This weekend's Belgian Grand Prix marks the return of Formula One after the three-week summer break. Following the excitement, chaos and surprise result of the race in Hungary last time out, where Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel won for the second time this season and Mercedes' star duo endured a day to forget, anticipation is growing steadily among F1 fans.
Despite the unexpected events in Hungary, where Lewis Hamilton finished sixth and Nico Rosberg was eighth, the two Mercedes drivers remain favourites for this weekend's race at the famous Spa-Francorchamps circuit.
Hamilton can be backed at 8/13 with Coral Sports and many observers will expect him to get back to his winning ways in Belgium. The British driver admitted to "a really bad performance" after the Hungarian Grand Prix, but has won five races this year and is still 21 points clear at the top of the standings. His last two victories have also followed disappointments in the previous race (he lost out to Rosberg at the Austrian Grand Prix in June but then won convincingly at Silverstone), so few punters would bet against another strong performance from Hamilton in Belgium.
Hamilton's team-mate, Nico Rosberg, however, has a point to prove at Spa. The German driver was on course for a second-place finish in Hungary – a result that would have seen him gain considerable ground on Hamilton in the drivers' championship – before a late collision with Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo saw him drop to eighth. Rosberg is currently priced at 9/4 with Bet365 Sports to win in Belgium, but has never previously won a Grand Prix at Spa.
Rosberg finished second behind Ricciardo at last year's Belgian Grand Prix. The talented Australian driver, who claimed three race victories in 2014, but is yet to win a race this season, is a long shot at 80/1 with William Hill Sports. His Red Bull team may not be the threat they were last year, but Ricciardo proved he's still a threat by taking advantage of Mercedes' troubles to finish third in Hungary last month. Perhaps memories of his 2014 triumph in Belgium will inspire a similar result this time? A podium finish for Ricciardo can be bet on at 9/1 with Ladbrokes Sports.
Of course, much of the pre-race attention is likely to focus on Vettel. Despite being 42 points behind Hamilton, the German put in an outstanding performance to revive Ferrari's slim hopes of clinching the championship this season with his victory in Hungary. The gap may be large, but victory for Vettel at Spa, coupled with less than satisfactory results for Hamilton and Rosberg, could potentially see the momentum shift in Ferrari's favour.
Vettel, who won the Belgian Grand Prix in 2011 and 2013, is priced at 11/1 by Bet365 Sports to finish on top of the podium at this year's race. His team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, a four-time winner at Spa (although his last victory came back in 2009), can be backed at 16/1 with Ladbrokes Sports. Alternatively, punters put off by the fact that Raikkonen has not won a Grand Prix since Australia in 2013 can bet on him securing a podium finish at 6/4 with William Hill Sports.
In the fastest-lap betting market, Hamilton is given even odds and Rosberg given a 9/4 chance of being the fastest man with Ladbrokes Sports. Vettel is a 13/2 shot at Bet365 Sports and Williams driver Felipe Massa has odds of 25/1 with the same bookmaker. Massa is another former Belgian Grand Prix winner, having triumphed there in 2008. The Brazilian is 45/1 with 888 Sports to secure victory again, and 15/2 at Coral Sports for a place on the podium.
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