Lewis Hamilton continued his seemingly inexorable march towards a seventh Formula One Drivers’ Championship with victory in Belgium. It is again difficult to look past him and his Mercedes team at this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix (Race: 9.10am ET Sunday).
Despite a promising opening, the race in Belgium was somewhat processional, with the podium places taken by Hamilton, his teammate Valtteri Bottas and the Red Bull of Max Verstappen. In some order, they have filled those spots in five of the seven races this year.
Hamilton took pole position and the race victory for the fifth time in 2020 and in doing so opened up 47-point advantage over Verstappen in the standings that is only likely to be extended at Monza this weekend.
Ferrari took victory on home soil at last year’s Italian Grand Prix, but Mercedes had won it five times in a row before that and the heavily odds-on bookmakers’ odds reflect the reality that this year’s race is Hamilton’s to lose. It would be his sixth career win at Monza.
There is, though, some interest in the fight for podium places. Renault proved to be rather handy in low-downforce trim in Belgium, securing their joint best result since their return to the sport in 2016 with fourth and fifth-place finishes for Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon respectively.
Ricciardo was only a quarter of a second or so off Verstappen in qualifying fourth and only finished a few seconds behind him in the race. The top three pulled away early on, but as tire wear became a factor, Ricciardo clawed back time and even set the fastest lap of the race on the final tour. A few more laps and he might have got into the top three.
Renault expect to be even quicker at Monza, which is a series of straights linked by three chicanes, a couple of medium speed corners and the lap-ending sweep of the Parabolica. They came home fourth and fifth there last year and in Ricciardo they have a driver capable of claiming a podium finish on Sunday and that might be an interesting pick for one of this preview’s Italian GP predictions.
Alexander Albon finished sixth for Red Bull in Belgium, again a long way off the pace of team leader Verstappen. Lando Norris was seventh for McLaren. Pierre Gasly produced a strong drive, including a brave overtake on Sergio Perez to take eighth for AlphaTauri ahead of the two Racing Points of Lance Stroll and Perez, who were surprisingly uncompetitive.
McLaren are the current occupants of third-place in the constructors’ standings and seemed to have the pace to get both of their cars into the points in Belgium. Norris started 10th and finished seventh, while Carlos Sainz had qualified seventh on the grid, only to be unable to make the start due to a power unit and exhaust issue.
Presuming their performance there offers a decent guide as to their likely pace at Monza, Sainz will have a good chance of taking the team’s sixth top-six finish of the season on Sunday.
It says a lot for how far Ferrari were off the pace in Belgium that their two drivers aren’t even odds-on to finish in the points at Monza. Their power unit is severely down on performance in comparison to the other three manufacturers and neither they nor their two customer teams, Alfa Romeo and Haas, are likely to be competitive this weekend.
The fastest lap market offers a bit more variability than some of the others. Just the two Mercedes drivers have taken pole positions this season, while only they and Red Bull’s Verstappen have won races, but four different teams and six different drivers have claimed the fastest lap of the race across the seven F1 Grand Prix races to date.
With an extra point on offer, drivers with a suitable gap behind them often pit late in the race for fresh tires and a run at the fastest lap. That is a luxury unlikely to be afforded the absolute front runners this weekend given the potential pace of the Renaults, so it might be that a driver behind the leading group will have a shot at it. A driver like Albon, perhaps.
So, in our bid to defy the online United States’ bookies, these are the F1 Italian Grand Prix predictions and betting picks for USAbetting’s big-race preview:
- Bet on Daniel Ricciardo to finish on the podium (top 3 finish) @ best odds of +275 (11/4) with 5Dimes. Next best is +250 with Bovada.
- Pick Carlos Sainz to finish in the top six @ best odds of +120 (6/5) with Bovada, Intertops, BetOnline or 5Dimes.
- Back Alexander Albon to produce the fastest lap of the race @ best odds of 20/1 with Bovada, Intertops or BetOnline.