Following his scorching drive to second place at the Hungarian Grand Prix five weeks ago, Kimi Raikkonen has been widely tipped to win when the Formula season reconvenes at Spa, in Belgium, this coming weekend.
The Lotus driver claimed victory in four of his last five visits to the track and the team’s latest upgrade has been a source of much speculation.
But Spa’s infamously unpredictable weather may also have a say in the outcome of this race. Let’s take an early look at the odds for this weekend.
Lewis Hamilton claimed his third pole position of 2012 at the last race in Hungary.
McLaren ended the first part of the season on a high as a batch of upgrades introduced in Germany propelled their MP4-27 back to the front of the field.
You might expect the five-week break since then to have given their rivals a good chance to knuckle down and churn out some new parts to close the gap. But the mandatory two-week factory closure will have limited their ability to do that.
Although no track on the calendar is a match for Spa’s long straights and fast corners, McLaren’s good pace at venues like Sepang and the Circuit de Catalunya points to them enjoying a competitive weekend in the Ardennes.
So the odds on Hamilton taking pole position again are fairly short at 3.25. Only Sebastian Vettel’s are shorter at 3.0.
Instead take a look at the odds being offered on the Lotus drivers. Romain Grosjean gave the team their first front-row start with second in Hungary and he is priced at 7.0 to go one better in Belgium.
Raikkonen has slightly longer odds at 8.0. But race pace has always been his forte instead of one-lap speed – despite four wins here he has only been on pole once.
Jenson Button’s odds are remarkably long at 18.0. Although McLaren surely have a car to contend for pole position, Button has only out-qualified Hamilton once so far this year.
Lotus have consistently performed better in races than they have in qualifying this year. What’s more, for this race they are expected to finally use their version of Mercedes’ Double DRS (Drag Reduction System) which they tested during practice at the last two rounds.
These are all reasons to consider both their drivers serious prospects for race victory. Raikkonen’s odds are considerably shorter at 5.5 to Grosjean’s 11.0.
This may not just be a reflection on Raikkonen’s form at Spa. As we enter the closing stages of the season some teams may choose to favour whichever of their pilots have the most points in the drivers’ championship. It’s always disappointing to see team orders being used but as the sport’s governing body removed the ban on them last year it has to be factored into our thinking.
Red Bull have admitted that the alterations made to their car to comply with the FIA’s new 2012 rules have hurt them this year. But even so it’s surprising to see last year’s race winner Sebastian Vettel on odds as long as 4.75 at this stage.
Finally it is important to consider the role the weather could play this weekend. Spa is notorious for unpredictable showers and there is rain forecast.
One man stands to benefit most from that: Fernando Alonso. He has never failed to seize on the opportunity to perform in wet conditions this year.
Keep your eye on the weather forecast for the village of Francorchamps in Belgium and if it looks set to rain after 2pm local time on Sunday, get your money on Alonso’s Ferrari. He’s currently priced at 6.75 to win.