The Formula One paddock return from their summer break for this weekend’s 2019 Belgian Grand Prix (Race: 9.10am ET, Sunday).
Lewis Hamilton went into the month-long recess having extended his lead atop the drivers’ championship with a good victory in Hungary. A well-timed switch to a two-stop strategy gave him fresher tyres with which to chase down and pass Max Verstappen for the win.
Verstappen came in second for Red Bull to underline the pace gains they have made in recent races and move to within just seven points of Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas in second in the standings. Bottas finished eighth after sustaining wing damage at the start. Verstappen’s teammate Pierre Gasly could only come home sixth.
That proved to be the final straw for Red Bull. Not only did Gasly finish some distance behind Verstappen, but it was the third time in five races that he’d been beaten to finish by the McLaren of Carlos Sainz. His performances had not matched expectations, and they therefore decided that a change was in order. Gasly was demoted to their sister team Toro Rosso for the rest of the year and Alexander Albon was promoted in his place.
Verstappen was the last Toro Rosso driver to be moved up to Red Bull in mid-season. He responded by promptly winning his first race with the team at the 2017 Spanish Grand Prix. Just 12 races into his Formula One career, Albon is unlikely to make quite such an impact, but the odds on him finishing in the top six do look attractive.
Albon has already taken five points finishes at Toro Rosso this season, including a sixth in the wet conditions in Germany. Verstappen’s performances have made it clear that Red Bull have a car that is at the very least comfortably clear of the midfield on pace. If he can keep everything together and avoid mistakes, Albon should therefore be fancied to come home in the top six on Sunday at a circuit where he finished on the podium in Formula 2 last year.
Ferrari finished third and fourth in Hungary, with Sebastian Vettel ahead of his teammate Charles Leclerc. It has been a disappointing season for the team, whose pre-season testing pace seemed to bode well for another championship challenge. As it is, Vettel and Leclerc stand fourth and fifth respectively in the drivers’ standings, with Vettel almost 100 points shy of Hamilton at the top.
The layouts at both Spa-Franchochamps this weekend and at the team’s home Grand Prix in Monza, Italy the following week should suit Ferrari’s package. Winless so far this year, they will certainly afford the team their best chance of topping the podium. It would also be fair to say that even when they had the pace earlier in the season, things didn’t function well enough at an operational level to convert that into victories.
Vettel triumphed for Ferrari in last year’s Belgian Grand Prix, but Mercedes had won the race in each of the three previous years, including two wins for Hamilton. The assumption that Ferrari will be highly competitive this time around has provided a little bit of wriggle room in the odds for a Hamilton victory. That looks the best play for Sunday’s race.
McLaren secured a double points finish in Hungary to pull further clear in fourth in the constructors’ championship. Sainz came home fifth with Lando Norris in ninth. Kimi Raikkonen grabbed seventh for Alfa Romeo, while Albon ended his Toro Rosso stint by taking the final points paying position in 10th.
This is a tip I’ve made a couple of times before this season without reward, but Belgium could finally be the race at which Sergio Perez manages to get his Racing Point back into a points scoring position. He has finished on the precipice of the points, in 11th or 12th, in five of the last seven races and looks good value to return to the top 10 on Sunday.
Perez has come home in the points at Spa in four of his five races there with the team (previously known as Force India), including three fifth-place finishes. The circuit should be quite well-suited to their car, and in Perez’s hands, a points finish looks a real possibility.
Our Preview’s Formula One Belgian Grand Prix Picks & Predictions Verdict
- Bet on Lewis Hamilton to win the race @ +155 with Bookmaker. He is next best at +150 with Bovada and BetOnline.
- Back Alexander Albon to finish in the top six @ best odds of +120 with Intertops or BetOnline. He is +115 with Bovada.
- Back Sergio Perez to finish in the points (a top 10 finish) @ best odds of +275 (11/4) with Bovada.