Ferrari have not won the Italian Grand Prix for nearly a decade but James Gray can't look past them at Monza this weekend...
"Ferrari have some freedom to go for glory rather than be overly concerned with points lost and the PR of their new star winning back-to-back races may be too special to resist"
The Belgian Grand Prix should have been the celebration of a coming-of-age victory for a future world champion. But the events of Saturday ensured that would not be the case as Anthoine Hubert tragically lost his life following a crashing during the F2 race.
Instead, Charles Leclerc dedicated his overdue first Grand Prix victory to Hubert, pointing to the sky as soon as he exited the cockpit after an emotional victory on so many levels. It was only four years ago, after all, that Leclerc lost his godfather Jules Bianchi, the last F1 driver to lose his life in the line of duty.
In both cases, the sport responded in the only way any of them know how: they went racing. It is what they are all built to do.
Magic of Monza
Despite 19 victories in total, Ferrari have not won their home Grand Prix since 2010 when Fernando Alonso took the chequered flag but I do not believe they have ever had such a good opportunity as they will on Sunday. Spa is the second-most power sensitive track on the calendar and Ferrari demonstrated their low-drag prowess in spades.
What is the only track which is more dependent on your power unit than Spa? Yes, you've guessed it: Monza. While it may have lost its famous banked corners some years ago, it remains a track with long straights and low-speed corners, two areas where the Ferrari has thrived this year and Mercedes have not.
Usually, I would talk up Ferrari's chances of finding even more creative ways to throw away the race but boss Mattia Binotto seems to have found a formula that works within the team and the Prancing Horse are 1/2 to supply the winning car this weekend to delight their adoring fans.
Pressure on Leclerc's shoulders
Leclerc now shares a first race win with two greats of the sport - Jim Clark and Michael Schumacher - who also took their first victory in Belgium. It was a changing of the guard moment too as Sebastian Vettel was forced to move over and let the youngster through before rear-gunning for him, holding up Lewis Hamilton enough to ensure he could not catch the Monegasque at the front.
The title is, and has been for a while, well gone for Ferrari. You can't even get a price on the Constructors' Championship and Vettel and Leclerc are 175/1 and 225/1 respectively to beat 1/100 favourite Hamilton to the individual honours.
As such, Ferrari have some freedom to go for glory rather than be overly concerned with points lost and in this case, the PR of their new star winning back-to-back races may be too special to resist. Doubtless Vettel won't like it but he was that young upstart once upon a time, upsetting Mark Webber at Red Bull with the temerity of his speed.
So with such a fast Ferrari, I'm also backing Leclerc to win at 11/8 because if the team have the choice, he feels like the favourite son at present and we are nicely hedged on a Leclerc mistake.
A Verstappen fightback
In May next year, Max Verstappen will have a true home Grand Prix in which to perform when the Dutch race comes onto the calendar but for now, the race in Belgium is as close as he gets; so to crash out on the first lap after a collision with Kimi Raikkonen was a gutting result, almost as gutting as the grid penalty that will see him start the Italian Grand Prix from the back of the field.
However, there are few better overtakers in the field than Verstappen, the new spec Honda engine is encouragingly quick and there is even a forecast for some rain on Sunday, the Dutch driver's raison d'être in an F1 car.
It would be outrageous for him to win at 33/1 but Verstappen to finish on the podium at 3/1 feels like a bet we can endorse.