Lewis Hamilton cannot start the Chinese Grand Prix from pole position after accepting a five-place grid penalty ahead of Sunday’s race but the Mercedes driver is an excellent bet to top the qualifying chart at one of his favourite tracks.
Hamilton, a four-time Chinese Grand Prix winner, has been penalised because of a gearbox change. Hamilton could have soldiered on with an old gearbox in his Mercedes but the Briton and his Silver Arrows brains trust believe that the Shanghai International Circuit is a passing track, making it a good one on which to cop such a stiff pre-race penalty.
A Mercedes driver has been the fastest qualifier for each of the last eight Formula One grand prix and 38 of the 40 races since the start of the 2014 season. Hamilton is the master of the Shanghai International Circuit, taking pole position in each of the last three years and five times overall, plus taking the chequered flag first on four occasions. Hamilton is the most successful Chinese Grand Prix competitor by a big distance and one is expecting him to be the fastest driver in Shanghai over the weekend.
There is no reason for Formula One championship leader Nico Rosberg to take unnecessary risks during Chinese Grand Prix qualifying. Rosberg does not have to post a quicker lap time on Saturday than Hamilton because the Briton’s grid penalty will guarantee that the German enjoys a head start when the lights go out on Sunday. Rosberg can probably afford to be at around 90 per cent capacity and still begin the Chinese Grand Prix from the prime spot because 90% is likely to be sufficient to fend off the challenges of Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen and others. Hamilton, already 17 points off Rosberg’s pacesetting speed in the Formula One title race, cannot afford to start the Chinese Grand Prix from worse than sixth place and, consequently, one thinks that the Briton will give it his all to be the fastest qualifier.
BetVictor and BoyleSports are offering odds of -110 that Hamilton is the Chinese Grand Prix’s quickest qualifier, even if Formula One authorities will demote the Briton following Saturday’s qualifying sessions. Check betting rules with bookmakers before playing but, on face value, Hamilton should be considerably shorter odds than -110 .
It is worth noting Formula One will revert to last year’s qualifying format after two controversial editions this year. One is not sure if it will make any discernible difference to the result but it is likely to make the spectacle more enjoyable to watch. Australian Grand Prix qualifying was nothing less than a farce as the Melbourne track was empty for the final four minutes of the session.
Lewis Hamilton to be the Fastest Qualifier for the Chinese Grand Prix
Qualification Saturday 16th April, 07:00 GMT