The Formula One World Championship returns with a triple-header, starting with the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday, August 29. The race will take place at the world-renowned Spa-Francorchamps circuit, which is known for many things, but mostly for being the longest track on the calendar and unpredictable weather.
Most of all, the Spa-Francorchamps circuit is known as a proper old-school track, with heavy braking areas, long straights, and highly technically demanding sectors that award skill, bravery, and well-built cars.
In some ways, the Spa-Francorchamps circuit is similar to Austria and Silverstone, which often serve as form guides. With that in mind – Max Verstappen won in Austria, while the Silverstone track belonged to Lewis Hamilton, albeit he has collided with the Dutch driver.
Esteban Ocon claimed his maiden F1 victory in Hungary, in some parts, thanks to the weather. Perhaps that’s a weird way to look at Ocon’s success, but the conditions surely contributed to the turn one chaos, which saw Valtteri Bottas take out a nice chunk of the field – including both Red Bull Drivers.
Max Verstappen drove away from the chaos relatively unharmed, but due to the damage that has been made to the side of his car, his final placement was severely limited. Regardless, he has finished in the points, which is commendable, although it still wasn’t enough to keep ahold of the no.1 spot in the standings before the summer break.
Bottas received a five-grid penalty for the Belgian Grand Prix for that crash, which obviously isn’t optimal. Still, there was one winner from those crashes – Hamilton, who now leads the World Championship with 195 points to Verstappen’s 187.
When we talk about the Belgian Grand Prix, there’s always a chance of rain. In fact, the Spa is frequently affected by it, and from the looks of it, this weekend won’t be any different. There’s even a chance we might get rain for all three days.
As it stands now, Friday’s practice looks to be cloudy with light rain throughout the day, with slight improvement for Saturday, but again, light rain could hit the track. The forecast shows a 60% chance of rain on the race day, which is relatively low, granted high enough not to feel too confident about a possibility of a dry race.
Verstappen, Hamilton, Or?
Hamilton is the only driver in the field – besides Vettel and Raikkonen – who has won the Belgian Grand Prix Before and now has an excellent chance to win his fifth, which would tie him with Senna, and set him only one short of the all-time record, held by Schumacher (6).
Although Vettel and Raikkonen deserve some praise, it’s hard to believe either can add another victory at Spa. Vettel has the skill to do it, but Aston Martin likely can’t do it on merit just yet. Meanwhile, Raikkonen realistically has no chance of winning in normal conditions, although there’s a chance that he secures points if we happen to see some rain on Sunday.
When we talk about potential winners, we have to give some attention to the Ocon, who is fresh off his maiden victory. The French driver should be feeling good about himself and could be considered for a strong finish in Belgium, considering he has done well here before.
Since he made his F1 debut here in 2016, Ocon has finished 16th, ninth, sixth, and fifth. His results are moving in the right direction, so perhaps he shouldn’t be overlooked altogether.
Regardless, there are really only two drivers who you can count on to deliver race after race, and those are Verstappen and Hamilton. Interestingly, there have been only four different winners on the season, while Ocon is the only non-Red Bull or Mercedes driver to win a race.
A commendable achievement granted, he should thank the circumstances of the race for that win rather than his talent or the car. Since we can expect rain on Sunday, there’s a world where we see another surprise winner, but Spa is not really a place where underdogs show up.
Picking between Verstappen and Hamilton isn’t easy; however, the Brit’s (significantly) better track record makes the process easier. He has already scored four pole positions, three wins, two runner-up performances, and a third-place finish (+ one DNF) in the turbo-hybrid era and is clearly the best still active driver heading to Belgium.
What’s more, the Brith has out-qualified Verstappen in the last two races. Combine that with the fact that the Spa is one of his best tracks, and you have two good reasons to pick Hamilton at 2.22.
Even though the bookmakers seem to believe that Verstappen and Hamilton have an equal chance of winning the race, we have to give it to the seven-time world champion.
Past Results Shouldn’t Be Overlooked
If a driver has done well at the Spa before, it’s only fair to expect him to do well the next time he appears on the track. One driver who has performed well here previously and might not be considered as a favorite to win is Charles Leclerc (51.00 at WH)
The Ferrari driver won his first F1 race at the Spa in 2019 from the pole position. Although claiming another pole spot for Sunday won’t come easy, he has already done it twice this year and has started the race from the second row four times, which is still a solid position to start the race you want to win.
Although Leclerc hasn’t achieved as much success as Hamilton and Verstappen, he is a live underdog in our eyes, mainly because the Belgian Grand Prix should suit him – if his podium finish at Silverstone is to be trusted.
You could also make a case for Carlos Sainz, but the betting odds aren’t as inviting even though he is a solid driver in wet conditions. What’s more, Sainz has yet to show anything too convincing at the Spa before (Ret, 10th, 11th, Ret, DNS), and it’s hard to believe that will change this week.