Spa is one the great race circuits, and last season’s phenomenal duel in the wet between Raikonnen and Hamilton was a highlight sullied only by the FIA politicking which saw Hamilton robbed of victory for driving a car that did not have the regulatory amount of red paint on it.
But what of this year? Qualifying was a shocker, Button, Hamilton and Alonso out in Q2, Fisichella on pole for Force India, Barrichello in 4th is the best-placed title contender. The vaunted Red Bulls, for whom this track was meant to be perfect, are down in 8th and 9th, Vettel ahead of his teammate despite a slightly heavier car.
The fuel loads (http://www.formula1.com/news/headlines/2009/8/9843.html) indicated that Fisichella is light, and so is Barrichello. Raikonnen’s 6th-placed Ferrari is around 655kg, similar to Trulli and Heidfeld (2nd and 3rd respectively).
I think Raikonnen stands a reasonable chance of success here. His KERS could propel him ahead of Barrichello and Kubica, who are both lighter on fuel. Fisichella’s racy, but his fuel load is lighter than most and he may well be leapfrogged during the pitstops.
It is possible for a driver unaccustomed to success to dominate from pole (Vettel did so during a virtuoso performance last year at the Monza monsoon) but I don’t think Fisichella will manage it. The Toyota (driven by Trulli) has been a freakish car this season, sometimes incredibly fast, more recently languishing at the back of the grid. Heidfeld’s BMW has also performed poorly until now. Ferrari have been doing consistently well for the last few races with a 3rd in Valencia and a 2nd in Hungary (both Raikonnen).
Presently he’s 5.2 on Betfair, but the odds on Ferrari winning are longer at 5.5.
Regarding the title race, this is a good one for Barrichello. If he gets a top points position he’ll slash Button’s 18 point lead to anything from 8 to 13, with 5 races left, and move further ahead of the contenders behind him. Button will be glad if he gets any points, and the Red Bulls will be aiming for mid-points or higher.
The Constructors’ continues to look good for Brawn, despite Button seeming to buckle under the pressure whilst his team mate goes from strength to strength.
I may also back Hamilton to finish in the points (presently around evens). He starts 12th, but has KERS and has been performing very nicely of late (although Spa is very unsuited to the McLaren).