Sports Betting Weekly

Formula 1: Bahrain Grand Prix

When: Sunday, 19 April 2015 (FINISHED)
Where: Bahrain Grand Prix
Normal service was resumed in China last Sunday as Mercedes driver, Lewis Hamilton, delivered an outstanding performance worthy of a world champion by not only claiming first place on the podium, but also clocking the fastest lap and taking pole position in qualifying – becoming only the fourth driver in Formula 1 history to score five or more poles at one track.

The Chinese Grand Prix has always been a stage on which Hamilton has excelled, and he was already the most successful driver in terms of race wins at that circuit before he crossed the line in first position on Sunday. Perhaps, then, the win shouldn’t have come as too much of a shock, but few could have predicted that the current world champion would drive home in such dominant style.

To claim a hat-trick is rather rare (although remarkably this was Hamiton’s second of the season already) but it was the fact that the Brit looked so assured on the track – with many believing Hamilton had driven the perfect race in the way he managed his tyres excellently – and generally seemed to be in complete control of both the car and the race situation as a whole that really caught the eye.

However, not everyone felt that way – namely Hamilton’s teammate, Nico Rosberg, who was furious after the race and claimed that Hamilton deliberately drove slower towards the end of the Grand Prix. This meant Rosberg started getting reeled in by the chasing Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel, though the German driver still managed to hold off his compatriot to claim second place on the podium.

Rosberg even took things a step further after the race by demanding a sit-down with Hamilton, which Mercedes boss Toto Wolff stated afterwards had been a success and that the air had been cleared now that both sides of the story had been put across – but tensions are definitely heightening in the camp.

Hamilton has since exacerbated the situation by going on record to say he is “mentally stronger” than his teammate, and also didn’t hold back in his response to Rosberg’s initial claims by refuting them point blank before pointing out that the team still got the one-two they desired in Shanghai.

With the two now seemingly at loggerheads, it will be interesting to see whether team strategy is applied – or whether both just race for themselves and go for it. With the current mood suggesting the latter is more likely from Rosberg’s side at least, 11/4 for the German to win isn’t to be sniffed at.

When you take into account the fact that at the same venue last year, Rosberg started on pole and clocked the fastest lap, those odds aren’t bad at all – but as ever, Hamilton is still the favourite for the race at 1/2, and perhaps rightfully so.

It is growing increasingly clear with every race that Ferrari are the only other car likely to challenge Mercedes this season – especially given for the first time in Formula 1 history, the same three drivers in Hamilton, Rosberg and Vettel have been on the podium for three consecutive races – while Kimi Raikkonen is also displaying competitive form.

The Bahrain Grand Prix has been a happy hunting ground for Ferrari in the past too, with the Italian brand winning four races there since the country became a staple stop on the calendar. With this in mind, Vettel is 9/1 to win outright or 8/13 to ‘win’ if the race had no Mercedes drivers. Raikkonen on the other hand, is 5/2 to win minus the Mercs or an ambitious 16/1 to win the race outright.

The most recent of those Ferrari wins came in 2010 courtesy of Fernando Alonso – and the chances of a Ferrari car winning this race are going to be significantly higher than the chances of the Spaniard winning in Bahrain with McLaren, with neither Alonso nor teammate Jenson Button finding themselves among the points yet this season.

That being said, Alonso seemed set to score points in Malaysia before he had to retire and both McLaren drivers displayed signs of improvement in China – mostly down to the fact that both actually finished the race this time – but where the team will really take encouragement is the fact that both progressed up the grid, with both drivers finishing three places higher than the position they qualified in.

Alonso is the more likely of the two to score points in Bahrain. Not only is he generally considered a much better driver than Button, but he also has a good record at this track, winning in Bahrain three times – twice for Renault and once for Ferrari. There is also the added advantage of the Spaniard’s uncanny ability to get the most from a vehicle that may not be anywhere near the best on the grid.

That is certainly the case with the McLaren car – which is a million miles away from being as competitive as Mercedes or Ferrari – but his performances haven’t gone unnoticed by the market. Alonso is 5/2 to finish among the points on Sunday or, more ambitiously, 250/1 to finish on the podium, which suggests just how far back McLaren really are.

Both Alonso and Button have the unenviable distinction of being tipped to retire first, which, following the disastrous weekend in Malaysia where both drivers had to retire due to car faults, is perhaps not a huge surprise. Both are priced at odds of 11/1 to bow out before anyone else in Bahrain.

Elsewhere, Williams had a solid weekend in China as both of their drivers – Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas – finished among the points, with both sticking to their race plan perfectly as they finished exactly where they started the race, Massa in fifth and Bottas in sixth.

In fact, Massa has been in such pristine form that Williams performance chief, Rob Smedley, recently came out and claimed that the Brazilian – who has done wonders since recovering from that horrific crash in 2009, where a suspension spring from Ruben Barrichello’s car hit him in the face on a high-speed part of the track – is driving better now than at any other stage in his career.

Barring an absolute collapse or forced retirement, the bookies strongly fancy Massa to finish among the points at 1/6, with the price on him being inside the top six when he crosses the line for the final time listed at 5/11. However, having won in Bahrain twice in his career, odds of 13/2 for the Brazilian to finish on the podium is the standout option in the market dedicated to Massa.

Aside from Hamilton, perhaps the best racer last weekend was Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo who, after being stuck back in P16 for the start, valiantly charged through the field to finish among the points in ninth place. The chances are that Ricciardo will edge his way into the point-scoring positions again, and he is being backed at 1/2 to do so. If, however, he delivers another standout drive like he did last week, gatecrashing the Mercedes, Ferrari and Williams party in the top six isn’t out of reach. The Aussie can be had at 5/2 to finish in the top six or 33/1 to wind up on the podium.