Philadelphia, PA – After a four-week vacation during the month of August, Formula One teams are back on course this weekend with the Belgian Grand Prix at the 4.352-mile, 19-turn Spa-Francorchamps circuit.
With eight grand prix remaining this season, Fernando Alonso from Ferrari holds a 40-point lead over Red Bull's Mark Webber, while Webber's teammate and two-time defending F1 world champion, Sebastian Vettel, is 42 markers behind. McLaren's Lewis Hamilton moved to within 47 points of Alonso after winning the July 29 Hungarian Grand Prix.
Alonso has the most wins this season with three, including two in the last four races. He finished fifth in Hungary.
"We have a lead of 40 points, courtesy of a car that has not been the best in the first half of the season," said Alonso, who has finished no worse than ninth in the first 11 races this year. "Now we must try and make a good leap forward in terms of performance to allow us to keep the lead in the championship, because in the long term, what we have now will not be enough. If we are where we are, it's because we have always made the most of what we had and because of an excellent reliability record."
Michael Schumacher from Mercedes will celebrate a career milestone in Sunday's 44-lap Belgian GP. Schumacher, the record seven-time F1 champion, is expected to become just the second driver to compete in 300 grand prix. The 43-year-old German holds just about every F1 record with the exception of total entries. Rubens Barrichello competed in 326 races from 1993-2011 before he moved over to the IndyCar Series.
"I'm proud to be just the second driver in the history of the sport to reach this milestone, and there's no question that we are looking to have a particularly nice weekend," Schumacher said. "We delivered a good performance in Spa last year. I'll be doing everything possible to drive a strong race."
Schumacher made his F1 debut in the 1991 Belgian GP and then scored his maiden win in this race the following year. His other victories in Belgium came from 1995-97 and 2001-02. Schumacher finished fifth in last year's race there.
"Spa is like my living room," he said. "For me, it's clearly the number one racetrack in the world. It's uncanny how I always seem to have special moments there - my debut, my first win, a world championship victory and many great races. The fact that I will also take part in my 300th grand prix at Spa was somehow almost inevitable, and we will have to celebrate it in the right way."
Schumacher has not won a grand prix since 2006 in Shanghai, China. He retired from F1 following the conclusion of the '06 season but returned to the sport for the start of the 2010 campaign.
Two months ago, Schumacher made his first podium appearance since coming out of retirement with a third-place finish in the European Grand Prix. He is currently tied with Williams' Pastor Maldonado for 11th in the drivers' point standings.
There have been seven different race winners this season. Could Schumacher become the eighth?
"Spa will be a special occasion for Michael and the team, as we follow his 20th anniversary last year by celebrating his 300th grand prix this time around," Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn said. "It is a fantastic achievement, which has so far only been matched by one other driver, and we look forward to celebrating with him, and hopefully have a strong weekend."
Series: Formula One. Date: Sunday, September 2. Race: Belgian Grand Prix. Site: Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. Track: 4.352-mile (7.004-kilometer), 19- turn road course. Start Time: 8 a.m. (et). Laps: 44. Miles: 191.488 (308.052 km). 2011 Winner: Sebastian Vettel. Television: Speed.