Well, that came around quickly. No sooner did I breathe a sigh of relief that Formula 1’s hectic calendar allows for a mid-season break, watch some golden British form in the Olympics, prepare for the new football season and start to miss Vettel’s swearing a little, than Formula 1 is back with the added bonus of the spectacular Spa GP to look forward to. This particular pundit will actually be there too, not that I’m smug or anything.
If, like myself, you had put your Fantasy GP triumphs – or woes – to the back of your mind during the hiatus, here is both a driver and team under focus alongside a few other weekend tips to help steer you back on-track for the rest of 2016:
Mr Underwhelming – Valtteri Bottas (£16m) – I focused on Williams’ plight back in Austria and their decidedly mediocre campaign in 2016. Arguably, it is the Finnish driver that bests sums up the current position of the British team. Yes, he has 51 more points (159 to 108) than his veteran colleague, Felipe Massa, and yes, he has fairly impressively out-qualified the Brazilian 10 to 2 but this only paints half a story. This is the driver that was tipped to be in a Ferrari this year, replacing his Finnish compatriot, Kimi Raikkonen. Instead, Bottas may be left wondering what might have been in terms of that big drive and, for fantasy players, his value of 9.94 per million spent is the third worst behind Massa and Nico Hulkenberg, those three being the only drivers still sub-double digits. In all fairness, Williams and Bottas are no doubt now over-priced but, in the race for fantasy footing, he is one to ignore!
Yes, but… – Haas (£3m) – Any self-respecting fantasy players will have made room for the North Carolina-based team in their line-up and it is a pleasure to do so – they are the cheapest at just £3m, have out-performed Manor and Sauber by 27 and 28 points respectively, and are the fourth most valuable team at 9.33 per million spent. However, how many fantasy players have actually benefited massively from that little haul? 18 (or 64.2%) of Haas’ 28 points came in the first two races and they’ve only scored in Russia and Austria since. Undoubtedly, 2016 has been an amazing début season for Haas but it is too soon to believe they are truly redefining the “budget buy” manufacturer category of Fantasy F1!
Other Tips – Lewis Hamilton cruised to victory ahead of Nico Rosberg in last year’s Spa outing, converting pole to victory in an untroubled fashion. News reports indicate that Hamilton is likely to carry over his impending engine-related grid penalty to Monza although you will want to keep an eye on this prior to making your final predictions. Aside from the dominant Mercedes, the rest of last year’s finishing positions were far more interesting, with six different manufacturers represented from 3rd to 8th.
It is unlikely that we will see either Romain Grosjean or Daniil Kvyat replicate their respective 3rd and 4th places although Max Verstappen will be confident on improving on his 8th place at his “home” GP (being born in Belgium to a Belgian mother).
Weather is predicted to be scorching for Belgium although cloud and rain is anticipated late Sunday/Monday so movement on this front may chuck the race day into chaos.
Unusually, it is Mercedes breaking the normal with tyre selection, choosing only 4 sets of the supersofts compared to Ferrari and Red Bull’s 7 and 6 respectively. Unless weather does change dramatically or Hamilton chooses to take a surprise early grid penalty, it is still a struggle to see either competitor having enough to trouble the German outfit.
A safety car appearance is a definite prospect in Spa-Francorchamps, with 6 out of the last 10 races featuring one, so my advice would be to go for one or two interventions over the course of the 44 laps.