5 things to know before the Belgian Grand Prix

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 20, 2014 at 8:32 am •  Published: August 20, 2014
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PARIS (AP) — The intense title battle between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg continues at the Belgian Grand Prix this weekend, as the Formula One championship resumes following a summer break with Rosberg leading his Mercedes teammate by just 11 points.

Rosberg is looking to win his maiden F1 title but Hamilton, the 2008 F1 champion, has increased the pressure with some excellent driving in recent races and shown that he is a threat from anywhere on the grid after some mishaps in qualifying. The Mercedes pair have won nine of 11 races so far: with Hamilton edging Rosberg 5-4 in wins.

Here are five things to know ahead of Friday's first practice session:

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FRESH START?

If anyone needed a summer holiday it was Sebastian Vettel.

The four-time defending champion will want to forget the first part of the season, where he regularly trailed his less illustrious Red Bull teammate, Daniel Ricciardo.

Vettel secured only two podium positions, no pole positions, and retired from three races. Ricciardo has won two GPs since making the offseason switch from Toro Rosso and the Australian has generally outwitted Vettel, much to the surprise of most observers.

Vettel sits in sixth place overall, 43 points behind Ricciardo, who is third.

Some contrast to last season, when Vettel had won four races by this stage as he coasted to a fourth straight title.

His victory at last year's Spa GP triggered off an astonishing run of nine straight wins. But the way things are going now even one seems far off.

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TEENAGE AMBITION

Most teenagers will be sitting in a classroom worrying about exams looking on horizon when Max Verstappen makes his Formula One debut next season.

The 16-year-old Verstappen has been chosen by Toro Rosso — Red Bull's junior team — to replace Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne in 2015 and will race alongside Russian Daniil Kvyat.

He insists he can handle the pressure of racing against experienced adults.

"Ever since I was seven years old, Formula One has been my career goal," Verstappen said. "I think the age doesn't really matter. In the future of course I hope to become a world champion — that is also a dream."

The Dutch teen, who is in bidding to win this year's European Formula Three title, will become the youngest F1 driver when he takes his place on the grid at just 17 when the next campaign gets underway next March.

Like four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, he excelled at kart racing and was crowned world champion last year.

Racing runs in the family and his father, Jos Verstappen, is well placed to offer advice, having competed in 106 GPS from 1994-2002.

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