Never write off a champion driver or a champion team but one would have to be crazy to back Lewis Hamilton at odds on to win the Japanese Grand Prix just seven days after he and his Mercedes teammate, Nico Rosberg, could not get close to the Ferrari and Red Bull cars in the Singapore Grand Prix.
One thought that bookmakers would install Hamilton as the Japanese Grand Prix favourite but one did not think that he would be trading at shorter than even money. Not even the enormous egotist that is Hamilton could rate his Japanese Grand Prix chance at better than 50 per cent in light of what transpired during last week’s event in Singapore.
Mercedes missed out on occupying pole position for the first time since the 2014 Austrian Grand Prix and only the second time in the last two Formula One seasons. Hamilton qualified for the Singapore Grand Prix in fifth spot, blaming his lack of pace on the way that Pirelli’s tyres interacted with his car. Rosberg complained of similar issues after he locked in sixth place on the Singapore Grand Prix grid – both Mercedes drivers were more than half a second behind Daniil Kyvat.
There were grounds for thinking that Kyvat and his Red Bull colleague, Daniel Ricciardo, would put up one of their best performances of the Formula One season in Singapore because the Marina Bay Street Circuit does play to the strengths of their cars. If Mercedes can fix its tyre problems then one would expect that, in all probability, Hamilton and Rosberg will find themselves ahead of Kyvat and Ricciardo in the Japanese Grand Prix. But what about overtaking Ferrari?
There were signs in the Italian Grand Prix that Ferrari had taken a massive step forward in terms of power and that the days of Mercedes having clearly the fastest car in Formula One were numbered. The Singapore Grand Prix did not either prove or disprove that hypothesis because the Marina Bay Street Circuit is not a high-speed track but the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka will settle the issue. One would prefer to back Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel at odds of +350 with Boylesports and SkyBet to win the Japanese Grand Prix than gamble on Hamilton at odds of -110 with Ladbrokes.
Vettel was head and shoulders above his Formula One peers in the Singapore Grand Prix, qualifying more than half a second quicker than front-row partner Ricciardo and winning the race comfortably in spite of two safety-car interruptions. Vettel is the second most successful driver in Japanese Grand Prix history having won the race four times – 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013 – so Suzuka, which has been the exclusive home of the event since 2009, will hold no fears for the Ferrari driver on what will be an emotional weekend as Formula One returns to the scene of Jules Bianchi’s fatal crash last year. And there is a decent chance that Vettel will have the best total package at his disposal as well.
One would hate to be a bookmaker framing Japanese Grand Prix markets because it is a race on which betting firms have the potential to either win or lose big sums of money. Setting the right odds on Hamilton and Vettel is essential because they are the two men in which Japanese Grand Prix punters are going to be interested and, unless you go up with the correct prices, you are going to end up with a lopsided position. One would have wanted odds of +150 to consider backing Hamilton to bounce back in the Japanese Grand Prix so Vettel at odds of +350 is one’s idea of the value play.
Sebastian Vettel to win Japanese Grand Prix
26th September 06:00 GMT (Qualifying)
27th September 07:00 GMT (Race)
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