F1 returns at Spa after drama in the paddock if not in the title race

By Sports Desk August 24, 2022

Formula One's midseason break delivered drama that the title race so far perhaps had not.

The first half of the campaign had its own intriguing narratives, with Ferrari's frequent collapses and Mercedes' unprecedented struggles, but those strands only served to allow Max Verstappen to build a healthy lead at the top of the standings.

Attention has turned to those in the midfield in recent weeks, though, with Sebastian Vettel's imminent retirement prompting a series of developments that have not yet slowed.

Alpine have been at the heart of the drama, losing Fernando Alonso to Aston Martin in Vettel's place and then failing to secure Oscar Piastri as his replacement.

Piastri instead seems set for McLaren, who have announced Daniel Ricciardo will be leaving the team.

For Alpine then, there will be some relief that focus can now return to the track at the Belgian Grand Prix, with Verstappen set to resume his role at centre stage.

Qualifying key to Red Bull repeat

For those hoping to reel in Verstappen's 80-point lead, they will hope to get more opportunity to attack him than at Spa in 2021, when he started from pole and completed just two laps behind a safety car to claim victory amid a deluge at the circuit in Stavelot.

That result actually continued a recent trend in Belgium, where recovering from a poor qualifying session has proven increasingly tricky.

The past seven winners of the Belgian GP have started from the front row of the grid, with Verstappen among six of those to line up on pole.

Repeating the feat has not been quite so straightforward, however, as Verstappen will be looking to become the first driver to win this race from pole in consecutive entries since Ayrton Senna did so a remarkable four years in a row between 1988 and 1991.

Senna had five Belgian GP wins in total, behind only Michael Schumacher (six). Lewis Hamilton (four) will be bidding to join the Brazilian this weekend.

In-demand Fernando on top form

Alonso will hope his shock move to Aston Martin does not knock his final season with Alpine off course, as the Spaniard had refound form before stunning his team during the break.

The two-time world champion has earned points in each of his past eight races for his best run since another sequence of eight in 2018.

Alonso has not finished in the points in more than eight straight races since 2014, when he put together 15 in a row – the last of them being in Belgium.

But perhaps this could instead be a strong weekend for Alonso's future employers and the man he will replace.

Vettel's best qualifying performance at Aston Martin was fifth at Spa in 2021, finishing fifth on race day, too. Only in Azerbaijan last year (second) has he enjoyed a better result with the team.

Related items

  • Medvedev battles into French Open second round after Koepfer triumph Medvedev battles into French Open second round after Koepfer triumph

    Daniil Medvedev staved off a Dominik Koepfer fightback to record a battling victory in the French Open first round on Monday.

    The world number five raced out the blocks on Court Simonne-Mathieu and eventually triumphed 6-3 6-4 5-7 6-3 in Paris.

    Medvedev, a five-time major runner-up and 2021 US Open champion, broke Koepfer's first service game in the French capital with that a seeming sign of things to come.

    Though the 28-year-old dropped his serve in the first set, Medvedev had little trouble in responding with the score finely poised at 3-2 to claim first blood at Roland-Garros.

    The fifth seed has only ever gone as far as the quarter-finals, three years ago, at the French Open but showed his clinical best to snatch the second set after holding all six service games for a narrow triumph.

    World number 65 Koepfer battled back in the third but the resilient Medvedev responded by breaking his German opponent early in the fourth set, finally securing victory in just over three hours.

    Data Debrief: Medvedev gets better of Koepfer again

    Medvedev has won all four of his meetings with Koepfer, with his most recent such victory seeing him reach the second round at Roland-Garros for the third time in eight attempts.

    Since the start of the 2021 season, Medvedev is 27-1 against players ranked outside the top 50 at major events, with his only loss in that run coming against Seyboth Wild in the French Open first round last year.

    Koepfer, meanwhile, extends to 1-17 against top-10 players in his career, earning his only such victory against over Gael Monfils – then ranked ninth in the world – at the 2020 ATP Masters 1000 event in Rome.

  • Al-Nassr 4-2 Al-Ittihad: Ronaldo breaks Saudi Pro League scoring record in final-day win Al-Nassr 4-2 Al-Ittihad: Ronaldo breaks Saudi Pro League scoring record in final-day win

    Cristiano Ronaldo claimed a piece of Saudi Pro League history after scoring twice in Al-Nassr's 4-2 final-day victory over 10-man Al-Ittihad on Monday.

    The five-time Ballon d'Or winner was on target in either half at Al Awal Park, moving to 35 goals across the 2023-24 league campaign in Saudi Arabia.

    Ronaldo opened the scoring on the stroke of half-time after receiving a long ball from Mohammed Al-Fatil, before doubling his tally – and Al-Nassr's lead – with a header from Marcelo Brozovic's corner.

    That second finish after Suwailem Al Manhali was dismissed for the visitors saw Ronaldo eclipse Abderrazak Hamdallah's 34-goal tally – in the 2018-19 season – for the most strikes in a single campaign.

    Abdulrahman Ghareeb then added another from the penalty spot before Meshari Al Nemer made sure of three points after late goals from Farhah Al Shamrani and Fabinho had pulled Al-Ittihad back into contention.

    Having already been unable to stop Al-Hilal secure the title, Al-Nassr finish second in the table – ending on 82 points after 26 wins from the 34-match campaign.

    Data Debrief: Al-Nassr dominance pays off

    Much will be made of the record-breaking Ronaldo, who has scored 50 goals in as many games across all competitions this season.

    Yet Al-Nassr were dominant from the off in this one, mustering nine shots on target to Al-Ittihad's three, while accumulating 2.73 expected goals (xG) – far superior to the visitors' 1.43 xG.

  • Sakkari crashes out in French Open first round after Gracheva upset Sakkari crashes out in French Open first round after Gracheva upset

    Varvara Gracheva produced an eye-catching upset after sending Maria Sakkari crashing out of the French Open on Monday.

    World number 88 Gracheva battled to a 3-6 6-4 6-3 victory on Court Simonne-Mathieu, claiming a notable Roland-Garros scalp in the first round.

    Gracheva clinched five of six break points in an impressive fightback after falling a set down in Paris to sixth seed Sakkari.

    Her reward will be a second-round meeting with Bernarda Pera, who overcame Japan's Nao Hibino in straight sets on the same day.

    Data Debrief: Gracheva earns top-10 scalp

    Gracheva will be bidding to make the third round in Paris for the third time in her career after Sakkari became the first big-name exit in the women's draw.

    This victory against world number eight Sakkari marked Gracheva's fourth top-10 win in her career, and second win against such opponents in major events.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.