Follow the Belgian Grand Prix with F1i, featuring comprehensive as-it-happens coverage from Spa-Francorchamps of the 13th race of the 2016 Formula One world championship.
With two world champions starting from the back row today, we could be in for quite a treat. Both Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso have been hit by multiple engine change penalties: while Alonso has been genuinely plagued by technical problems on his McLaren this weekend, in Hamilton’s case it’s more of a strategic move to replenish his stock of components to see him through the rest of the season.
But with Hamilton starting so far out of position, this weekend presents an ideal opportunity for his Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg to eat into the Briton’s 19 point lead in the drivers title fight. Rosberg’s already completed the first part of his task this weekend by claiming pole position, but his advantage over the rest of the field at the end of qualifying was only 0.149s which is far closer than we’re used to seeing, so will be be able to convert that to a win to maximise his fightback in the championship?
Not if Max Verstappen has anything to say about it. This is his home race (Verstappen was born in Belgium, and the Netherlands is only a few miles distant from Spa) and the local fans will be packing in to the circuit today to support him. He’s starting on the front row – having become the youngest ever driver to qualify in that position – and he’s on the faster if shorter-lived supersoft tyres while all those around him on the grid are on the soft compounds. Will that enable him to take the lead into La Source and potentially claim his second victory of the season?
Also looking to take advantage of the situation are the Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel, looking much improved as they locked out the second row of the grid forcing Verstappen’s Red Bull team mate back to fifth place on the grid, just ahead of the two Force India drivers Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg who have been looking really strong around here this weekend. And don’t count out Williams’ Valtteri Bottas, who was hampered by software issues in qualifying and who deserved to start higher than eight place.
All things considered it should be quite a race, even if the weather had managed to stay hot and sunny for the occasion which would have been an extremely rare spectacle indeed at Spa where showers and breezy winds are usually the order of the day. As it’s turned out we’ve had storms overnight and there’s more cloud around today making it feel somewhat cooler, so perhaps the Ardennes climate will once again turn out to have a sting in the tale for the Grand Prix?
The action gets underway at 14:00 local time (1pm BST), when the lights go out and everyone will charge down into the most famous hairpin in motor racing. As always, F1i will bring you all the news and information from trackside on F1i‘s live page the minute that it happens. Make sure that you don’t miss a minute!
QUALIFYING REPORT: Rosberg edges Verstappen and Raikkonen for pole
Silbermann says … Spa too hot
Romain Grosjean column: More motivated than ever
Chris Medland’s 2016 Belgian Grand Prix preview
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