Sports Betting Weekly

Formula 1: Monaco Grand Prix

When: Sunday, 24 May 2015 (FINISHED)
Where: Monaco Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton will be out to make amends for the disappointment he suffered while finishing runner-up to Mercedes teammate, Nico Rosberg, in Barcelona a fortnight ago by claiming victory at one of Formula 1’s most prestigious circuits this weekend – the Monaco Grand Prix.

Hamilton paid the price for a slow start last time out as Rosberg shot away in Barcelona, while Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel also managed to hold off the Briton’s onslaught heading into the first corner – a move that actually went a long way in deciding the race as the German driver managed to stop virtually everything Hamilton threw at him in a bid to overtake from there on in.

No matter what Hamilton attempted – be it the drag reduction system or exciting driving – there was no way past the Ferrari and it ultimately required the two-time world champion changing his tyres on the 32nd lap. It was a decision that soon paid dividends as Hamilton, some 20 seconds behind when he re-emerged from the pit, started ripping into Vettel’s lead to the extent that when the German returned from his own final pit stop, he came out 13.5 seconds behind the Mercedes driver.

However, the late surge still wasn’t enough to close the gap on Rosberg, who picked up his first race win of the season to cut the gap between him and Hamilton to 20 points in the driver’s championship, thereby ensuring that the title fight becomes a two-horse race at the very least.

The welcome sight of Monaco next on the calendar could prove to be a good omen for Rosberg – who won there last year by pipping Hamilton to first place – and having also been victorious in 2013, he could become the first driver since Ayrton Senna to win three races in a row at the famous circuit.

Many have claimed that winning in Monaco is second only to capturing the driver’s championship, such is the allure of Monte Carlo, and doing so for a third time really would put a cat among the pigeons in regards to this season’s title race. The bookies certainly don’t think a win for Rosberg is impossible here and have him at 11/8 to win the race, but they are still leaning towards a victory for his Mercedes teammate, Hamilton, who has once again been listed as the overall favourite at 10/11.

It will be interesting to see how Ferrari react to having lost out on a second place finish despite Vettel holding onto his position for such a long time, but they now return to a circuit which has brought them a lot of good fortune, with eight wins for the team in Monte Carlo over the years.

It’s fair to say that the current Ferrari is some way off the car that Michael Schumacher dominated in for so long, but this season has seen a notable upturn in form for the Italian giants from both Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen. Vettel is 31 points behind Hamilton in the standings and Ferrari have at least tried their best to make it as entertaining as possible despite an inevitable Mercedes takeover happened, but there is still a chance that he could nip ahead of Rosberg, who is only 11 points clear of Vettel.

Raikkonen, on the other hand, has probably left it too late to build up some momentum and start causing problems, even though he has been driving incredibly well over the last few events – none more so than at Bahrain, where the Finnish driver was runner-up by just three seconds.

However, the retirement in Australia and a fifth-place finish in Barcelona have more or less ruled Raikkonen out of title contention this season, with the 2007 world champion sitting way off the pace on 52 points.

Both Raikkonen and Vettel have won in Monte Carlo before and with a circuit that doesn’t particularly encourage overtaking, it will be interesting to see whether the duo’s experience on this track will come into play, as they will need to time everything to perfection if they are to snatch away any of the key positions from Mercedes.

Raikkonen in particular has a history of overtaking in Monaco and scored the fastest lap at last year’s race, so there will be a keen eye on his progress in the red car, but it is Vettel that the bookies believe has more chance of winning the race, with the German available at 10/1 and his teammate Raikkonen out at 20/1.

As ever, it is the winning without Mercedes market which will be of most interest in Monaco – and Vettel is currently the favourite to do just that. The four-time world champion is available at 8/15 to win minus the Mercedes cars, while Raikkonen can be had at 6/5 to achieve the same feat.

Despite their reasonably long odds of outright victory, it could be worse for Ferrari – they could always be having a season like former arch-rivals McLaren, whose year veers from bad to worse to even worse still; with their latest failure to pick up points duly arriving in Barcelona.

Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso had his homecoming race ruined as he retired in extraordinary fashion when his rear brakes failed – a fault demonstrated by the fact that when he entered the pits, he nearly took out the engineering staff as he couldn’t stop where he’d planned to.

Not long after, he retired due to that catastrophic hitch, while teammate Jenson Button had yet another disastrous weekend as the former world champion finished 16th – claiming after the race that he’d had severe handling issues for 30 laps. To make matters worse, Button also admitted that he’d be amazed if McLaren registered a single point this season and that he didn’t expect to score one himself, which for a driver in a car of McLaren’s stature is virtually ridiculous. This is probably down to the fact that Button’s driving ability is nowhere near the level of Alonso’s, as the Spaniard was as high as seventh at one stage, and genuinely believed that a top 10 finish was possible.

The state of the car has gone some way in influencing the betting markets, with both Alonso and Button tipped at 14/1 to be the first retirement of the race. From a points perspective, however, the Spaniard is 11/10 to get on the scoreboard for the first time this season, while Button is 17/11 to achieve the same feat.

Elsewhere, Williams’ Valtteri Bottas will be buoyed by his own performance in Barcelona, as the Finnish driver managed to hold off countryman Raikkonen for fourth position – his joint-highest placing this season after finishing in the same spot in Bahrain.

Fellow Williams driver Felipe Massa also had reasons to be cheerful after bouncing back from an awful weekend in Bahrain – where the Brazilian finished 10th – by crossing the line in sixth position.

Williams have shown that they can frequently challenge Ferrari, but maybe not to the point where they can consistently gain a positional advantage over them – no matter how hard Bottas and Massa try. However, at a circuit where qualification is key, they could have a huge chance of finishing ahead of Ferrari again if they get their system right before the race starts. Bottas has started the race higher than Raikkonen twice from a possible five attempts and, should he do so again in Monaco, there is a very strong chance he will finish ahead of his countryman due to overtaking limitations. Bottas is 11/2 to finish on the podium here, with teammate Massa 8/1 to achieve the same feat.