Formula 1: Belgian Grand Prix Predictions

Neil JamesFeatured ColumnistAugust 23, 2013

Formula 1: Belgian Grand Prix Predictions

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    The Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix takes place this weekend at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, around 70 miles south-east of Brussels.

    Spa is one of an ever-shrinking number of "proper" circuits left on the F1 calendar, and it features some of the best corners in the world. Names like Eau Rouge, Raidillon, Pouhon and Blanchimont are known to fans the world over.

    Sebastian Vettel goes into the weekend with a 38-point lead over Kimi Raikkonen in the drivers' championship, with Fernando Alonso a further point behind. Lewis Hamilton is fourth, 48 points down on Vettel.

    Races at Spa can be as hard to predict as the weather, but there's no harm in trying.

    Here are my predictions for the weekend ahead.

Pole Position

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    Qualifying in 2013 has been dominated by Mercedes and Red Bull. Lewis Hamilton has four poles to his name, while Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel have three apiece.

    The rest of the grid put together have zero (and only three second places).

    Will things change in Spa?

    Probably not, unless it rains.

    It's notoriously difficult to set a car up here for a good qualifying lap (as Hamilton kindly told us last year), but all three won't mess it up.

    Hamilton and Vettel will probably share the front row again, and as the Brit has had the edge recently, I'll pick him for pole. 

Selected Team Battles

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    Some teams have clear de facto No. 1 and No. 2 drivers, but it's a bit closer at a few teams.

     

    Force India

    Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil are statistically the closest teammates on the grid. Each has five "wins" in qualifying, while (where both made it to the end) di Resta has finished the race ahead four times to Sutil's three.

    Sutil has the better history at this circuit with a best result of fifth, though di Resta had the chance of a fine race last year taken away by a faulty KERS system.

    Di Resta has greater consistency (and appears to be a better driver), so I'll pick him to come out on top.

     

    Toro Rosso

    Daniel Ricciardo leads Jean-Eric Vergne 7-to-3 in qualifying, but in the four races in which both men were classified, Vergne has a 3-to-1 advantage.

    Getting both cars to the end in only four races is a pretty awful statistic, but the real figure is even worsejust three. Ricciardo was classified in Malaysia but didn't make it to the chequered flag.

    No team has a worse retirement record this year.

    Vergne feels he was unfairly overlooked for the second seat at Red Bull (which Ricciardo is being considered for), and maybe he has good reason to feel aggrieved.

    I think he'll be the top Toro this weekend. 

Top Rookie

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    There are five to choose from and they're all in pretty poor cars. Valtteri Bottas and Esteban Gutierrez are best placed to claim this particular prize.

    It's fairly obvious the Sauber is a better car than the Williams, but all indications are that Bottas is a better driver than Gutierrez.

    Spa is considered a "driver's track"one where driver input counts more than at other circuits.

    Modern cars being what they are, driver input probably means much less than it did even as recently as a decade ago.

    It still matters here, though, so I'll go with Bottas to come out on top. 

Top Dog

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    Caterham or Marussia?

    Guido van der Garde took the plaudits in Hungary, coming home a few seconds clear of teammate Charles Pic and over a minute ahead of the best-placed Marussia.

    Caterham appeared to have a significant advantage at the Hungaroring. Though it's a very different sort of track, one would expect they'll be ahead at Spa, too.

    Probably not as far ahead, though.

    I'll go with Pic to win the battle of the slowies, with Jules Bianchi close behind. 

Race Winner

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    The sensible choice would be to pick Sebastian Vettel. The Red Bull is the best race car and he should qualify on the front row.

    Second choice would be Lewis Hamilton, who has a great chance if the Mercedes can look after its tyres again on Sunday.

    With that being said, it's Spa, it's a crucial point in the championship and BBC Weather has a jolly little raincloud parked over the circuit for both Saturday and Sunday.

    Rain makes things much more interesting. The Red Bull's superior downforce production means it's probably the best car in the wet, too (and Vettel is an excellent wet-weather driver).

    The same can be said for Hamilton.

    However, cars which might otherwise struggle could have a chance in damp conditions. So step forward the man who needs a win more than anyone else (except maybe Felipe Massa)Fernando Alonso.

    Probably no chance if it stays dry, but the possibility of rain means I'll back him for the victory.