Words by Tony Robertson (Twitter: @TonyRob84).
Welcome back to Overtime Online’s F1 column Life In The Fast Lane.
This weekend saw round seven of the 2020 calendar come into play with the Belgian Grand Prix. Would Mercedes carry on their tyranny of F1 or could someone follow the example of Max Verstappen at Silverstone and cause an upset.
Since the Spanish Grand Prix there have also been off track developments, with Williams announcing a new owner and new tracks being added to the 2020 F1 calendar to round out the season.
Belgian Grand Prix:
Spa-Francorchamps, one of the longest tracks in the calendar and the sight of one of Motorsports most recent tragedies.
One year on from the accident which tragically took the life of 22-year-old Anthoine Hubert and severely injured Juan Manuel Correra, who is still recovering from his injuries, respects were paid by all the drivers while Lewis Hamilton also paid homage to Chadwick Boseman who passed away after a four year battle with colon cancer.
Qualifying saw few surprises at the top end of the grid as Mercedes locked out the front row yet again, setting a new track record in the process. The second row saw Max Verstappen line up alongside his former Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo who qualified in P4.
BREAKING: @LewisHamilton takes pole for Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix!
— Formula 1 (@F1) August 29, 2020
The next row saw a repeat but with the respective second drivers of the two teams in Alex Albon and Esteban Ocon. Next up saw a McLaren-Racing Point sandwich with Carlos Sainz in P7 and Lando Norris in P10 separated by Perez and Stroll.
In yet another disappointing qualifying session for Scuderia Ferrari, they fell to a new low, failing to get a car into Q3 for the first time since the new system was introduced in 2006 as they qualified in P13 and P14. George Russell yet again made it into Q2, improving on the best time Williams set last year by 4.080s, the biggest improvement in the field.
Meanwhile, Alfa Romeo has been moving in the right direction this season with their development as they managed to not have a car on the back row of the grid at the expense of Williams Nicholas Latifi and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen.
STARTING GRID: BELGIAN GRAND PRIX 🚦
— Formula 1 (@F1) August 29, 2020
Raceday started terribly for McLaren with Carlos Sainz unable to start the race due to an exhaust failure meaning McLaren would be set to lose significant points to Racing Point and Renault in the constructors unless Norris could come up with another good performance.
Most drivers started on either the medium or soft compound of tyres with the hard tyre being the least popular.
As the lights went out Hamilton bolted away as the Renaults and Red Bulls squabbled for track position on the Kemmel straight. Further down the order, Charles Leclerc had an electric start gaining five positions on the first lap while Antonio Giovinazzi continued his record as this year’s best starter as he gained four positions on lap one.
Lap two saw Pierre Gasly make the move of the afternoon as he went wheel to wheel with Sergio Perez up Eau Rouge and Raidillon and considering he was on the hard tyre his pace was quite terrifying up against the ‘Pink Mercedes’.
As the race progressed the pace of the cars and their drivers sifted through the riffraff and those with genuine pace, causing Leclerc to drop down to P12. Lap 11 saw Giovinazzi lose the rear end of his car and hit the track barrier causing one of his rear wheels to run off and hit the incoming George Russell’s front right tyre, causing that to come off and force the Williams driver to retire as well.
— Formula 1 (@F1) August 30, 2020
Four laps under a safety car saw everyone bar Gasly on the hards and Perez on the softs, pit for new tyres which would prove to be to the AlphaTauris detriment as he lost pace when everyone else went to fresher tyres. Gasly later got a position back from Perez moving him up into P9 and later moving ahead of Lance Stroll into P8 as well.
Lap 16 saw the Ferrari customer car Alfa Romeo overtake the Ferrari works car, as Kimi Raikkonen moved up to P12 at the expense of Sebastian Vettel.
This year McLaren and Lando Norris seem to excel under lighter fuel car conditions as proven by his charge up the field in the second half of the Grand Prix closing up to the battle for 5th between Esteban Ocon and Alex Albon.
Unfortunately for him, he failed to close the gap to them enough and was only a bystander for when Ocon finally completed an overtake on Albon on the final lap of the race.
Unsurprisingly, a Mercedes one-two occurred with Lewis Hamilton taking his fourth win at Spa, Valtteri Bottas claiming second and Max Verstappen taking third place. Despite there being a gap of around 16 seconds between the top three and P4 it was Daniel Ricciardo in P4 who managed to add a bonus point to his and Renault’s season so far with the fastest lap of the race with a 1:47.483.
The race result allows Hamilton to extend his lead at the top of the standings to 47 points as the top three drivers pull away from the rest of the field. Meanwhile, Albon moves into fourth with Norris going level on points with Leclerc on 45 and joint fifth.
With Renault’s excellent result both their drivers have barged their way into the top 10 drivers with Renault also making up significant ground in the constructors closing the gap to the top five to just two points while McLaren also move ahead of Racing Point and into third.
Rightly so the result of driver of the day went to Pierre Gasly who no doubt drove with the memory of his friend Anthoine Hubert in his heart.
P8 and Driver of the Day for @PierreGASLY 👏
— Formula 1 (@F1) August 30, 2020
However, it was a weekend to forget for Ferrari and they will need to bounce back when they return home to the temple of speed next weekend.
Packed break Spain to Belgium:
During the time in between Spain and Belgium, there have been some significant off-track developments.
The first and technically most major of these is each F1 team agreeing to a new Concorde agreement with Liberty Media, confirming each teams involvement in the sport until 2025.
Next was the news that the Williams F1 team found some new financial muscle after being acquired by Dorilton Capital. In a statement on the team’s website, they said: “Williams Racing has been acquired by Dorilton Capital, bringing a successful conclusion to the strategic Review which was launched in late May.”
Williams Racing is acquired by Dorilton Capital.
New era secures long-term future of the F1 team and paves the way for renewed competitiveness.
Full story 👇#WeAreWilliams 💙
— Williams Racing (@WilliamsRacing) August 21, 2020
After splitting from title sponsor ROKiT, Williams Racing was under significant pressure to find a new primary sponsor to stem the flow of the money lost as a result of the severed partnership. This deal will look to “restore the competitiveness of the team” going into the new Concorde agreements timeline.
The last of the major updates to F1 in between Spain and Belgium is the announcement of four new races for the 2020 calendar.
The first of these sees the return of Turkish Grand Prix for round 14. Next sees a doubleheader at Bahrain with the second race being named the Sakhir circuit which is the outer circuit of Bahrain. This circuit is predicted to provide sub-minute lap times which could make it the quickest lap times of any F1 circuit.
— Formula 1 (@F1) August 28, 2020
The final race of the season sees Abu Dhabi return once again as the season finale to make 17 rounds of F1 in the 2020 season which, considering the state of things in spring and early summer, is a remarkable number of tracks.
That concludes this weeks column. You can check out what happened at the Spanish Grand Prix and before that here.