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Racing returns at Spa-Francorchamps

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How could the weather impact Spa? (2:03)

Spa has the potential for rain at one end and sunshine at another, so how can this impact on the racing? (2:03)

Focus on... The resumption of the title race

It would be easy to look at the tale of 2016 so far and the championship standings and conclude Lewis Hamilton is on course for a fourth world title. Arguably the grid's best driver has once again been equipped with a dominant car and has finally found the form which helped him beat Nico Rosberg, his rival again this season, to titles in 2014 and 2015. Love him or loathe him, he looked ominously confident and at ease with himself before the summer break, a stark contrast to his teammate.

But the championship fight is far from over. In recent months we haven't seen much of the Rosberg who won seven races in a row across the end of 2015 and start of 2016, but that doesn't mean we won't again before the season's end. Hamilton's imminent engine penalty is a perfect opportunity to turn the tables on his Mercedes teammate and regain some sort of momentum ahead of another gruelling run of races. The start of the season is proof that 19 points is next to nothing when these two drivers are battling each other for every race win and with one facing a likely back row start.

Ahead of the weekend Rosberg spoke about the second half of the season being "a clean slate" and that is absolutely the attitude he needs to make 2016 a proper fight: Hit the reset button and try to get something going. If he can't do that in the next few races it will be hard to see the 2016 title fight going to the final race of the year, let alone going in favour of Rosberg. A first career win at Spa-Francorchamps is an absolute must for the German.

In need of a podium

Ferrari came into the summer break having lost second position to Red Bull, with Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen both ending on the Germany podium. The summer break came at a good time as the team looked to shelter from the fallout of James Allison's departure and its continuing poor form, but there will be nowhere to hide from the tifosi next weekend at Monza. Ferrari must return home with a strong result to ease some of the pressure on a struggling team.

In need of points

Haas is nearing a driver decision on 2017, and Esteban Gutierrez is still without a point. In truth, the decision may not come down to form if Ferrari wants to promote Charles Leclerc or Haas has other drivers in mind already, but Gutierrez needs to prove he is a driver of points-scoring calibre if he wants an active role in F1 beyond the current season.

ESPN prediction

This will hinge on Lewis Hamilton's engine penalty. If he takes one, then it's advantage and probably race win to Rosberg, but in a straight fight ESPN would back Hamilton to replicate last year's dominant Spa victory.

Betting

For the first time since Monaco, Nico Rosberg -- at 8/11 -- has shorter odds than Lewis Hamilton for victory that weekend. The bookies appear to have been swayed by Mercedes' comments in the press that Hamilton is "likely" to take an engine penalty this weekend, but don't get too excited as Hamilton's odds still won't offer much of a return at 9/4. Both Red Bull drivers have odds of 8/1 to win, which is shorter than Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel at 10/1 and Kimi Raikkonen at 28/1.

Weather

Remember all those previous wet races at Spa? It looks unlikely this will be another one. The weather looks set to remain hot throughout the weekend, an unusual anomaly for a month which usually has 15 days of rain. Sunday has a 30 percent chance of rain, according to F1 weather service Ubimet, but probably later in the afternoon after the conclusion of the grand prix.

A lap with... Romain Grosjean

"Approaching into turn one, it's a slow-speed hairpin corner which prepares you for the straight that takes you to Eau Rouge. You go down into Eau Rouge which is turns two, three and four. After Eau Rouge is turn five where you go flat out all the way from the hairpin to turn six, which is quite a long distance and takes a bit of time. Through Eau Rouge you have to take a lot of curbs and try to make a precise line going flat out in order to be able to scrub the least speed possible.

"Going down into turn six it's quite big braking. It's a medium-speed corner, right then left to turn seven. That line is very important between those two corners to prepare for turn eight. You then brake downhill. It's a pretty long corner and you're usually struggling a lot on power as you prepare for turn nine, which is a medium-speed corner and quite tight between the two corners. Then going out of turn nine it's quite quick as you use all the curb.

"You head to turn 10, which is a high-speed corner to the left, and then turn 11, which is one of my favorite corners. It's usually a fairly medium- to high-speed chicane. The car understeers there and you go on power trying to turn the car with the throttle, which makes it interesting. Then you have turn 13, which is to the right as you prepare for the long straight which takes you down to the last few corners -- a slow-speed chicane where the surface changes. The track goes upward and there are a few strange angles on the apex of the corners which makes the car move a little, but it's important as you can gain a lot of time. You then exit the corner to finish the lap on the main straight."

Tyres

Tyres: Medium, soft, super-soft

  • Loads through the tyres are among the biggest of the year due to the long and fast corners. · Elevation changes also create vertical forces for tyres through compressions like Eau Rouge.

  • Rain is quite likely, but it frequently rains just on one part of the circuit and not on another.

  • Set-up is a compromise between low drag for straights and downforce for corners: not easy.

  • There are plenty of overtaking opportunities, which mean that strategy options are quite open.

  • F1 returns with yet another back-to-back: after Spa it's straight to Pirelli's home race at Monza.