Belgian GP: Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel hopes to revive season
Last year's race at the undulating, tree-lined track, was the last time the Ferrari driver tasted victory, beating Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton to the flag.
Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium): Sebastian Vettel heads into this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix hoping to score a repeat of the win he chalked up at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit last year, as Formula One roars back to life after its annual summer break. Last year's race at the undulating, tree-lined track, was the last time the Ferrari driver tasted victory, beating Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton to the flag. But even as the Briton has gone on to win xx races and a fifth world title since, Vettel has drawn a blank. The German could use a break and the high-speed track with its long flat out blasts and fast sweeps could present Vettel the perfect opportunity to end his victory drought. "On paper these tracks look better for us," Vettel told reporters on Thursday. "But you need to be realistic as well. "We're not the favourites coming here.
"We got beaten quite badly at the last race in Hungary. So I think we are still in a position where we need to make up a lot of ground so that's our main focus." Vettel and teammate Charles Leclerc finished third and fourth in Hungary, over a minute behind race winner Hamilton. But while the twisting Hungaroring exaggerated Ferrari's weaknesses, with their car slow through the corners but quick on the straights, the 7-kilometre long Spa circuit, which is not just the longest but also among the fastest on the calendar, should play to its strengths. Still, Hamilton and Mercedes will be hard to beat. The German marque has won 10 of this season's 12 races. The Briton has won eight races and leads team-mate Valtteri Bottas by 62 points in the overall standings. He heads into the weekend as the driver to beat, even if he tipped Ferrari to be a "formidable force." "We're leading in both championships, but it doesn't feel that way," Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said. "In the last few years, we saw teams perform very strongly after the summer shutdown, so we now need to keep pushing. "In that respect, we're approaching the start to the second half of 2019 more like the start to a completely new season - once again we need to make sure that we leave no room for error and keep raising the bar."
Red Bull's Max Verstappen will be hoping to make it a three-way fight at the front. The Dutchman has won two of the last four races, scoring more points than even Hamilton since the Austrian Grand Prix at the end of June. His Honda-powered Red Bull has also been getting better and better. Despite the prospect of a three-way fight for the win, driver market news hogged the headlines on Thursday. Mercedes took up their option on Valtteri Bottas keeping him at the world champions alongside Hamilton for the 2020 season. Esteban Ocon, in the frame for the Mercedes seat, will replace Nico Hulkenberg alongside Daniel Ricciardo at Renault starting next year. Red Bull had already pushed the driver market into motion, promoting Thai rookie Alexander Albon from Toro Rosso to the seat alongside Verstappen starting this weekend. He replaces Frenchman Pierre Gasly who goes back to the Red Bull sister team.
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