, holds a 51-point lead over teammate Marcus Ericsson (ninth at Detroit) through seven of 17 races this season.

Ganassi, which placed all four of its drivers in the top 10 at Detroit, has three of the top four in the championship standings with Scott Dixon ranked fourth after a fourth at Detroit.

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Indy 500 winner Josef Newgarden is third in the standings after taking a 10th at Detroit. Pato O’Ward slipped to fifth in the points after crashing and finishing 26th

Here are the IndyCar results and points standings after the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix:


Click here for the official box score from the 100-lap race on a nine-turn, 1.645-mile street course in downtown Detroit.

Lap leader summary

Full lap chart

Best section times

Full section data

Event summary

Pit stop summary

Here is the finishing order in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix with starting position in parentheses, driver, engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (1) Alex Palou, Honda, 100, Running
2. (7) Will Power, Chevrolet, 100, Running
3. (9) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 100, Running
4. (4) Scott Dixon, Honda, 100, Running
5. (13) Alexander Rossi, Chevrolet, 100, Running
6. (12) Kyle Kirkwood, Honda, 100, Running
7. (2) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 100, Running
8. (11) Marcus Armstrong, Honda, 100, Running
9. (6) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 100, Running
10. (5) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 100, Running
11. (24) Colton Herta, Honda, 100, Running
12. (17) Devlin DeFrancesco, Honda, 100, Running
13. (8) Simon Pagenaud, Honda, 100, Running
14. (20) Agustin Canapino, Chevrolet, 100, Running
15. (15) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 100, Running
16. (18) Christian Lundgaard, Honda, 100, Running
17. (25) Jack Harvey, Honda, 100, Running
18. (14) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 100, Running
19. (23) Helio Castroneves, Honda, 100, Running
20. (19) Benjamin Pedersen, Chevrolet, 97, Running
21. (22) Santino Ferrucci, Chevrolet, 97, Running
22. (26) Sting Ray Robb, Honda, 97, Running
23. (21) David Malukas, Honda, 85, Contact
24. (3) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 80, Contact
25. (27) Graham Rahal, Honda, 50, Contact
26. (10) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 41, Contact
27. (16) Callum Ilott, Chevrolet, 1, Contact

Winner’s average speed: 80.922 mph; Time of Race: 02:01:58.1171; Margin of victory: 1.1843 seconds; Cautions: 7 for 32 laps; Lead changes: 10 among seven drivers. Lap Leaders: Palou 1-28; Power 29-33; O’Ward 34; Palou 35-55; Power 56-64; Palou 65; Rossi 66; Newgarden 67-68; Kirkwood 69; Ericsson 70-76; Palou 77-100.


Click here for the points tally in the race.

Here are the points standings after the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix:



Engine manufacturers

Pit stop performance

Top 10 in points: Palou 273, Ericsson 222, Newgarden 203, Dixon 194, O’Ward 191, Rossi 176, McLaughlin 175, Power 172, Herta 149, Rosenqvist 148.

Rest of the standings: Grosjean 145, Kirkwood 142, Lundgaard 136, Ilott 116, VeeKay 108, Ferrucci 105, Armstrong 101, Rahal 99, Malukas 91, Daly 88, DeFrancesco 81, Castroneves 80, Harvey 78, Canapino 77, Pagenaud 72, Pedersen 61, Robb 55, Takuma Sato 37, Ed Carpenter 27, Ryan Hunter-Reay 20, Tony Kanaan 18, Marco Andretti 13, RC Enerson 5, Katherine Legge 5.

Next race: IndyCar will head to Road America for the Sonsio Grand Prix, which will take place June 18 with coverage starting at 1 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock.