Finally, after five weeks away from the Formula 1 paddock, we get to go back to work. And I can't wait, especially as it's the annual trip to one of the most historic and wonderful circuits on the calendar: Spa-Francorchamps.
Ferrari is reaping the benefits of having an absolute legend in the form of Fernando Alonso driving its lead car, but I have a funny feeling that the current pace gap between him and Felipe Massa could be his undoing. It would be much better to have Felipe acting as a buffer between Fernando and the rivals.
I don't think this will be such an issue at Spa though, as McLaren and Red Bull will probably have faster all-round packages anyway, making their drivers favourites for the race.
Kimi in the Ardennes
And then there's the wild card: Kimi Raikkonen. I can't quite put my finger on what makes him so good around Spa. Four wins - and it could have been five if 2008 had gone his way - do not come easily at this place.
Kimi's style seems to be to not use a huge amount of steering lock, and I'm not quite sure how he manages it. The thing this allows him to do is to lean incredibly heavily on the front tyres, and you can get away with doing this at Spa because there isn't a technical corner worth its name. Compare it to, say, the Hungaroring, where you have to commit to your turn-in before you take the speed off because you risk missing the corners altogether.
Raikkonen is a master of Spa © XPB
Spa is a circuit that rewards a car with a strong rear end and punishes oversteer horribly. You always want high top speed too, and the teams that are strongest in this department will be better equipped to trade off some of this in favour of extra downforce for the middle sector; in my experience you could gain three quarters of a second from Les Combes to Stavelot by being clever with this. You have to make the most of it though, because you'll lose time in sectors one and two as a result.
If the Lotus is strong in this area - and all the signs we've seen so far this year suggest that it is - then we could quite easily see Kimi on the top step of the podium. The question is whether the team can get it together in qualifying.
The magic of Spa
The fact is - and some people might not like reading this - but from a technical point of view Spa is a circuit crammed full of long straights and standard corners. La Source is a normal hairpin, the blast up to the top of the hill is easily flat, Les Combes is a regular chicane. I could go on...
But there's the massive amount of elevation change that you just don't get anywhere else, the super-quick sweeps of Pouhon and Blanchimont. And, of course, Eau Rouge. OK, so it's not the challenge it once was. I remember even when I started grand prix racing in the mid-1990s that to take it flat you needed low fuel and new tyres in qualifying, and even then it wasn't a guarantee.
Now, with the aerodynamics being what they are and the barriers having been moved back for safety reasons, it's easy flat, and that removes some of the respect and the challenge. But I defy anyone to go on a rollercoaster 50 times and not feel the adrenalin pumping at the end, and it's the same with Eau Rouge. When you come into the left at the bottom of the hill, you can't see what's coming. And that's a massive thrill even now.
Then there's the history of the place. Fangio, Clark, Senna and Schumacher have all won there and I was immensely proud to add my name to the winners' list in 1999 as I'd always considered it my favourite circuit. On reflection, I probably hold Monaco in higher regard given the unique challenge it presents, but Spa is still pretty awesome.
Get back on track. Join today for unlimited access to all Autosport news and features.
Are you an Autosport magazine subscriber? Activate your online account
Your Autosport Plus membership includes:
- Unlimited access to Autosport's news - no monthly cap.
- Read the best motorsport features, analysis and opinion.
- Explore Forix, our comprehensive motorsport stats database.
- Choose from monthly, yearly and two-yearly packages.