Sports Betting Weekly

Formula 1: Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya

When: Sunday, 10 May 2015 (FINISHED)
Where: Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya
Mercedes driver and reigning world champion, Lewis Hamilton, goes into this year’s Spanish Grand Prix knowing that following his superb win in Bahrain three weeks ago, whatever happens in this weekend’s drive, it will have no impact on his position as leader of the Drivers’ Championship.

The Briton holds a 27-point advantage over second-placed Mercedes teammate, Nico Rosberg, while there is a 28-point gap between Hamilton and four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel – with the Ferrari driver counting the cost of failing to finish on the podium for the first time this season.

It wasn’t all plain sailing for Hamilton in Bahrain, however, and at one point he lost a lead of nearly six seconds due to a blunder by the Mercedes pit stop team, but he regained his composure and held firm to claim his third win in four races.

In actual fact, Mercedes probably endured their worst weekend this season from a maintenance point of view, as on top of the pit stop error with Hamilton, Rosberg missed out on second place to Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen due to suffering from partial brake failure on the race’s penultimate lap.

As a result, the German ran wide going into turn one, with the 2007 world champion Raikkonen taking full advantage. Somewhat worryingly, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff revealed after the race that the issue was down to overheating and that Hamilton had the exact same issue at the same time.

Despite that mishap, Mercedes still retain their 100% record for both drivers on the podium this season and now gear themselves up for a race which they completely dominated last year – with Hamilton winning and Rosberg finishing second.

Third-placed Daniel Ricciardo finished on the podium that day for Red Bull, but was some 49 seconds behind Hamilton by the time he crossed the line as the Mercedes team ran riot. The bookies are backing a similar result this year as Hamilton is 6/11 to claim victory, while Rosberg is listed at 10/3.

While ultimately it was a car fault that denied Rosberg a second-place finish in Bahrain, full credit has to go to Raikkonen for noticing a gap and ruthlessly exploiting it – and the Finnish racer has shown this season that he is still a driver to be reckoned with.

Granted, the Australian Grand Prix resulted in retirement for Raikkonen, but since then he’s shown just why Ferrari signed – and then re-signed – him by coming fourth in both Malaysia and China and storming to a second place finish in Bahrain in truly dramatic fashion.

It offers hope for Ferrari that they have two racers who, despite having inferior cars, are in a position to push the Mercedes team and generally make life difficult for them at the top – as proved when Vettel broke their otherwise uninterrupted winning streak in Malaysia.

The German didn’t have the drive of his life in Bahrain and ended up fifth, with the Valtteri Bottas’ Williams car pinching fourth spot from the new Ferrari driver after a minor mishap cost him dearly.

A pit stop by Mercedes saw Rosberg re-appear just behind Vettel and the pressure caused by the Merc saw the famous red Ferrari run wide and receive a damaged front wing, which warranted an immediate pit stop to fix. Vettel will, however, have the chance to redeem himself on a track which Ferrari have historically excelled at, winning at the circuit eight times since it became the focal point of the Spanish Grand Prix – while Vettel himself won there as recently as 2011 driving for Red Bull.

Due to the Mercedes’ dominance, Vettel is listed at 8/1 to win, while his race partner Raikkonen is available at 10/1. A more likely market is that one of the two will win without any Mercedes drivers on the grid – and for this, Vettel’s odds are 4/9 while Raikkonen is 13/8 to complete such a feat.

Away from those two, a recurring theme seems to be that McLaren have blown it. At the last race in Bahrain, they again missed out on scoring points – although Fernando Alonso came close finishing 11th – and Jenson Button was put in a position where he couldn’t even start his car on race day.

To say it’s been a fall from grace for McLaren is an understatement, especially given that it was only back in 2008 that a McLaren car was good enough to win the title – a fact that was duly proved by an up-and-coming Lewis Hamilton.

This season, however, things seems to veer from bad to worse for the team – and with reports emerging that Alonso is considering retirement merely adding to the doom and gloom, things may have to take a further nosedive for McLaren in Spain before they begin to get better.

In fairness to Alonso, his sentiment is totally understandable. The two-time world champion is famed for having an unerring ability to get the most out of a failing car, yet despite his world class driving skills, he has yet to muster a single point for the side he returned to following an eight-year absence.

This weekend will prove to be a rather strange one for the Spaniard, as he returns to the scene of the extraordinarily bizarre crash which saw him miss the start of the season due to injury and in turn forced McLaren to throw Kevin Magnussen into the action in his place instead.

Despite that painful memory, Barcelona is still a circuit which has been kind to Alonso over the years at his home country Grand Prix, with the Oviedo-born driver winning both the 2006 and 2013 races there for McLaren and Ferrari respectively.

It would be rather poetic for Alonso to finally get off the mark for the season in Barcelona, and the odds on him scoring points are available at 5/4. The odds on the Spaniard going above and beyond and achieving a top six finish, on the other hand, are considerably longer at 9/1.

In order to do so, he’ll presumably have to find a way past one of the Williams drivers – Felipe Massa or Bottas – which will be an exceptionally difficult task with an evenly-matched car, such is the superb form both racers have shown so far this year.

The pair have accumulated 61 points between them this season, with both showing a rare attitude in such an individual sport in the way that they seem to put the team first and stick to the race strategy, rather than go all out for personal glory.

In Bahrain it was maybe a slightly different story, as Massa didn’t exactly have the best of times finishing 10th, but Bottas on the other hand deserves immense credit for holding off Vettel after making the most of the situation presented to him when the German shot wide.

It is largely expected that the pair will come inside the top six again – Massa to do so is priced at 4/7 while the odds for Bottas are 4/9 – but the question will be whether they can get their strategy right to the point that either driver gatecrashes the podium places. Massa’s chances of breaking into the top three are listed at 8/1, while Bottas’ odds for doing so are 7/1.