This weekend, Formula One moves to Belgium for the annual Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, one of the most loved tracks on the calendar. President of the club of adorers is Kimi Räikkönen, who has won the last three races here, and will be hoping for a similarly impressive this weekend in order to get his title challenge back on-track. After a number of under-par races by his standards, it's no surprise that he's come in for some criticism of late, even though Ferrari remain convinced that the Finn can pull himself together when needed.
In that sense, Spa has come just in time. Kimi always seems to click at this track, and recent qualifying troubles could be a thing of the past, with the longer lap giving him a chance to get his front tyre fully up to temperature. Also going in Ferrari's favour is the current horsepower stakes, with some observers suggesting as much as a 20bhp advantage over the Mercedes V8 in the McLaren. With two very long straights, and McLaren's superior traction not a huge advantage around this quick course, it's likely that the F2008 will show the way at the head of the timesheets.
However, there are two interlinking factors that will play their part to plot Ferrari's downfall as the weekend progresses, those being tyres and weather. Recent races have shown that the Ferrari has struggled on the hardest compound Brigestones, the ones being used this weekend, and the mild ambient temperatures of the high teens expected will not help Ferrari's cause. The Ferrari treats its tyres much more kindly that the McLaren, meaning it can be difficult for them to reach their optimum temperature, while McLaren suffer with the softer tyres, whey the degrade quicker. Pole position for Ferrari would likely result in a Scarlet win, and after last year's performance here, a repeat showing is definitely a possibility.
Elsewhere down the field, Toro Rosso may well spring another surprise this weekend, if they take full advantage of the extra power in the Ferrari that propelled them into the points in Valencia. At an engine circuit like this, the Red Bull junior team will have a decent chance to get inside the top eight again, especially Sebastian Vettel who has been on top of his game of late. Williams could be another surprise team in the points on Sunday, if last year's performance here is anything to go by. Nico Rosberg managed to race to 6th in the 2007 edition, but so far this year the FW30 has failed to perform on the harder tyres, while it also struggles in high-speed corners.
From a technical stand-point, the track is dominated by medium- to high-speed turns, the fastest of which is Eau Rouge which is take flat out with the current generation of cars. Other highlights of the lap are the quick double lefts of Pouhon and the right-left high-speed chicane of Les Fagnes. As regards overtaking opportunities, Turns 1, 5 and 18 are regarded as the best possibilities.
Unlike most circuits with medium-speed corners, set-up for Spa is generally a medium downforce affair. Although teams would like to run maximum downforce to get through the medium- and high-speed turns quickly and easily, the prolonged time on full throttle on the two long straights mean wing levels must be sacrificed for higher speeds. It's here that Ferrari will have the biggest advantage, where they will be able to run with more downforce to help them get through the second sector without losing the top speed along the straights to McLaren.