Mercedes is in control both of Formula One title races – the one for the drivers and the one for the teams – but all is not quite right with the Silver Arrows and its star pilot, Lewis Hamilton, is a Japanese Grand Prix false favourite.
Hamilton has won two editions of the Japanese Grand Prix but not one of his Formula One record 70 pole positions has been achieved at Suzuka. Nico Rosberg qualified ahead of Hamilton for each of the last three Japanese Grand Prix races so it is hard to say that the Formula One championship leader likes Suzuka as much as most of his pit lane peers.
The Formula One title is Hamilton’s to lose after a couple of remarkable races. First, Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen combined to take each other out of the Singapore Grand Prix, handing an unexpected victory to Hamilton. And then Ferrari imploded in the Malaysian Grand Prix, resulting in Vettel starting from the back of the grid and Raikkonen failing to start the race. Hamilton did not have the long-run pace to fend off Verstappen in his Red Bull but the early gap that he built between himself and Daniel Ricciardo meant that he secured second place.
With not only Ferrari but also Red Bull likely to challenge for the Japanese Grand Prix win, Hamilton represents poor value in the race winner market with some bookmakers quoting odds not much greater than even money about him taking the chequered flag first. Clearly Ferrari’s car is the fastest currently and, therefore, four-time Japanese Grand Prix victor Vettel rates highly at odds of +275 with Bwin.
All is not lost for Vettel in the Formula One championship contest; the German knows that he will be crowned for the fifth time in his career if he wins each of the five races remaining on this year’s calendar – those events are in Japan, the United States of America, Mexico, Brazil and the United Arab Emirates. Vettel had the September from hell and he seemed to be at fault for the collision that he had with Lance Stroll on the slow-down lap following the Malaysian Grand Prix but, if he gets his head straight going into the Japanese Grand Prix, he will realise that he is still in the title hunt because his fate remains in his own hands.
One of the reasons why Bwin is listing Vettel at odds of +275 for Japanese Grand Prix glory must be the lingering doubts regarding the gearbox inside his Ferrari. However, Ferrari says that Vettel’s gearbox is available in spite of the aforementioned post-Malaysian Grand Prix incident in which the German driver’s car received a hefty hit from Stroll’s Williams. One is willing to take Ferrari at its word because, while you could argue that the Scuderia cannot afford to take a five-place grid penalty, the team cannot afford Vettel’s gearbox to fail during Sunday’s race and result in him earning zero Japanese Grand Prix points.
Retirements from the Japanese Grand Prix have been few and far between in recent years so, of the exotic markets, the one that catches one’s eye is over 15 and a half classified drivers at odds of -161 with BetStars.
In 2016, all 22 Japanese Grand Prix drivers received an official classification. In 2015, all 20 Japanese Grand Prix drivers received an official classification. In 2014, 21 of 22 Japanese Grand Prix drivers received an official classification – Fernando Alonso was the odd one out; Adrian Sutil and the late Jules Bianchi finished 21st and 20th respectively even though both of them crashed. Indeed, you have to go back to the 2010 Japanese Grand Prix for the last edition in which at least one-quarter of the drivers did not receive an official classification and that is the attrition rate required to scupper one’s suggested 2017 exotic wager.
Sebastian Vettel to win the Japan Grand Prix
Sunday 8th October, 06:00 GMT
Over 15.5 classified driver in the Japan Grand Prix
Sunday 8th October, 06:00 GMT