Ferrari's improved race pace has made Sebastian Vettel favourite as the F1 season resumes, but Ralph Ellis argues that Lewis Hamilton is the better bet.
"This is a circuit where Hamilton continually produces pieces of magic and it’s why I’ll be backing him at [2.9] to extend his lead in the drivers table even further."
A new £40m contract signed. Tick. Four weeks holiday out of the limelight completed. Tick. New Tommy Hilfiger clothing line launched. Tick. Now it's time for Lewis Hamilton to get back to doing what he does best.
There's no one who can tell Hamilton just how pivotal the Belgian Grand Prix, first race after the sport's summer break, will be.
Last year he was lagging behind Sebastian Vettel in the Drivers Championship when the F1 circus reconvened at the beautiful Spa-Francorchamps circuit in the Ardennes Forest, won that race and followed up with three more in a row to stamp his mark on the championship.
And if this year he's in a stronger position with a 24 point lead over his Ferrari rival then it's equally an opportunity to take an iron grip on the route to a fifth career world title.
If you merely look at the numbers then Vettel deserves his status as the [2.52] favourite to be the winner of Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix. The seven kilometre track that undulates through the countryside is perfectly suited to his Ferrari which now clearly has better straight line speed than the Mercedes.
Spa in 2016 saw one of his greatest drives
But this is a circuit where Hamilton continually produces pieces of magic and it's why I'll be backing him at [2.9] to extend his lead in the drivers table even further.
Those who decry Formula One as a human sport, saying it's only about who has the fastest car, need to study this season to realise just how much it is the driver who still makes the most crucial difference.
Of 12 races so far, only five have gone to the car that was quickest on the day. The other seven have been decided by random factors of luck, human error with bad strategy calls or bad weather. All proving pivotal.
That's certainly how Hamilton has built his half-time lead, cashing in as the pressure has got to Vettel and his Ferrari team in their desperation to end 11 years without one of their drivers lifting the world championship trophy.
And he'll feel at home again this weekend having won two of the last three races in Spa - while the other, in 2016, featured one of his greatest drives reaching a podium finish after starting from 21st on the grid.
Back Raikkonen for a podium finish
Hamilton's driving, always the product of sublime talent, has reached a new level this season as he's dealt calmly with anything that's been thrown in his path. With rain forecast for both qualifying and race day, on a circuit where it is not unknown for it to be dry on one section and pouring down on another, that could be just another advantage for the 33-year-old to relish.
Ironically it could be Ferrari's "other" driver Kimi Raikkonen who presents the bigger threat as he goes about trying to secure his own future with the Prancing Horse.
Raikkonen, who shares with 1960s star Jim Clark the record for most wins on this circuit, has quietly improved this season taking a podium finish in his last five races.
The 38-year-old needs one more to reach 100 podium finishes in his career and is well worth backing to reach that century if you can get odds against as the market settles down.
Back Lewis Hamilton to win the Belgian Grand Prix @ [2.9]