Vettel eyes SPA comforts

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel is hoping to return to winning ways at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, site of his last Formula One victory in August last year. PHOTO: REUTERS
Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel is hoping to return to winning ways at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, site of his last Formula One victory in August last year. PHOTO: REUTERS

He needs win and favoured Belgium track could play to Ferrari's advantage

SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS (Belgium) • Sebastian Vettel hopes to reboot his and Ferrari's season with a first win in more than a year as Formula One returns to action at the Belgian Grand Prix.

The four-time world champion won last year at the majestic Spa-Francorchamps circuit, but has been without a victory since and needs to make the most of Ferrari's power advantage to add to his career total of 52 triumphs.

"This is a legendary track and it is definitely one of my favourites," said the German ahead of Sunday's race after he and the rest of the F1 circus regrouped following the mid-season summer break.

"It has climbs and drops and so much of it runs through forests - once you learn it and you know it, it is impossible not to love it."

To win, Vettel knows he must not only overcome his fast Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc, but also champion Lewis Hamilton. Drivers' standings leader Hamilton has 62 points more than Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, who confirmed yesterday he would be staying with the team next year.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen will welcome a new teammate in Thailand's Alex Albon, promoted from Toro Rosso in a swop with Pierre Gasly. The Dutchman is third in the title race with 181 points, ahead of Vettel (156) and Leclerc (132).

Last year, Vettel lost to Hamilton in a fiercely fought Italian GP and Ferrari's home event at Monza will again follow the Belgium race.

PREFERRED CIRCUIT

This is a legendary track and it is definitely one of my favourites. It has climbs and drops and so much of it runs through forests - once you learn it and you know it, it is impossible not to love it.

SEBASTIAN VETTEL, Ferrari driver, expressing his feelings for the Spa-Francorchamps circuit.

For Vettel, these two grands prix set up a critical stage as he battles to save his season, reputation and, perhaps, career.

His Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto allowed himself a glimmer of hope when he said: "I think that Spa is more power-sensitive, but nothing is given, of course.

"And I think the situation will be very different to Budapest so we will try to prepare the best we can."

While Hamilton and Mercedes revelled in delivering a tactical masterclass in Hungary, Ferrari were again left trailing and are pinning their hopes on their greater power and straight-line speed.

Hamilton has won eight of this year's 12 races, with Bottas and Verstappen having two each.

Renault also announced yesterday that Frenchman Esteban Ocon will drive alongside Australian Daniel Ricciardo next season, replacing Nico Hulkenberg.

Meanwhile, F1 will have a record 22 races next season, US-based commercial rights holders Liberty Media confirmed yesterday. As expected, Germany , one of this year's 21 races, will drop out.

Vietnam will host its first race on the streets of capital Hanoi, while the Dutch GP will make its F1 return at Zandvoort after 35 years.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

BELGIAN GP

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 30, 2019, with the headline 'Vettel eyes SPA comforts'. Print Edition | Subscribe