Formula One. You remember Formula One? Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix is just the second race in 48 days, in case you were wondering. In an ever-crowded sporting calendar with plenty of disciplines scrabbling for attention, you have to wonder if such a lengthy hiatus is either sensible or sustainable, but that’s another lengthy subject for another blog piece; in the meantime, all I do know is that F1 could use a race at Spa that rivals last year’s for drama. Because last year’s Belgian GP was the race that decided last year’s championship, and perhaps this year’s as well.
After Nico Rosberg ran into Lewis Hamilton at Spa last year and took what looked to be a commanding 29-point championship lead, it’s been a rout in Hamilton’s favour. Eleven wins to four, 12 poles to five – Hamilton has had his teammate covered like never before since Mercedes began its silver stampede to become F1’s most formidable force, and a lot of that can be traced back to his response after Rosberg overstepped the mark in Spa last year. Yes, double points in the final race in Abu Dhabi kept Rosberg in last year’s title race longer than he really was, and this year, Mercedes’ car advantage means Rosberg can be nowhere near Hamilton’s pace and still finish second. But for me, the events since Belgium a year ago show why Hamilton remains one of the best three drivers in F1, and Rosberg a next-tier talent that has occasional race-winning pace but isn’t quite world champion material – the latest in a list of drivers that includes, in recent years, Mark Webber, Felipe Massa, Rubens Barrichello and David Coulthard.
Someone who’ll be hoping he doesn’t end up on that latter list is Daniel Ricciardo; this weekend’s race in Belgium is, sadly for Australian fans, one day short of one year since he last won a Grand Prix. That drought looks set to continue at a track that should only magnify Renault’s lack of grunt compared to the Mercedes and Ferrari powerplants; Honda should have something up its sleeve for this weekend based on its comments in the (seemingly never-ending) mid-season break, and it’ll nice to actually have some racing to get a read on the pecking order for the back-end of the season.
A Belgian GP preview is the focus for this week’s episode of ‘The Inside Line’; we also take a trip to Brazil with Felipe Nasr as our tour guide. Be sure to check it out.