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F1 Race Preview: Belgian Grand Prix

F1 Race Preview: Belgian Grand Prix

The F1 summer break is over! This weekend, we head to Spa-Francorchamps for round 14 of the Formula One World Championship – the Belgian Grand Prix. Can Max Verstappen make it three race wins in a row? Can Charles Leclerc stage a comeback? Or can Sir Lewis Hamilton grab his first win of 2022?

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Current reigning world champion, Max Verstappen, has an almost unassailable lead of 80 points now over nearest Drivers’ Championship rival Charles Leclerc. Surely it is only a matter of time before he becomes a two-time World Champion – joining the ranks of Mika Hakkinen and Fernando Alonso – but, as they say, “it isn’t over until the fat lady sings…” and she’s only just started her warm-up! And with a maximum of 242 points still up for grabs, it’s not a done deal yet!

Hungarian Grand Prix: Outstanding performance from Mercedes

Having had woeful practice sessions on Friday, Mercedes were seemingly nowhere in Hungary last time out. Some even said it was their worst Friday ever. But Saturday was a different day – George Russell put together a surprise lap to take pole from the two Ferraris and a power unit issue for Verstappen saw him start 10th on the grid.

It was definitely looking to be a case of damage limitation for the Dutchman as he tried to stop Leclerc from closing the points gap too much. However, come Sunday and with cold temperatures are strong winds, Verstappen’s performance was monumental. Ferrari once again made some questionable strategy calls, and Verstappen came through to take advantage of the situation and take the win, adding 25 more points to his pot.

He now leads the Championship by a whopping 80 points – no driver has ever turned around a deficit of that magnitude before in the World Championship and I can’t see Leclerc doing it this year.

Ferrari needed this summer break to recalibrate and work out what they can do to stop the mistakes that are plaguing the team. Their title challenge has faded away and at this pace, it will be Mercedes who finish in second behind Red Bull in the Constructors’ Championship. The team from Maranello need to stop the rot and stop it fast – but how is the question.

Belgian Grand Prix 2022: Could weather and rule changes affect this year’s race?

Last year’s Belgian Grand Prix in Spa-Francorchamps was a sham of a race. After a delay of over three hours due to the heavy rain, the race finally got underway with the cars coming out behind the safety car. However, just two laps were completed before the race was cancelled for good. Under the FIA rules, however, two laps were enough to allow the results to be classified and half points were awarded to drivers who finished first to 10th. George Russell managed to secure a podium finish in his Williams car as he finished behind Max Verstappen.

At the time of writing, most weather agencies are forecasting a dry weekend; however, some are showing a bit of rain for Saturday. If you are betting on this weekend, keep a close eye on the weather as we head into the weekend! Even if we do see a downpour, it will not affect the race to such a scale as we saw last year, as rule changes were put in place to combat such a farce from happening again.

Talking of rule changes, this weekend sees the FIA’s new rules about car floors come into place. It is highly controversial, with many teams feeling that FIA are actually just pandering to the teams who have not been able to find a solution to the porpoising (bouncing) in their design office.

Will this upset the running order that we have become used to so far this season? That is the key question! It’s also worth noting that Spa-Francorchamps has seen considerable changes since the last F1 race there. There is new asphalt on five corners and new gravel traps on four corners which will be much closer to the track; however, race organisers have said: “The epic nature of Spa remains unchanged with all the traditional challenges that make the circuit so exciting.”

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Belgian Grand Prix betting: Who will win in Spa-Francorchamps?

It would take a brave person to bet against the mighty Verstappen for the win at Spa. He won last year’s race and won the previous two races before the summer break. However, Leclerc has also won around the track, with his maiden F1 win coming in Spa in 2019.

Hamilton has won at Spa four times (in 2010, 2015, 2017, and 2020) but this weekend, I believe it will be a tough challenge to make that five. He’s been getting better and better as the season has gone on, with three third-place finishes and two second-place finishes over the past five races, but I think a win this weekend might still be out of reach. Another podium finish is possible though.

Sebastian Vettel has also won at the track (in 2011, 2013, and 2018), as has Daniel Ricciardo, in 2014. I think it would be very unlikely for either driver to earn another victory here this weekend.

Belgian Grand Prix betting: Who will be on pole?

Of the 54 races that have taken place at Spa, there have been 33 different pole-sitters. Hamilton has had a whopping six pole positions at the track. The race has been won from pole 21 times out of 54 (39%), which is relatively low, and from the front row 36 times (66%). However, of the last 10 races, the pole-sitter has gone on to finish first seven times. And you have to go back to 2005 to find a race when a driver (Juan Pablo Montoya) started on pole and didn’t finish on the podium. So qualifying well can mean good things for the race at Spa.

As mentioned, there is the threat of rain on Saturday for qualifying. This could lead to a mixed-up grid and some good battles up and down the field in the race on Sunday. There is also a good chance that Leclerc and teammate Carlos Sainz may take new power units, which Ferrari have been developing to try and solve their reliability issues.

I would suggest this could be another weekend of Verstappen dominance, with maybe even the Grand Slam (pole, race win, lead every lap, and fastest lap) on the cards. This is a feat that has only been achieved by 24 drivers in the history of F1. Verstappen achieved his only Grand Slam in F1 at the Austrian Grand Prix last year.

Constructors’ Championship 2022: Mercedes on the rise

There is no doubt that in the past few races, Mercedes have seen their performances rise and their results too. They have now claimed some serious points over the last few races, culminating in a second and third place in Hungary last time out. Many say it is only a matter of time before they are back to winning ways, especially with the aforementioned rule changes taken into account. But will it be enough to overtake Ferrari and claim second in the Championship? I think there is a really good chance of that happening with Mercedes just 30 points behind the Scuderia heading into round 14.

There are now just four points separating Alpine and McLaren in the battle for fourth in the Constructors’ standings. A huge amount of money – and pride – is on the line. Both teams are desperate to finish above the other and seeing how hard these teams push and develop in the second part of the season will be fascinating.

F1’s silly season has started and interestingly, attention is focused on these two teams! Both teams find themselves with some potentially difficult choices to make in the second half of this season: Who will partner Esteban Ocon at Alpine now that Alonso has announced his move to Aston Martin to take Vettel’s place? Will Ricciardo end up back at his old team? Who will slide into his McLaren seat? Could it be the young rookie Oscar Piastri, who was part of the Alpine young driver programme?

The potential unrest that the furore around their future driver line-ups could cause could lead to one team’s challenge tailing off prematurely, and this could have an effect on the final standings come the end of the season.

Final thoughts!

Elsewhere, for anyone looking for an outside value bet in the race at Pinnacle, with rain in the air this weekend, now might be the time to pounce!

Unpredictable weather can often mean unpredictable results in F1, and with a potential downpour in the offing, it is certainly worth keeping an eye on the forecast as being ahead of the curve could provide you an edge in the race betting.

I don’t think the win is up for grabs if all goes as expected but it’s potentially worth looking at a good result for Alonso in the Alpine or even someone like Kevin Magnusson getting a podium finish for Haas – they are longshots but anything can happen in F1!

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Jennie Gow
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