The long Formula 1 summer break is finally over, and cars will be on the track Friday in Belgium for this weekend's Grand Prix at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. It's a near certainty that a Mercedes driver will take the title for a third consecutive year, but there's still plenty to race for throughout the field. Here are five things we expect to see happen by the end of the year.
AFP/Getty ImagesANDREJ ISAKOVIC
Lewis Hamilton win will the title by the biggest margin of his career
Hamilton, a three-time World Champion, trailed teammate Nico Rosberg by 43 points after five races, and responded by winning six of the next seven Grands Prix. In that same span, Rosberg has been off the podium in four races. Rosberg has a great chance to close the gap this weekend, as Hamilton is facing a start at the rear of the pack for part and engine changes, but if Hamilton can carry his momentum over from first half of the season, he’ll be untouchable. Hamilton won the title in 2008 by a single point, and beat Rosberg by 67 points in 2014 and 59 points in 2015.
AFP/Getty ImagesPASCAL GUYOT
Red Bull will win two more races in 2016
It’s going to be hard for Red Bull to match Mercedes at Spa or Italy, but Singapore is a golden opportunity for Ricciardo or Verstappen to knock Mercedes off the top step of the podium, and they’ve started to separate themselves from Ferrari as the second-best team in recent weeks.
AFP/Getty ImagesSAEED KHAN
Ferrari will finish a distant third in the constructor’s standings
Ferrari has reportedly brought a big engine upgrade to Belgium this week (though the team may wait until Monza to make the changes), but Ferrari hasn’t been particularly close to meeting expectations in 2016. By this time last season, Sebastian Vettel had already won two races - but the two Ferrari drivers have just one podium between them in the last four races.
AFP/Getty ImagesGREG BAKER
Force India will overtake Williams
This isn’t exactly a bold prediction. Williams seems to be fully focused on 2017, and Felipe Massa is having a nightmarish season (which many expect to be his last in Formula 1). Sergio Perez, meanwhile, has two podium finishes, and Nico Hulkenberg has rebounded from a slow start to the season to score points in six of his last seven races.
Getty ImagesCharles Coates
McLaren-Honda will steal a podium finish by the end of the year
2015 was a horrendous year for McLaren-Honda, but the team has made significant progress in 2016 and is no longer embarrassingly outclassed on long straights. Reliability has still been a problem, but Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button could potentially double their cumulative 2015 point total this weekend, and the team is spending seven engine tokens to upgrade their power units for the rest of the year. It’s going to take some luck, great strategy and a few early retirements from rival drivers, but it’s not out of the question to see one of the former World Champions take a podium place in one of the last nine races.