F1 Weekend Preview: The Summer Break is Over!

The summer break is over and we are back in Belgium to find out if Ferrari can make a dent in RedBull’s championship charge, or if Mercedes can create a three-way fight to the end. The technical rule changes and driver market changes will certainly bring talking points throughout the weekend.

Technical changes

During the summer break, the FIA announced they had confirmed a few rule changes which are set to create waves in the paddock.

Lewis Hamilton at Baku where he suffered back pain from porpoising. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

The first is in response to the porpoising or vertical oscillations which began to bring driver safety concerns at some circuits like Baku. The FIA has decided to step in and have outlined a new metric where porpoising is acceptable. Anything outside of these limits could now result in penalties for the teams.

The biggest change could be the rule changes to the floor by introducing flexibility tests. The FIA announced that they would make changes to redefine the stiffness requirements of plank and skids around the thickness measurement holes. This is to prevent any floor-related design which might navigate around the intention of the regulations. This potentially could have the biggest effect on performance so will be fascinating to see how it affects the cars.

Silly Season has begun

With the driver market causing chaos over the summer break, it is good to know where everyone stands heading into Belgium.

Vettel to retire at the end of 2022. Image courtesy of Aston Martin F1 Media

It all started with Sebastian Vettel announcing he was going to retire at the end of 2022 just before the Hungarian Grand Prix. The morning after the Hungarian GP Alonso announced he would replace Vettel at Aston Martin, which seemed to come as a shock to Alpine.

This is where it gets messy. Alpine then made an odd announcement that Oscar Piastri would be driving for them in 2023, but the statement had no quotes from the driver. Only a few hours later Piastri put out a statement saying he would not be driving for the French team, appearing to confirm rumours that he has been in talks with McLaren.

This would appear to make Daniel Ricciardo available to race next season, and with Haas, Williams, and Alfa Romeo yet to confirm their lineups they could secure themselves an experienced driver from McLaren. However, it has not been confirmed where Piastri is driving next season, so paddock talk will likely be all about the driver market.

A Three-way fight

Ferrari has hopefully used the summer break to re-focus and sort out their reliability and strategy issues. They will need an almost flawless second half of the season to stop RedBull and Max Verstappen from storming away with the championship.

However, Mercedes have been quietly making their way into the fight. They have been the most reliable car and have been consistently picking up podiums for the last seven rounds. They appear to have mostly got on top of the issues that plagued them at the beginning of the season and, with the possible performance changes with the new regulations, they could become a real contender towards the end of the season. For them, they can now focus on their pace which will need to improve to be with the teams ahead.

Mercedes double podium at the French GP. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

Qualifying is on at 3pm BST and the race starts at 2pm BST.

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