TIME TO SHINE: Nico Rosberg could claw back the title lead at the Belgian GP. Image: AP / Olivier Matthys
Spa-Franchorchamps, Belgium - While Formula 1 leader Lewis Hamilton expects a severe grid penalty at the Belgian Grand Prix this weekend (August 26-28), Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg hopes to take advantage.
Hamilton won six of the past seven races to turn a 43-point deficit into a 19-point lead heading into the summer break.
But, after being hampered by mechanical woes during the early part of the season, the British driver has used up his five allotted engine component parts, including the turbo charger. That means he must take on new components, either here or at the Italian GP next weekend, leading to a grid penalty and demotion to the back of the grid.
'No engines left'
Hamilton said on Thursday (August 25): "As far I am aware we will be taking the penalty here. I have no engines left. We already discussed engine penalties before and that will come into play, but I will do everything I can to minimize the damage."
Mercedes has yet to confirm whether the penalty will be taken in Spa, where a win for Rosberg would give him 25 points and, depending on Hamilton's result, even out the championship standings.
READ: Rosberg digs into Hamilton ahead of Belgian GP
Although starting from the back of the grid all but rules out the chance of a 50th career win for Hamilton in Spa, the nature of the track one of the best for overtaking - gives him a better chance of points than he would get in Monza next week.
Hamilton started from the back in China and finished seventh. Two years ago in Hungary, he started from the back and finished third. But he thinks rivals Red Bull and Ferrari are faster than they were back then.
"It's going to be harder than it was last year or the year before to climb through the field," Hamilton said. "Honestly, I really don't know how far I can get. I started last in Hungary a couple of years ago when the gaps were much bigger. Sunday is going to be a lot harder."
Have to beat Hamilton
Chasing his first F1 title, Rosberg has appeared to wilt under pressure over the past few races, handing the initiative back to Hamilton.
A third straight year as runner-up to Hamilton - his rival since they were racing karts as teenagers - would be unbearable for Rosberg, after winning the opening four races of the season.
READ: Belgian GP - Hamilton to face 20-place grid penalty?
A defiant Rosberg said: "I know I'll have the best car out there and I'm massively pumped to be back on track. It's like a clean slate at this stage."
The German driver insists "what's happened so far this season is in the past," but it is clear he will need a more steely approach over the nine remaining races and must not take Hamilton's resurgence so personally.
In 2015 Hamilton won the Belgian GP from pole - five years after his other win at the track - and Rosberg was second after recovering from a poor start.
About the track
Stretching through the Ardennes forest, the Spa circuit is the longest of the year at just over seven kilometers, features famed corners such as Eau Rouge and Blanchimont, an incredibly steep hill, and moody weather that can leave one part of the track damp and another part dry.
These ingredients make it arguably F1's most pure test of drivers' pure skill, and is regularly cited alongside Japan's Suzuka as the race they enjoy most.
Unlike another iconic track in Monaco, which is twisty, sinewy, notoriously slow and tough to overtake on, Spa is incredibly fast with more than 70% of the race at full throttle and average speeds around 230km/h.
That will give Hamilton hope of scoring some significant points, even if he does start last.