Guess who’s back? [Belgium GP 2016 Preview + Guide]

Guess who’s back? Back again? F1 is back, tell a friend!

Yes, finally! F1 Summer is over, and it’s back to the track!! I don’t know about the drivers, but I’m definitely excited! Mainly because, it means 3 weeks to Singapore’s race – and I can’t wait. I’ve been holding this in for a while, until it was confirmed. I got the role of Accreditation Officer in Singapore GP – and it’s a huge deal for me. H U G E. I won’t be the closest to the track, but that doesn’t matter to me. I get to be part of something I hold very close and dear to me, and though I’m pretty nervous because I don’t have any prior experience, I really am hopeful and thankful for this opportunity given. I remember coming home literally screaming after the interview, knowing I got it and was waiting for everything to finalise. Now that I’ve let the cat out of the bag, let’s get to why you’re here, the Belgium GP lowdown hoedown.

Messy Manor – Promotion of Esteban Ocon / Demotion of Rio Haryanto 

If you haven’t been up to date about the most discussed debate during the summer break, it’s Manor’s decision to demote Rio to being reserve driver for the rest of the season (possibly out of F1 altogether) due to lack of funding, and bringing in Esteban Ocon – a bright young driver from the Mercedes Young Drivers Program and last year’s GP2 winner. Though it is a pity that Rio won’t be racing and completing the season, it would be interested to see the rivalry between Pascal (Wehrlein) and Esteban. Similar to the Toro Rosso situation, you have both of these young fresh talent from GP2/F3/DTM/Formula 3, both eyeing for a coveted spot in a top team (in their case, Mercedes – which Toto did mention quite some days ago that it will be of their great interest to watch them closely). I read somewhere that Esteban is at a disadvantage, coming from a DTM car which is vastly different from a F1 car (well, in terms of what they have to do inside the car). But imagine this, now that there is a new cookie in town, who has had more experience and could possibly, do a much better job than Rio in the car, doesn’t it put Pascal under more pressure, pressure he really didn’t have with Rio? Now, because we expect that Pascal has had more experience than Esteban in a F1 car, we expect him to perform much better than his new team-mate. So, just imagine the immense pressure he’s under to perform. I think it’ll be really interesting to see how Esteban’s coming could really shape things up at the back end. Potentially, a key point in their career with 3 months and 9 races to go.

Weather 

Ah, I love talking about the weather – especially how bipolar it can be. I think most will agree with me, that the weather plays an essential part in who wins at Spa (Francorchamps). Bad enough, the track is one of the more dangerous and challenging (but nonetheless, entertaining) circuits on the calendar with all the tight twists and hillclimb-like nature sectors (Nico R’s probably won’t like it). Now, add heavy downpour. There’s not much space you can run wide, you make one tiny mistake and you’re in the grass/tyre barriers, oh the excitement! Eau Rouge is one of my favourite corners among all the circuits, the twisty uphill corner of the circuit has seen more crashes and overtakes than the countless Eddie Jordan’s funky t-shirts on our screens. So yes! I know most people are predicting rain, but the forecast on my weather app shows it as hot as ever. However, with Spa, nothing can be certain except for this one thing – it’s going to be exciting irregardless of weather.

Radio Ban

I know in the last race (German GP) the FIA have relaxed the no-help-given-on-the-radio ban, but it won’t hurt to have a little reminder. 🙂 For those that don’t know what I’m talking about, the FIA banned radio help from engineers to the drivers until the last race where they decided to lift the ban and relax on the rule. Many (if not, most) like me, think the ban shouldn’t even have been there in the first place as you not only remove the role of the engineer on race day, you take away the entertainment quality from these. Don’t get me wrong, Sebastian’s constant swearing at the lack of blue flags and complaints are the best you could get – but it’s not complete without the panic heard by both engineer and driver when the car isn’t functioning as it’s suppose to, let alone race. Nico R has been, sadly, the latest person to get penalised by this very radio ban, for getting help from his engineer to reboot his dying Mercedes and panic of losing more places than he should. The penalty cost him a place, but more importantly, valuable points which is essentially one of the things that helped Lewis overtake him on the championship  board and opening up a bigger margin than what it could potentially have been for Nico – making it harder for him to catch up, really. So, gentle reminder that this will not be the case, and I get to sip my tea while hearing more technical entertainment on my TV.

The Max Verstappen Effect

I apologise in advance, but how can I not talk about everyone’s favourite golden boy? Especially, because this is his home race. One season in Formula 3 and he’s up to F1, with a win in his second year, and still performing with 3 podiums strapped tightly under his belt since that win. We’ve seen young drivers in the infamous Red Bull Young Drivers Program whose careers have ended after 2-4 seasons with the team (or junior). You may remember Jaime Alguersuari, once overly-hyped as the next potential best to join the likes of Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel etc. After 3 years in Toro Rosso, booted out and replaced by Daniel Riccardo. It may seem, on hindsight one of the best decisions Red Bull Management has ever made, but think about it. You overly-hype them, put so much pressure on them to perform, but boot them out after 3 years. Not every driver has a father who breathes dragon breaths on the necks of whoever their son is driving for. Not going to lie, but I do think Max is a very talented driver with lots of potential and has a lot of support from his family (rather, Jos Verstappen) and the Dutch people. It’ll be interesting, now that he’s settled into the team, how he’s going to keep up his momentum, and how if he doesn’t, how is Red Bull going to react? After all, it only took one race for RBR to “finally” set things in motion and demote Daniil back to Toro Rosso.

The Driver Market 

This the season to be un-ee-zy, fa-la-la-la-la-la-la! For some, Christmas may have come earlier, for others left in the dark, not so much. This is the time where the driver’s market takes shape. One thing that I think will be interesting to note is – Jenson Button’s future. I could be horribly wrong, but there is a lot of uncertainty around Jenson and his future in Formula 1. He’s one of the oldest drivers on the grid, having started racing in the sport since he was 20, long ago in 2000 in sunny Melbourne. No doubt, he’s had an illustrious career, with 15 wins, 50 podiums (such nice numbers, I’m not making this up!) and of course, 1 world championship. So there’s no question that if he were to retire, he would have done all that he could and leave nothing behind but a legacy for younger, aspiring drivers to follow and model themselves after. Most drivers begin to wind down and retire and do much greater things around 35, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Jenson pulls that plug and does follow. Another name on everyone’s tongue – Stoffel Vandoorne. I’m going to be completely honest, I’ve never heard of him and only did so, earlier this year during the Bahrain GP. And now with so much speculation, I hear his name being rumoured to be everywhere. Of course, I powered on Google (my best friend) and began my research – my lord, he’s been doing very well in all the series he’s been competing. I definitely see a future for him in Formula 1, but how quickly, and which team? I don’t know, it’s pretty early to tell, and with so many (apparently) teams eyeing him for a contract with them, I’ll have to see their other decisions before predicting where he’s going. No changes for the top 3 – Mercedes, Red Bull & Ferrari. So let’s see how the middle and backs are going to shape up…

 

Well, 1470 words and we’re done! I hope you’ve found my sharing useful, and thank you for making it to the bottom if you did! Comment below if you have an opinion different from mine, I enjoy getting to know differing opinions and debates. For my non-F1 readers, I’m sorry you had to endure another F1 post, and this Monday will not be any different as it will be the review of the Belgium Grand Prix. So, please return for that, and until then, goodnight/good morning, good bye, good riddance! Hang tight, and I’ll return Monday 😉

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