After what must feel like a couple of eyeblinks when it comes to a holiday break, Formula 1 comes back to life this weekend. Not unexpectedly, the mid-season break opens the door to a couple of changes. Echoing the announcement by Daniel Ricciardo in last’s year’s break, Red Bull have demoted the struggling Pierre Gasly and offered Alexander Albon a shot at glory by swapping him into Gasly’s seat.
Gasly has struggled in his high end debut season and sits sixth overall, a still decent result considering there are twenty drivers in the championship. However it appears that Red Bull feel he hasn’t been able to adapt quickly enough to the car and therefore have asked Albon to step up. He has 63 points to Max Verstappen’s 181 and is only five points in front of McLaren’s Carlos Sainz, who is driving a car demonstrably not as quick as the Red Bull. It will not be lost on Red Bull that last season they opted to bring Gasly rather than Sainz into their team.
It also comes at the expense of the more experienced Daniil Kvyat. The Russian, having been reselected as a Formula 1 for the Red Bull and Toro Rosso teams, understands that it’s perhaps that previous experience that has locked him out from being asked to go back to the top tier.”I think they just want to see how Albon performs in a car that is able to win with a teammate like Verstappen. I’ve already been at Red Bull and I think that played a role in the decision,” he said.
Discussions with Mercedes-Benz driver Valterri Bottas also appear have been settled. Reports earlier this week indicated that Bottas and the team have concluded discussions and that the Finnish born driver will continue with Lewis Hamilton for the 2020 season. It appears that a factor in that decision came from Lewis Hamilton, with the team’s lead driver stating he wishes to have Bottas continue with the team. Bottas celebrated his 30th birthday this week.
Esteban Ocon will joining Daniel Ricciardo at Renault for 2020 and 2021. Dropped from full time F1 after 2018, it has been a topic of discussion for a few weeks about where Ocon would go should other drivers be shuffled. Thursday’s news and it was confirmed that Nico Hulkenberg will see out the 2019 season before a likely move to Haas to replace Romain Grosjean. That may not be a bad thing as the team is slowly but gradually improving.
Should Hulkenberg move to Haas, no doubt the team management will pointedly remind him about giving his co-driver racing distance. This comes after the incident prone Grosjean collided with his team mate at Silverstone. Haas officials have been seeing their disapproval with the Frenchman increase race after race. The team itself will race at Spa this weekend with their latest aero aids fitted.
It’s a return to a place of history this weekend. The original circuit dates back to 1921 and was 14.9 kilometres in length. Subsequent redesigns have the track now a still substantial 7.004 kilometres in length, making it the longest track on the calendar. Lap count is 44 for a race distance of 308 kilometres. Bottas was the winner at this historic circuit last year. Practice kicks off at 11:00AM local on Friday August 30, with the first qualifying session at 15:00 local on Saturday 31 August. The race itself gets underway at 15:10 local, Sunday, September 1.