Sports Betting Weekly

Formula 1: Malaysian Grand Prix

When: Sunday, 29 March 2015 (FINISHED)
Where: Malaysian Grand Prix
With the dust now settled on the Australian Grand Prix earlier in the month, the world was left with most questions answered in regards to how the season would pan out as Mercedes again dominated the track with Lewis Hamilton claiming his first win of the season.

The Briton beat teammate Nico Rosberg by 1.360 seconds to take top spot on the podium, with third-placed Sebastian Vettel largely enjoying his first race in a Ferrari despite finishing some 34-and-a-half seconds behind Hamilton when all was said and done.

With the early indications seeming to suggest Mercedes will walk all over everyone again, leading figures in the sport have vented their frustrations. Red Bull team principal, Christian Horner, may well be accused of hypocrisy after claiming the season would be a “two-horse race” – especially given Red Bull’s spell of dominance under his control – but his thoughts have been noted.

Horner also begged the FIA to find a way to restrict Mercedes – again, hardly the best person in the world to request such a thing in what has been seen by many as a ‘toys out of the pram’ response to falling down the F1 pecking order – but when racing supremo, Bernie Ecclestone, agreed with his comments, the racing world certainly began to listen to his gripes a bit more intently.

Ecclestone, who used to run the Brabham F1 team from the early 70s to the mid 80s before later becoming chief executive, even went as far as to claim that Mercedes shouldn’t have been allowed to improve their engine so that everyone else in the sport would be given the chance to catch up.

In the aftermath of such a furore, you do begin to feel a bit sorry for Mercedes. After all, all they’ve done is have the audacity to stick within the rules and produce a monster engine, which is being used by two world class drivers – one of whom is set to finally put pen to paper on a new contract.

The Hamilton renewal saga wasn’t that controversial as such, but with Ferrari willing to break the proverbial bank to place him in their iconic red car, many had speculated that the Briton would defect elsewhere when his current deal expired.

However, with Hamilton in the final 12 months of his three-year contract, it is now thought that he could finally sign a new deal before he climbs into his car in Malaysia – a race track that brought great joy to him and his team last year as he crossed the finishing line in 1st place.

Ominously, the top three last year – Hamilton, Rosberg and Vettel – were the top three in Australia and it looks quite likely this will be the case again. Indeed, if you think Vettel will come third in a race he has won three times previously – so to win without any Mercedes drivers – he is priced at 2/1.

That said, there is one racer who looks set to return to F1 this weekend following a slight absence, and that is two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, who is expected to line-up for McLaren after being passed fit to drive. The Spaniard missed the Australian Grand Prix a fortnight ago after an unusual crash during testing in Barcelona, where he fell unconscious after colliding with a wall. The reports that emerged following the incident were quite alarming too, with some claiming Alonso thought he was a 14-year old in a race kart and that it was 1995 when he regained consciousness.

Other explanations were that Alonso – who crashed at quite a low speed – suffered an electric shock from inside the car. The man himself has since said that he recalled “heavy steering” before crashing, and an investigation into what actually happened is still ongoing.

Now Alonso is deemed fit to drive, it should provide McLaren with a huge boost following a dismal Sunday in Australia. After being way off the pace in qualifying, stand-in driver Kevin Magnussen didn’t start the race due to a power unit glitch, while Jenson Button finished 11th – outside the points and a whole two laps after Hamilton crossed the line.

With worries over the car in general, McLaren will be overjoyed to have someone of Alonso’s experience behind their wheel again, especially as he’s forged a career out of getting the best from technically limited cars. Also, Alonso loves a race at Sepang, winning three times there in his career so far.

With this in mind, the market has tipped an Alonso points finish at 5/2, with teammate Button further down the order at 7/2. Alonso is also a very distant 250/1 to win the race if there were no Mercedes drivers – in other words, come 3rd or hope that no Mercedes car finishes.

With all the talk of Hamilton, it’s easy to forget Rosberg at Mercedes, but the German will certainly fancy his chances here as well. Sepang has a history of being kind to drivers from Germany, with seven out of the 16 winners hailing from the country. If you think the history books are anything to go by, a German winner this time out is available at 7/4.

With Rosberg finishing marginally behind Hamilton in Melbourne, he will be more than up to the task of restoring interest in F1 by toppling his British teammate, simultaneously advancing his own chances of claiming that coveted drivers’ championship title in the process.

Despite being listed at 2/1 to win outright, he will have to step up his efforts from last year’s performance if he is to stand a chance of topping the podium, however, as 12 months ago he finished a mammoth 17 seconds behind Hamilton, who strolled to victory on that occasion.

The general consensus again lies with a Hamilton victory here, especially after repeatedly asking his team whether he had enough fuel left in his tank to finish the race in the appropriate guidelines last time out. He did, and in fact had enough left over in the tank to the point that – despite winning – he didn’t quite do his car justice by driving it to its limits. With several long straights at Sepang, there is therefore a possibility of a true Mercedes masterclass on the horizon in this season’s edition of the race.

That isn’t to say there’s a lack of interest down the rest of the grid, however. Vettel may have finished 3rd in Australia, but he was pushed all the way by Felipe Massa in the Williams, finishing just four seconds behind the German. Again excluding Mercedes drivers, the market offers good odds on the former Ferrari driver – and you can get Massa to ‘win’ at 9/2, while fellow Williams teammate, Valtteri Bottas, is on at 5/2.

There is also the fact that Vettel’s fellow driver – and former world champion – Kimi Raikkonen will have a point to prove after a disappointing weekend in Australia. Despite having an average miles-per-hour speed that would have seen him finish in the top 10 and among the points, the Finnish driver ultimately crossed the line a disappointing 12th place.

Raikkonen, however, could hardly have wished for a better race venue to find his form for Ferrari, having won at Sepang in 2003 and 2008. He is priced at 7/2 to be the best driver if you take the Mercedes’ team out of the equation and 5/2 to find his way onto the podium.