After the customary Summer break, the glitz and glamour of Formula One makes its return to one of the iconic venues in motor racing, the fearsome Spa.
Although there’s been little change in the Championship standings in recent weeks, we will see some tweaks in the driver lineup in Belgium this weekend.
Notably, Alex Albon will make his debut for Red Bull after Pierre Gasly was demoted back to sister team Torro Rosso. Valterri Bottas, whose Silver Arrows seat had been said to be in jeopardy, penned a new deal during the break, meaning Mercedes’ test driver Esteban Ocon will now likely replace Nico Hulkenburg at Renault next season.
Our Formula One expert previews the race and best bets here.
It’s been a season to forget so far for the Scuderia, already trailing Mercedes by 150 points in the constructor’s championship. They’ve failed to pick up a race win this campaign, with Vettel and Leclerc fourth and fifth in the driver’s standings respectively.
On paper, this should be a race that suits the Ferrari’s. The long straights are a far cry from the Hungaroring, and top speed is always a key factor during races at Spa. There’s arguably few greater sights in the sport than the cars blasting down the Eau Rouge straight before being catapulted up the steep hill at Raidillon.
Sebastian Vettel won here last time out, his last victory to date, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him dominate this weekend. He’s currently available at around 7/4 to take the win on Sunday at Grosvenorsport.com.
Straight-line speed is not necessarily Red Bull’s bag but they should be full of confidence after recent results. Max Verstappen has victories in Austria and Germany already this season and narrowly missed out to Lewis Hamilton in Hungary.
Verstappen will want to keep applying the squeeze to Mercedes’, particularly Valterri Bottas, who leads Max by just six points in the driver’s standings. He is 7/1 to win on Sunday.
Pierre Gasly’s demotion was surprising to many, including Gasly himself, with many people expecting the Frenchman to be given at least a full season.
The decision has opened the door for Alex Albon. The Thai-British driver will look to make an impression with his new team but will have to do so from the back of the grid after his car was fitted with a new engine. As a result, he’s unlikely to be able to take a race win here at 20/1.
Talk around Mercedes hasn’t quite been as positive as you might expect from a team with 10 race wins out of 12 this campaign. Despite being 62 points clear in the driver’s standings, Lewis Hamilton admitted he had work to do during the summer break, adding that he didn’t feel 100%.
The rest of the field will be hoping he doesn’t return too fresh as he’s in danger of completely running away with a sixth World Championship.
He did struggle somewhat in free practice one, failing to make the top five on the timesheets. He’ll need to qualify well, but if he does, 7/4 is a good price for Hamilton to claim a fourth win at Spa.
After a series of disastrous campaigns, it’s refreshing to see some positivity return to the Mclaren pit wall. Carlos Sainz, in particular, has performed well, breaching the top six on five occasions already in 2019.
Although they’ve already passed their constructor’s total for the last four seasons, they haven’t had a single driver on the podium since Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button finished second and third in the opening race of the 2014 season.