The Belgian countryside surrounding the iconic Spa-Francorchamps circuit is eagerly awaiting the return on the orchestra that is the sound of 22 V8 engines putting the power through to the Pirelli P-Zero rubber that will be laid onto hallowed tarmac over three days of intense competition this coming weekend.
All the teams, its staff and the 22 drivers that make up the Formula One paddock have had a chance to recharge their batteries over the enforced two week shutdown, after 10 spell-binding races that have seen drama, action, controversy and speculation, which is all part of the never-ending story that is the ‘fastest sport on four wheels.’
Now the serious side of the season begins, as Spa sees Infiniti Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel leading the race for the Drivers’ Championship, 38 points ahead of Lotus GP’s Kimi Raikkonen, with Scuderia Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and Mercedes AMG Petronas’ Lewis Hamilton not that much further behind.
A struggling Ferrari and its main contender for this season, Fernando Alonso, have been at public loggerheads, it seems, with the double world champion being given a public ‘slap on the wrist” by President Luca di Montezemelo for his diplomatic comments about the 2013 challenger, the F138. This was promptly followed by a subsequent admission about wind tunnels again causing issues for the “Prancing Horse,” after what was a much better start than 2012.
McLaren will look upon this year as the one that never was, especially as the Woking-based outfit are celebrating 50 years in the racing world, thanks to the legacy left behind by New Zealand founder Bruce McLaren. Their challenge was turned upside down in the moments before the season even began, due to a front suspension set-up that was not in the spirit of the regulations…
Both Button and Perez have struggled in qualifying, but may be able to shake up the way the title fight goes, especially as the “Frome Flyer” is optimistic of the team’s chances, having won there last year.
But it is not just on the track where the moves can be made to secure precious time that makes all the difference, as James Allison and Pat Symonds start working at their new employers as of now, with both teams looking forward to the future, or could that be a form of smoke and mirrors that cover the true reasons for a mid season start-up?
The person that may start to loosen up and cause some potential problems along the way for a title hopeful is Australia’s Mark Webber, who bids Formula One farewell at the end of the year, deciding to make his move to the WEC with Porsche’s LMP1 works outfit for next season. He could be the one to stir up the hornet’s nest for the remaining nine rounds, having no real ties to Red Bull Racing after Interlagos, but the relationship between him and Vettel is beyond repair from any kind of sportsmanship viewpoint, after what transpired in Malaysia.
Then you have to consider the other players on the stage, who struggle to secure their place in the elite of single-seater racing, who will fight it out for themselves to claim the biggest scraps left by those that are the alpha males in the wolfpack. It is another case of survival of the fittest, no matter what you can bring to the party.
But before the racing kicks off, there are moves that soon to be set in stone, as Spa sees the “Silly Season” rumours circle the paddock, waiting for the first in line to say where they will be next season. Kimi may be off to Ferrari, Ricciardo off to Red Bull, but until that first move is made, we won’t know what will become of the madness after the first piece of the puzzle is finally revealed.
The lights will go out very soon once again, but what more can we expect this time around? Hold your breath, ladies and gentlemen, as the revs are set to rise and the engines are about to sing, whatever the weather. Formula One is set to roar once into life once again, as we wait for the cards to be dealt….
Images courtesy of Octane Photographic (c)