Four-time Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel has won each of the last six races so the question that one must answer before betting on the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is: will the German driver let someone else have a turn at taking the chequered flag first now that he has clinched the title?
This year is only the second time that Vettel has had the Formula One championship sewn up before the final round. The other season in which Vettel secured the title with races to spare was 2011 when the German celebrated championship glory in Japan before racing in the Korean Grand Prix, Indian Grand Prix, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and Brazilian Grand Prix.
How did Vettel fare when, to all intents and purposes, he had accomplished his mission for the year? Vettel won the Korean Grand Prix by more than a dozen seconds from Lewis Hamilton having missed out on pole position to the Briton. Vettel won the Indian Grand Prix by more than eight seconds from Jenson Button, dominating the weekend so much that he posted the hat-trick of pole position, fastest lap and race win. Vettel started the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from the front of the grid but his Red Bull card suffered a puncture in the second turn of the first lap and he crashed out. Vettel was the quickest qualifier for the Brazilian Grand Prix and only conceded the lead to his Red Bull teammate, Mark Webber, when he began experiencing gearbox problems. Vettel nursed home his malfunctioning vehicle to finish in second place.
Bookmakers have framed their Abu Dhabi Grand Prix markets with Vettel well into odds-on territory – William Hill is offering the best odds of 1.44 about the German winning his seventh successive race, 11th contest this season and third edition of the desert event. One may have been tempted to bet against Vettel going on with the job and maybe handing an opportunity to Webber to win one last race in his final year as a Formula One driver. But history suggests that it would be folly to expect Vettel not to go for victory.
Vettel is short at odds of 1.44 to win the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and one may well get better odds either before the race gets under way or in running. But prior to the action at the Yas Marina Circuit starting it really is a matter of either backing Vettel or staying out of the race winner market.
With Red Bull looking to hold all the aces, it is probably worth backing Webber in Abu Dhabi Grand Prix match bets. Webber is available at odds of 1.45 with Bwin to beat Romain Grosjean, while the same bookmaker has the Australian at odds of 1.50 to defeat Fernando Alonso and at odds of 1.55 to triumph over Hamilton. All three Webber bets appeal.
Webber was set for a comfortable second place behind Vettel in the Indian Grand Prix until Red Bull officials ordered the Australian to park his car on the side of the road as its alternator was damaged. Had Webber continued to drive his car there was a very high probability that its engine would have been damaged beyond repair. Webber was very unlucky because he was cruising towards second spot.
Webber leads Grosjean 11-5 this year, with the Australian being up 9-2 over the Frenchman if one counts only the 11 races in which both drivers have gone the full distance.
Webber boasts identical records against Alonso and Hamilton this season, trailing both the Spaniard and the Briton 6-10 or 5-7 if one counts only the 12 races in which both drivers made it to the end. But whereas Webber’s Red Bull has got better and better as the year has progressed, both Alonso’s Ferrari and Hamilton’s Mercedes have regressed. One has to feel particularly sorry for Alonso, whom most Formula One drivers think is the fastest man in the motor sport. Not for the first time, Alonso’s car is letting down him badly.
If Vettel does decide to assist Webber in his quest to win his first race of the season then, obviously, that will be beneficial to the Australian’s chances of beating Grosjean, Alonso and Hamilton. But Webber probably does not require Vettel’s help to land the highlighted head-to-head bets.