F1 Belgian GP: Gasly and Alonso restore focus at Spa
Formula One returns this weekend at Spa-Francorchamps with a grid looking to restore its focus after a series of high-profile moves were agreed.
The recent break saw Daniel Ricciardo commit to joining Renault, with Pierre Gasly stepping into his place at Red Bull, while McLaren's Fernando Alonso - a two-time champion - announced his imminent retirement.
But with the reshuffling not set to commence until the end of the year, drivers must now continue to battle for their current teams in the second half of the campaign.
"I want to give my best for Toro Rosso, who gave me my first chance in Formula One, and finish on a high with the team," said Gasly this week.
Those leading the drivers' standings enjoyed a comparatively quiet rest period, but both Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel will look to come haring out of the blocks at the Belgian Grand Prix.
Ferrari's Vettel has a 24-point deficit to make up, having faded late in the season in 2017, yet Christian Horner - the German's boss at Red Bull, who will soon have Gasly under his wing - is confident there will be a title battle.
"[Vettel] is very good under pressure. He's very much a rock within that team," Horner told the F1 website. "If he gets a sniff of a chance after the summer break, he'll be very difficult to beat."
Twelve races done - and FOUR brand new lap records
How many more will we see in the second half of the season?#F1 #F1FastFact pic.twitter.com/IaM9k0QPZN
— Formula 1 (@F1) August 20, 2018
TALK OF THE PADDOCK
Alonso's departure from the sport represented perhaps the biggest storyline of the mid-season break and he is now preparing for his final stint in F1.
But as McLaren bid farewell to the veteran, they are also welcoming a young prospect.
British teenager Lando Norris will enjoy his first experience of a race weekend as he drives Alonso's car for the opening practice session in Belgium, before the Spaniard returns to business.
"We still have a lot of work to do and I'm really looking forward to being back in the car from FP2," said Alonso.
"Although I've raced more recently that anyone else on the grid, at Silverstone in WEC last weekend, I still can't wait to get behind the wheel at Spa. It's one of the best circuits on the calendar and usually a lot of fun."
Stepping into @alo_oficial’s car for FP1 on Friday It’ll be my first time in a McLaren on a @F1 race weekend and there’s no better place to do it than Spa #BelgianGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/8x1sExyHp5
— Lando Norris (@LandoNorris) August 20, 2018
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 213
2. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 189 (-24)
3. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) 146 (-67)
4. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 132 (-81)
5. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) 118 (-95)
1. Mercedes 345
2. Ferrari 335 (-10)
3. Red Bull 223 (-122)
4. Renault 82 (-263)
5. Haas 66 (-279)
RACEWEEK SCHEDULE (all times local)
If Kimi Raikkonen secures a top-three finish in this race he will record his 100th podium.
2017: Lewis Hamilton
2016: Nico Rosberg
2015: Lewis Hamilton