Belgium Grand Prix 2023 Predictions: Max Verstappen set to dominate Sprint weekend at Spa
26 July 2023
The opening half of the 2023 Formula One season will conclude with the Belgian Grand Prix at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.
Belgium was part of F1’s inaugural championship season in 1950. By that stage, Spa-Francorchamps was already nearly three decades old with a 14km road course mapped out between the villages of Francorchamps, Malmedy and Stavelot.
Those fast and flowing roads were treacherous and wrought danger, even by the lower safety standards of the 1950s and 60s, and by 1970 F1 had moved on. Spa-Francorchamps nonetheless remained as parts of the venue were upgraded and retained while a new section of circuit was constructed to form a shorter middle sector.
Formula One returned to Spa-Francorchamps in 1983 and the 7km circuit – still the longest on the current calendar – takes drivers on a rapid journey through the undulating Ardennes Forest. In spite of F1’s advancement and expansion to new venues, Spa-Francorchamps remains one of the most adored circuits by drivers.
A compromise needed
Spa-Francorchamps traverses several kilometres of Belgian’s verdant countryside and it has a plethora of medium- and high-speed corners, such as Rivage, Pouhon and Stavelot.
Drivers need to carry good corner speed while traction out of La Source hairpin is also desirable. That’s because strong straight-line speed is required alongside aerodynamic prowess.
Two of Spa-Francorchamps’ most iconic corners – the Eau Rouge/Raidillon complex and Blanchimont – are now merely flat-out kinks in dry conditions in modern F1 machinery. On a dry qualifying lap, drivers are at full throttle for 22 seconds in the first sector and then for 20 seconds in the final sector, meaning engine grunt is needed.
Spa-Francorchamps’ location also means wet weather is a distinct possibility, sometimes with varying quantities at different parts of the elongated circuit, so teams and drivers have to keep a close eye on the radar.
There’s also the small deal of an F1 Sprint, which will be used for the third time this season and first time at Spa-Francorchamps, to deal with.
Another for Verstappen?
Max Verstappen has won the last two grands prix in Belgium, his second home circuit, with the reigning champion having been born in the country.
Verstappen’s 2021 win was a shambles, achieved after just three laps behind the Safety Car due to torrential wet weather that plagued Spa-Francorchamps.
However, last season’s victory was a total and utter destruction of the rest of the field. Verstappen started 14th after a penalty due to an engine change but swept into the lead mid-distance, at times lapped seconds faster than his rivals, and won by 17 seconds.
McLaren on a hot run
McLaren had a disastrous start to the season but heavily overhauled its MCL60 by introducing an updated package in Austria. Since then, it has firmly joined the best-of-the-rest battle with Lando Norris scoring back-to-back runner-up positions in Britain and Hungary.
Norris’ podiums have been backed up by rookie teammate Oscar Piastri taking successive top five finishes despite his inexperience in the championship.
After performing strongly at two different types of circuit in Silverstone and the Hungaroring there is every reason to expect McLaren to be in the mix once more at Spa-Francorchamps.
Belgium Grand Prix 2023 Predictions
26 July 2023