Ferrari go into the Belgian Grand Prix at the magnificent Spa-Francorchamps facing a much bigger fight for second place in the Constructors’ Championship than they imagined.
A mixture of bad luck and poor strategy has cost Sebastian Vettel the Drivers’ Championship title tilt that many predicted, as the multiple retirements and unnecessary pitstops see the German four-time World Champion languish down in fifth place.
If ever there was a circuit for Ferrari, Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen to start improving their fortunes then Spa is the place.
From the mid-noughties, the circuit almost became Raikkonen’s playground as he took victory in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2009 for both McLaren and Ferrari to take four wins in five stagings of the event.
Vettel too has success in the Ardennes Forest, with two wins in 2011 and 2013 as he enjoyed dominance on a broader scale in F1.
Ferrari themselves have won 16 times in Belgium, both at Spa and at Zolder, although their last Belgian victory came courtesy of Raikkonen in 2009.
This season has at best been unkind to the Scarlet squad. Strategic woes set in from the off as Ferrari converted an almost certain win for Vettel into third place as they pitted him from the lead, before engine failure in Bahrain and a collision with Daniil Kvyat in Russia.
A gearbox penalty put him out of position in Monaco, while a tyre failure saw him take a trip to the wall in Austria, while at Canada he was called into the pits early from the lead and the subsequent two-stopper didn’t work. Since then, it’s been an inconsistent season as Red Bull have overhauled the Prancing Horse.
Mercedes have been allowed to romp away with both Championships as a result of their own consistency coupled with the inconsistency of their opposition, while Ferrari have also been hit by Technical Director James Allison’s departure from the team for personal reasons.
So, will Raikkonen continue his love affair with the Spa-Francorchamps circuit to silence those that feel he doesn’t deserve a seat at Ferrari next year? Can Vettel begin to right the wrongs of 2016 thus far? And will Ferrari give them a car to challenge the Red Bulls and Mercedes?