Nine more years of the Hungarian GP has been signed off apparently. Last season that race appeared to be run under ‘full course yellow’ conditions. To the uninitiated that means no overtaking was allowed or occurred anywhere on track during the race. This year pulling up a deckchair alongside the M3 would have provided better entertainment.
Staging an F1 race there is an injustice to the sport. It’s fraudulent in a way only Lance Armstrong could fully appreciate. Thank God this weekend’s contest is guaranteed to be a whole lot more exciting. That’s because if God really is a racing driver, then Spa-Francorchamps is probably what heaven looks like.
Ironic really as the Belgian circuit has sent 51 people back to their maker. July 21st 1973 was its darkest day with three people killed during the Spa 24 Hour race. Forty years hence, in modern day F1 safety, the tail doesn’t merely wag the dog, it has wrapped itself around Fido’s neck, slithered under his collar and is dragging him in circles around the living room floor.
But this place is different, it’s the one that got away, it is stuck in a time warp taking us back to the halcyon days of when, and to quote former McLaren team manager Alastair Cadwell, “sex was safe and motor racing was dangerous.”
Last year amidst opening bend chaos Romain Grosjean attempted to decapitate Fernando Alonso and when it rains here, like it invariably does, to petrol heads the ensuing carnage is like a fully-fledged wet dream.
I love the place, from the 150 degree opening bend throughout the ensuing four miles featuring track parts possessing names which simply evoke romantic thoughts of a whack-off load of F1 lifestyle homogenised with adrenaline filled wheel-to-wheel racing.
The Kemmel Straight evokes visions of a Middle Eastern battle ground. La Source: a cross between a downtown Los Angeles ghetto and high-class gentleman’s club. Pouhon: A martial arts weapon designed to break your leg clean in two without you knowing it had happened. Rivage: An outrageously expensive fine silk shirt from a French Haute Couture fashion house purposely made to make women fall at your feet regardless of the misshaped torso it’s draped around.
Sincerely the synthesis of speed, undulation and challenging corners gives the genuine opportunity to race and therein Spa symbolizes the very best of what the sport has to offer.
A broad elucidation of events will see an incident packed race – a safety car appearance is understandably considered an odds-on chance – which could result in some very speculative big-priced selections bearing fruit.
I’m talking crazy stuff like both Toro Rosso’s finishing in the points, a Sauber driver to make the podium, less than 17 race finishers, Massa claiming the fastest lap and even Raikkonen not to finish the race. The latter is a 5/1 shot incidentally.
You may mock, but you were the people who were laughing until the pee ran down your ankles when, four weeks ago, I suggested Kimi could return to Ferrari. That scenario is now considered an even-money chance.
I’ve mentioned Toro Rosso, Sauber and Massa because they have one thing in common, a Ferrari power pack, which might not be custom made for this 44-lap rollercoaster ride like an old Volvo estate at a banger racing contest but it will be a whole lot more comfortable than it’s been at some of the venues it’s been paraded around recently.
Two by elimination
But, when the carbon fibre settles, the reality remains only Vettel, Hamilton, Alonso, Rosberg and Raikkonen have, and look capable of, winning races this season.
Raikkonen is very much the gooseberry, always thereabouts, an unwelcome pain in everyone’s side who lingers longer than the smell of kippers, the perennial bridesmaid, only once a bride. My idea of a winner this weekend is quickly narrowed down to four.
I also refuse to entertain the institutionalised pessimism that Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull will once again disappear into the distance. Au contraire this gloomy foreplay will surely be confounded at this circuit, a circuit which, last season, saw the Milton Keynes car screaming for speed but found only a rev-limiter as a response. Therein his odds of 7/4, a probability around 35 percent, is unappealing.
And then there were three. Alonso, twice successful this season; Rosberg also twice victorious; Hamilton who boasts just one race win. Of the latter pair I cannot fathom why the Englishman is a considerably shorter price than his Finnish/Monegasques/German hybrid teammate.
I concede Lewis, a 3/1 shot, is likely to perform the better of the duo in his Mercedes, which boasts remarkable qualifying figures of: 3-6-4-6-1-4-1-4-1-2-1-2-2-4-1-2-1-11-1-4 and should no longer suffer from ungainly tyre wear (as the cars will be running on last year’s spec boots here). But such is the disparity in prices I have to back Rosberg at more than treble Hamilton’s price. Additionally Betvictor.com’s 9/1 quote is surely a lot better offering than his probability of prevailing.
And then there was one: 32 race wins, a double world-champion, yet never successful in nine attempts here in Belgium. Hola Fernando Alonso. I very much subscribe to that old cliché “form is temporary and class is permanent” and yet his form is nowhere near as bad as doom-mongers would have you believe.
Ten podiums from his last 15 race starts, two wins this season and arguably the moral victor in Australia where bad strategy calls cost him dearly. Alonso’s recent slump in form has seen him finish third, fourth and fifth in his last three races. It’s not exactly a Williams-style catastrophe but nevertheless it’s enough to see him readily available at a monstrous 7/1 for this sojourn around the Ardennes Forest.
This Week’s Selections
100 points win Fernando Alonso 7/1
50 points win Nico Rosberg 9/1
100 points Daniel Ricciardo to finish in the points 11/8
Images courtesy of Octane Photographic.