Friday, 17 august 2018, 03:00 , by Matthew Scott
Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel will begin their attack on the home stretch of the 2018 season at Spa-Francorchamps as Formula 1 returns with a bang at the Belgian Grand Prix. Ferrari's newfound pace advantage over Mercedes should play into Vettel's hands, unless the Silver Arrows have conjured up something over the summer...
WHEN IS THE BELGIAN GRAND PRIX?
The Belgian Grand Prix will be held on Sunday August 26 at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Stavelot, Belgium. The race will start at 15:10 local time (14:10 BST, 09:10 ET).
On-track action begins in a week's time with Friday's first practice session at 11:00 local time (10:00 BST, 05:00 ET), with the second session starting at 15:00 local time (14:00 BST, 09:00 ET)
Saturday's qualifying session starts at 15:00 local time (14:00 BST, 09:00 ET), following on from the third practice session, which starts at 12:00 local time (11:00 BST, 06:00 ET).
WHO LEADS THE F1 STANDINGS?
Hamilton (213) has never before enjoyed such a wide margin over the summer break, having moved 24 points clear of Vettel (189) with back-to-back wins at Hockenheim and the Hungaroring. Remarkably, Kimi Raikkonen remains their closest rival on 146 points. Although he is yet to win in 2018, only Hamilton (9) as scored more than the Iceman's eight podiums this year. Valtteri Bottas (132), Daniel Ricciardo (118) and Max Verstappen (105) can probably count themselves out of the fight for good, after all three endured frustrating times in Budapest.
Things remain tight between Mercedes (345) and Ferrari (335) in the constructors' battle. Red Bull are 122 points down on the Silver Arrows, despite three victories this year - a sign of how unreliable they have been. Renault (82) are starting to pull away from Haas (66) in the fourth-place race. Sixth in Hungary for Pierre Gasly helped Toro Rosso (28) move clear of Sauber (18).
WHO WON THE LAST BELGIAN GRAND PRIX?
Hamilton equalled Michael Schumacher's record tally of 68 F1 pole positions and converted that advantage to take victory in his 200th grand prix outing. The Mercedes man was able to manage an advantage over Vettel throughout a dull race that was briefly brought to life by a crash between Force India teammates Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez. Despite a safety car and tyre disadvantage, Hamilton always had enough in the tank. Daniel Ricciardo joined the pair on the podium.
WHO HAS MOST WINS AT THE BELGIAN GRAND PRIX?
Schumacher's first F1 win came at Spa in 1992. He went on to add five more victories in Belgium to hold more triumphs here than anyone else. That 1992 win ended a run of four consecutive wins for Ayrton Senna at this venue - the Brazilian won five times in all here. Raikkonen is the most successful current driver with four wins to his name - taken in the space of five stagings between 2004 and 2009. Jim Clark has as many as the Iceman. Hamilton has three wins here to his name, while Vettel has won twice in Belgium, but not since 2013.
WHAT IS THE LAP RECORD AT SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS?
Hamilton's pole time of one minute 42.553 seconds last year is the quickest an F1 car has ever circulated around Spa. Interestingly, that record was broken by Neel Jani driving Porsche's 919 Hybrid Le Mans prototype to a 1:41.770 in April this year. All eyes will be on Saturday at Spa to see if F1 can reclaim the crown! Vettel also set a new grand prix record last year, clocking 1:46.577 on his way to second place.
WHAT IS THE WEATHER FORECAST FOR THE BELGIAN GRAND PRIX?
Afternoon showers threaten to affect team's information gathering in Friday's second practice session, but the remainder of the weekend appears to be clear. Temperatures are expected to be in the high teens, the kind of cooler conditions that have typically played into Mercedes hands over the past 18 months compared to Ferrari.
WHICH PIRELLI TYRES ARE AVAILABLE FOR THE BELGIAN GRAND PRIX?
Pirelli will bring the medium, soft and supersoft tyres to Spa.