Red Bull is beginning to experience increased competition from its competitors following a successful season where the team has continued its winning streak from the previous year and extended it to 12 consecutive victories.
But, after seven races, it was not a Red Bull that secured pole position in the last race, marking a change since Azerbaijan. Instead, Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes claimed the top spot, which was his first since Saudi Arabia in 2021.
That was on a track that reduced Red Bull’s straight-line speed benefit but Spa will give that top-end advantage back. That said, there is a chance of rain for Friday’s qualifying and Saturday’s sprint.
The opposition is making some progress, and with the possibility of rain, there may be chances to take advantage of. As F1 travels to Belgium, what should we anticipate?
The competition for pole position, particularly on Friday, is potentially more unpredictable compared to the race for victory. This is due to the fact that this season has seen two instances where Red Bull did not secure pole position. Spa is a lengthy circuit where errors can add up, which means Verstappen may face tough competition.
The driver from the Netherlands has achieved seven pole positions this season, although they have mostly been quite close. In Austria and Monaco, the difference to his competitors was only a fraction of a second, and all except for one, excluding the race affected by rain in Canada, have been within three tenths.
Lando Norris has odds of 9/1 to secure pole position, while Hamilton, who recently sat in pole position, has odds of 11/1. There is a chance for Norris to take advantage of this opportunity, especially if the weather conditions are wet. Another contender to consider is George Russell, with odds of 16/1, as he qualified second for Williams in the wet during the 2021 race at this location.
Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB18
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
Belgium will see another F1 Sprint Race on Saturday with a chance it could be wet. Although these are now played out as their own entities, with qualifying on Saturday morning, they are a chance to score some valuable extra points.
Excluding Verstappen, who is once again the obvious frontrunner, his teammate Sergio Perez and McLaren’s Norris have odds of 10/1 to win, while Hamilton stands at 12/1. Russell might be even more enticing with unexpectedly favorable odds of 25/1.
When it comes to the race itself, this is when power unit changes often come into play – last year eight drivers had grid-drop penalties because they went beyond their parts limits – so that could see some lead drivers out of position.
However, even if Red Bull’s drivers start in unfavorable positions on the grid, they usually manage to regain their positions at the front. Therefore, if Verstappen falls behind, it is probable that his car’s performance, regardless of weather conditions, will enable him to move back up.
Last year, he started in 14th place after his engine change penalties but managed to climb all the way up to not only win the race but to finish 17.8 seconds up the road from second-placed Perez, albeit with help from the safety car.
Verstappen is highly favored to achieve a hat-trick this weekend, after also emerging victorious in the Spa race of 2021, which was ultimately canceled due to heavy rain and only a few laps were completed under the safety car.
After implementing numerous enhancements, McLaren has emerged as the top contenders to rival Red Bull. Norris currently holds odds of 10/1 for a potential victory, which may be challenging but certainly more captivating than his 18/25 odds of securing a podium finish.
The competition is intense among the leading drivers who are not from Red Bull, and this is evident in the odds as only a few of the top drivers have favorable chances. Nevertheless, if McLaren performs well once more, Oscar Piastri has odds of 6/1 to achieve his first podium finish.
Once more, the intense competition between Mercedes, McLaren, Ferrari, and to a lesser extent Aston Martin, implies that the chances of achieving points finishes are not particularly motivating.
Therefore, it is worth considering which individuals from outside those teams have managed to secure the final points position in 10th. So far, Kevin Magnussen, Yuki Tsunoda, and Pierre Gasly have achieved this feat twice, while Alex Albon and Valtteri Bottas have done so once.
Last year, both Gasly and Albon finished in the points at Spa but Magnussen is the longest shot at 23/5, with Tsunoda 7/2 and Bottas 5/2. Also, new AlphaTauri recruit Daniel Ricciardo is at 7/2 for a point, which could be worth a look.
Alex Albon, Williams FW44, Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren MCL36, Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR22
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
Red Bull has set all but three of the fastest laps this season with Alfa Romeo Stake driver Zhou Guanyu and Mercedes pair Hamilton and Russell the other three to do so. Mercedes and McLaren are both at 5/1 to go fastest around Spa.
In each of the past five races at Spa (excluding the safety car race in 2021), there has been at least one car that did not complete the opening lap. In the previous race, Alpine retired both of their cars early, and there is a 33/5 chance that they will be the first to do so again.
Logan Sargeant has finished in last place twice in the past five races, along with Gasly, Tsunoda, and Nyck de Vries each experiencing this unfortunate outcome once. For the upcoming race, Sargeant has odds of 4/1 for a repeat performance, while Tsunoda’s odds are 6/1 and Gasly’s odds are 34/1.
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