2021 Belgian Grand Prix preview

The 2021 summer break in F1 heading into it looked as if we would finally see who is being announced in that second Mercedes seat; however, such a decision has not been forthcoming so far (as of midday on the 25th). I would personally still expect George Russell to be announced for the seat, with him having a solid race at Hungary, despite being outscored by his teammate. Contrasting this was Bottas, who had a lapse in judgment, causing several cars to DNF resulting in a bill which all but Jeff Bezos could pick up the tab on. I hope that George Russell will soon have that Mercedes seat tied down with the polar opposite forms of these two drivers currently coming to the forefront.

With the second seat being open, there seems to be a potential for a second significant role at Mercedes to open up. Toto Wolff (team principal for all of Mercedes motorsport ventures) is currently under investigation for insider trading of Aston Martin shares. Should anything untoward be found, he could be in serious trouble.

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If Toto were to be forced out of the helm of Mercedes, who could replace him? There are few more legendary team principals in motorsport than Toto Wolff, including Jean Todt, Sir Frank Williams, Ron Dennis, and Ross Brawn. None of these is likely to want to nor be contacted to take over. So Mercedes would want to look from names elsewhere; being the organisation they have become, it would be more than likely a replacement conducted internally. The three names which spring to mind are James Allison (probably the favourite), Andrew Shovlin (Good young shout), or the outside chance, who worked at Mercedes previously, Aldo Costa.

Focussing on the upcoming race at Spa-Francorchamps will most likely not provide the most entertaining of races. However, it may give us all a better understanding as to who might win the World Championship this season, with some good fortune occurring recently to give Mercedes the edge. The race will also have some sad undertones as the director of the race track was recently killed in a double murder-suicide with her husband killing her and with whom she was having an affair.

As well as this, there will be fresh safety concerns over the race track, with former Williams stand-in Jack Aitken suffering a major collision at the top of Raidillon, in a similar location to Hubert’s deadly collision two years ago. The incident was very close to being a fatal collision if not for the fantastic survivability of the cars in question. The hits the car did receive were only glancing, not a T-bone collision. These two accidents will surely call for a more safety-conscious approach around the Eau-rouge/Raidillon section of the track, as no one watching motorsport wants to see death occur.

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On the morbid subject, we must also remember the great sacrifices stewards make at race weekends. Whilst they are not the attraction, they are plentiful and still attract considerable risk. They can also still be killed in collisions, with the scenes in Brands Hatch three and a half weeks ago being a tragic reminder. Unfortunately, in F1 in recent times, we have seen some stewards become somewhat cocky and believe that they are invincible, which has seen some foolish scenes occur, although thankfully, none have been hurt.

My predictions for qualifying make me believe that Lewis Hamilton will be on pole. Max and Lando would follow this to round out the top 3. George Russell, I believe, makes Q2 but unfortunately, not Q3. Valteri is in the top 5 for qualifying, with Perez rounding out the top 5. In qualifying around Spa, whilst Kimi should be strong, I do believe Alfa will generally struggle. With the car being at depending on the circuit, either 8th or 9th best on the grid. As a result, I think they are consigned to a Q1 exit for both cars. Yuki Tsunoda will hopefully have a strong qualifying, with some concerning form coming from the Japanese driver of late.  

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I predict a Lewis win in the race as I find it difficult to rule him out of contention on any race day. He is, in my opinion, still the top driver on the grid, although others are catching him with Max and Valteri rounding out the podium positions. I also predict that Williams will continue the excellent form from Hungary to score additional points with Russell. I also hope that Ocon keeps up his good run of results after a terrible run of form after signing his contract extension. Finally, I think Aston Martin will, unfortunately, have a mare and will not recover points in their hunt for P5 in the constructors. This comes after a heartbreaking disqualification for Seb after he finished P2 in Hungary. Not enough fuel was left for adequate fuel analysis resulting in a technical infringement, which the standard penalty for this is getting disqualified.

Header Image: Planet Labs, Inc., CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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