Updated: Aug 27
The first official day back from the Summer break is done and dusted, and it was undoubtedly an eventful one. Team announcements, spicy comments, engine penalties and more shook the paddock. Friday had everything.
Starting with some morning news, Audi announced that the German company will be joining the 2026 grid as a manufacturer, and is strongly linked with Alfa Romeo's operating company, Sauber. Audi will use its Neuburg site to manufacture the engine for its F1 car, while the chassis' construction will remain as a part of Alfa Romeo's duties, so its production will be taking place in the Italians' factory in Hinwil.
Just a few hours after Audi's announcement, that came a little after 8 am GMT, Alfa Romeo made their own announcement, regarding the termination of their partnership with Sauber Motorport after the end of 2023. That, of course, makes sense, because of the newly announced Audi-Sauber partnership, but it remains unknown, on what Alfa Romeo will do after the 2023 season. Is this the end of the Italian brand's journey in F1? Or is this journey simply just taking a different path? One of F1's worst kept secrets will soon be a complete and clear-as-day puzzle.
Moving on to a more driver-related topic, about half the grid is set to start Sunday's Belgian GP from the back of the grid. The first race after the end of F1's Summer break sees -so far- Charles Leclerc, Max Verstappen, Lando Norris, Valtteri Bottas, Zhou Guanyu, Esteban Ocon and Mick Schumacher have taken an all new PU ahead of the weekend, as well as new RNC parts, and will all start the race from the back of the grid.
Max Verstappen has been summoned by the Stewards in relation to a “practice start infingement”, and received a warning for not waiting for his turn, as the cars were aligned at the end of the pitlane, and cut in front of another driver.
It's already Quali day in the Ardennes forest, and the image is rather unclear. The Ferrari pair scored a 1-2 finish on the opening practice session of the weekend, but Verstappen was able to shock everyone in the Ferrari garage, just a few hours later, when he finished in P1 in FP2, leaving Leclerc 0.862 sec behind. Although, both championship rivals will, as mentioned, start Sunday's race from the back of the grid, so even if one of them takes pole position today, victory seems just too far away for either.
Our Qualifying guide after FP3 will help you get ready for some Saturday afternoon action in Spa, as we go through predictions, weather forecast, lap times, penalties, and everything that might affect how much the grid will get shuffled ahead of the race.