Formula 1 returns from the summer break at one of the pillars of the F1 calendar, the Belgian Grand Prix.
Held at spectacular Spa-Francorchamps, fans and drivers only smile as they make the pilgrimage to one of the best motorsport venues in the world.
For Lewis Hamilton, Spa also represents a tricky stop on his charge to a sixth world title, but let’s start by looking back and revealing what makes the Belgian GP so special.
About the race:
The longest circuit on the F1 calendar at 7km, mention the name Spa-Francorchamps one corner comes to mind, the legendary Eau Rouge.
For decades the steeply uphill left, right, left represented the greatest challenge in F1 as drivers attempted to take it at full throttle.
The result was plenty of big crashes with Jacques Villeneuve and Ricardo Zonta producing two of the biggest seen at Eau Rouge in qualifying in 1999.
Nowadays, increased downforce has made the corner much, much easier, but still, the sight of an F1 car climbing Eau Rouge and Raidillon remains simply breathtaking.
Spa isn’t about one corner though with every turn brimming with history.
The La Source hairpin has seen Fernando Alonso involved in two scary start crashes in 2012 and again last year when he flew over the back of Charles Leclerc’s Sauber after being hit by Nico Hulkenberg.
But it was a spin for David Coulthard on the exit in 1998 which triggered the biggest pile-up in F1 history with 13 cars involved in terrible conditions on the approach to Eau Rouge.
Up next comes Les Combes, a right, left chicane where Mika Hakkinen famously past Michael Schumacher for victory in 2000 as the pair swooped either side of Zonta.
Also, in 2014, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg had their first notable coming together at this corner when an attempted pass by the German saw him touch his Mercedes teammate, causing a puncture and allowing Daniel Ricciardo to take the win for Red Bull.
Spa’s big challenge is now the double left at Pouhon where the cars sweep downhill flat-out in qualifying if they dare.
From Stavelot, the current track rejoins the original for the long blast up to Blanchimont and finally, the Bus Stop chicane.
Much different now from the actual bus stop which was used until 2007, Hamilton controversially lost the 2008 race after being penalised for gaining an advantage by cutting the corner during a dramatic late duel with Kimi Raikkonen.
Vettel and Jenson Button also collided on the approach in 2010, with the German slamming into the then-McLaren driver in damp conditions.
That flash through a lap offers just a taste of what has come before at the Belgian GP, and now it’s time to give you some fantasy picks ahead of this year’s race at Spa.
Top Pick: Charles Leclerc ($22.5m)
A game of cat and mouse awaits this weekend as Ferrari look to use their straight-line speed advantage in Sectors 1 and 3 to overpower Mercedes and Red Bull, who will focus on Sector 2.
The balance will come as teams look to run lower downforce to optimize top speed, but that could bring the Italian team back into play through the corners and that is why a Ferrari should win at Francorchamps for the second straight year.
Whereas Vettel was the victorious driver in 2018, Leclerc is our pick for the win this time. Why? Well, he has adapted better to the tricky handling of the 2019 car better than Vettel and that makes him better placed to optimize Ferrari’s performance around Spa.
Medium pick: Sergio Perez ($10.3m)
You are spoilt for choice for this one because the level of competition at the front of the midfield will be intense in Belgium.
However, historically, Racing Point specialises in big results at Spa and they should do again this weekend with Perez already indicating the low downforce strength of their car with P6 in Baku back in April.
Last year saw a brilliant photo of the Mexican and Esteban Ocon four-wide with Vettel and Hamilton on Lap 1 and certainly, a top six will be the target again.
Low pick: Lando Norris ($5.5m)
Another tough choice between Norris and Alex Albon, as the Thai driver steps up to Red Bull replacing Pierre Gasly.
But it is the familiarity the Briton has with his McLaren which give him the edge over his fellow F2 graduate for this weekend at least.
McLaren’s car should also be perfectly suited to the fast, flowing layout meaning they will very much battle Racing Point for ‘best of the rest’ position.
Kimi Raikkonen ($10.4m)
The ‘King of Spa’ has won this race four times, more than any current driver, and Raikkonen will certainly be in contention for a strong result again.
Four top 10s in five races show the improvement made by Alfa Romeo and they will benefit from the Ferrari engine on the straights compared to their midfield rivals.
With the 2007 world champion continuing to drive as well as he ever has, he has become a must-have in any fantasy team.
Alex Albon ($7.1m)
Thrown in at the deep end at Red Bull, while Albon isn’t our first-choice low-value pick, he is certainly the driver you should go to when adding the final members.
His price will likely rise should he produce the results expected and he is guaranteed to be fighting for the top six simply because of the car’s potential.
Whether he’ll represent an improvement on Gasly, however, we’ll have to wait and see.
That concludes our preview for the Belgian GP, so head on over to PlayOn.co now to create your fantasy teams and make one of the most eagerly anticipated weekends of the F1 season just a little bit more exciting.