Getting back on it: Why Ferrari must strike back after the break in Belgian F1 GP
Ferrari have every right to feel like they should be leading both championships.
Ferrari have every right to feel like they should be leading both championships. The car is fast enough and they have had plenty of chances.
They're widely-accepted to have the best car in most races, but a driver error for Vettel at the German Grand Prix and opportunism in changeable conditions at both Hockenheim and Budapest from Lewis Hamilton means the Mercedes driver heads to Spa-Francorchamps with a 24-point lead in the drivers' championship.
The situation is a 180 degree contrast to twelve months ago, when Vettel ended the summer break as the championship leader without necessarily having the fastest car.
After last year's summer break, Vettel's championship challenge began to unravel; he failed to match Hamilton on the high-speed circuits as Mercedes' superior development told. Some driver errors and reliability dramas especially with the engine development programme prematurely ended his campaign. He managed to win only one of the last nine races.
This season could be different and the title is still winnable with the car they have; Vettel is better-equipped to succeed in the quest for title number five, starting with the power-hungry circuits of Spa-Francorchamps and Monza.
As with many of the high-speed tracks, Mercedes have form at Spa, taking the last five pole positions and they should've taken all four wins in the turbo-hybrid era, but the famous 2014 clash between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton blemishes that record.
The Silver Arrows are well aware that they can't rely on previous form to aid their championship ambitions, but their recent form in the wet-weather conditions may help them out, as early forecasts are suggesting rain could affect the weekend.
Adverse weather may be required if Red Bull are to challenge for victory this weekend. Verstappen will be competing at the closest event he has to 'home' race and the high quantities of Verstappen fans in attendance will be hoping for a repeat of the Austrian Grand Prix, where the Dutchman took advantage of other drivers' woes to take his first victory of the season.
“Racing at Spa is always special. I was born just an hour down the road so it is pretty much a home race for me. You can see by the orange crowds and campsites full of Dutch caravans that the fans come out in force, this only adds to the home race feel," said Verstappen.
"The win in Austria was amazing as it was Red Bull’s home race and there was a massive Dutch following. To win in Spa would be similar, orange and flags everywhere, I hope we can make them smile this year.”
Midfield battle: Haas to continue to reel in Renault?
Ferrari's form hasn't only helped them, it's helped their technical customer team too. With fast corners and high-speed requirements, Spa-Francorchamps is expected to be another race which favours the Ferrari-powered Haas team, who are looking to overhaul Renault for fourth place in the constructors' championship.
After their patchy start to the season, Haas have achieved double-Q3 appearances in the last five races and taken 47 points, proving that they were one of the forms teams before the summer break.
“I don’t see why we shouldn’t keep performing like we were before the summer break," asserted Haas team principal Guenther Steiner. "The good thing is that everybody can have a break. Everybody was tired, and now we come back refreshed and, hopefully, continue like we did before the break.
“I think the 100-point barrier should be and will be broken, but still you have to get them. If you want to finish fourth or fifth, you have to break it.”
The gap between them and Renault is sixteen points which, should they be able to repeat some of their big points hauls, is definitely a surmountable target before Formula One travels to venues which will be preferred by their rivals.
Force India remain a threat, but the team will be hopeful that the administration period - when development and production is likely to have been on hold - won't be to the detriment of any constructors' championship places.
By: Luke Murphy
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