Spa-Francorchamps is Max Verstappen’s kind of track and one rates him as a decent bet to beat his Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo in Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix.
Verstappen races under the flag of the Netherlands but he was born in the Belgian city of Hasselt, the son of Dutch driver Jos Verstappen and Belgian driver Sophie Kumpen. So the Belgium Grand Prix is a home race for Verstappen, whose Dutch fans will pile across the border in their thousands.
On Friday, Verstappen was faster than Ricciardo in each of the two practice sessions and his engineer radioed to him that he was close to matching the pace of the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton. Last year, Verstappen almost started the Belgian Grand Prix from pole position with no-one getting nearer to Nico Rosberg than the teen sensation. Verstappen was faster than Ricciardo throughout the 2016 Belgium Grand Prix qualifying process but he collided with the Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel at the first corner of the race, forcing each of them to pit and ruining their prospects of winning the contest – Raikkonen finished ninth, Vettel finished ninth and Verstappen, who incurred the Finn’s wrath, finished 11th.
Ricciardo has beaten Verstappen in seven of this season’s 11 Formula One races but the Australian has started seven of those events from behind the Dutchman on the grid and the European has experienced even more back luck than the Antipodean on Sundays. Generally speaking – and this is particularly important this weekend – Verstappen has outperformed Ricciardo on the high-speed circuits and Spa-Francorchamps is one of the fastest on the calendar.
Verstappen is the most exciting driver in Formula One – for example, last year he completed 78 overtakes, the most in a single season since number crunchers began collating this data in 1983. Tracks such as Spa-Francorchamps bring out the best in Verstappen and having the support of large sections of the Belgian Grand Prix crowd does not hurt, either. Bookmakers will go up with odds about Verstappen beating Ricciardo in the Belgian Grand Prix because they are colleagues about whom there is always great conjecture and backing the Dutchman at odds anywhere near -143 appeals.
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The general consensus is that Lewis Hamilton, who will be making his 200th grand prix start, is the driver to beat around Spa-Francorchamps because the Belgian Grand Prix venue suits Mercedes more than Ferrari. But while Hamilton, whose Formula One honour roll includes three championships, 57 wins, 67 pole positions and 110 podium finishes, looked the goods during the qualifying runs during Friday’s two practice sessions but he was slower than Raikkonen and Vettel when Mercedes and Ferrari were testing long runs.
Hamilton is very short in Belgian Grand Prix betting and, of course, the Mercedes man has the ability to justify his low odds. However, one cannot bring oneself to back Hamilton in light of some of the things that eventuated on Friday and, equally, one cannot pull the trigger on any of his rivals.
Visually, the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps is one of Formula One’s best. Resist the urge to bet on anything other than Verstappen getting the better of Ricciardo on Sunday and enjoy the rest of the event for what it is. So many teams may have made improvements during the recent break from Formula One action so betting on a head-to-head match between the Red Bull colleagues is less risky than wagering on any market involving more than one outfit.
Verstappen to Beat Ricciardo
Friday 25 August 2017