Consecutive victories prior to the summer break saw Lewis Hamilton move clear at the top of the Formula One drivers’ championship, and he will hope to extend that advantage at this weekend’s F1 Belgian Grand Prix (Race: Sunday, 9:10am ET).
After emerging triumphant in just one of the previous five races, Hamilton’s back-to-back wins in Hungary and Germany saw him and his Mercedes team push ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari in the drivers’ and constructors’ championships respectively.
Following a month-long recess, the paddock reconvenes this weekend for the first of the season’s remaining nine races at the famous and much-loved Spa-Franchochamps circuit in the Ardennes Forest. It is a Grand Prix that Mercedes have won in each of the last three years and one that Hamilton has won on three previous occasions, all with Mercedes power.
Ferrari are providing as strong a challenge as Mercedes have faced since the switch to the hybrid engine format in 2014. Mercedes have won each the last four drivers’ and constructors’ championships, but this time around Ferrari have a package that is at least as quick. As Hamilton said recently, Mercedes are having to “over-deliver” to keep pace.
This weekend’s circuit should, however, be one where Mercedes have a slight edge over Ferrari. It is necessary to go all the way back to 2009 to find the last time Ferrari won in Belgium. With confidence and a highly competitive car underneath him, Hamilton should be fancied to take the victory on Sunday.
Vettel and his teammate Kimi Raikkonen came home second and third in Hungary last month, ahead of Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull, and Valtteri Bottas in the second Mercedes. Pierre Gasly produced an excellent drive to finish sixth for Toro Rosso, while the remaining points positions were filled by Kevin Magnussen’s Haas, Fernando Alonso’s McLaren, the Renault of Carlos Sainz and the other Haas of Romain Grosjean.
With just 12 of the 21 races of their third year in F1 now complete, Haas have already broken their points record for a season. The result in Hungary was the team’s second double-points finish of the year and the eighth race at which they have scored. They are fifth in the constructors’ championship, just 16 points shy of Renault in fourth.
While the American outfit do have some detractors due to their reliance on Ferrari supply for key components, they have clearly improved season on season. This year they have a car that on pace alone has often been the quickest outside of the top three of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull. A few reliability issues and some driving errors from Grosjean have prevented them from taking full advantage, but they will hope to do so in what remains of the season.
Magnussen has been very consistent this year and is only seven points behind Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg in the race for the title of best-of-the-rest outside the top six drivers. He won at Spa-Franchochamps in consecutive Formula Renault 3.5 series campaigns in 2012 and 2013, and while he hasn’t yet produced an impressive result there in Formula One, this weekend’s race will give him a good opportunity to do so with his fifth top-six finish of the year.
Earlier this month, Force India were relieved from bankruptcy by a takeover group that included Lawrence Stroll, father of Williams driver Lance Stroll. That was one of a number of movements during the mid-season break. Ricciardo confirmed his surprising switch from Red Bull to Renault for next season, while Alonso announced that he was to leave McLaren at the end of the year, where he will be replaced by his Spanish compatriot Sainz.
Force India have always gone very well in Belgium and with the future of the team now secure, they will be looking to celebrate with another strong performance this weekend. They have achieved double points finishes in four of the last eight Belgian Grand Prix, scoring with at least one car on every occasion, and had the pace to repeat that last year had teammates Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez not got involved in an internecine squabble. Another double points finish should be within their capabilities on Sunday.
Our Preview’s F1 Belgian Grand Prix Predictions & Picks Verdict
Here are our Belgian GP tips at the best odds available from a selection of the best sports betting sites for United States’ residents: