Lewis Hamilton is favourite to win the Spanish Grand Prix this weekend but the Mercedes driver has not had it all his own way so far this season.
F1 betting punters like to side with Hamilton. The Brit has the fastest car, the best engine and is a supreme racing driver. Furthermore, he has a team-mate in Valtteri Bottas who is a great second in command for team tactics.
However, Bottas showed last week that he is capable of rivalling Hamilton, who endured a tough time of it in Sochi, Russia.
We now head to Spain for the fourth race of the F1 calendar and Hamilton is not alone in the thoughts of F1 betting experts.
Bet on Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton returns to the scene of one of his worst nightmares from last season in Catalunya. Hamilton and then-Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg collided and spun out of the race when vying for a podium position. It was a costly exit for Hamilton, who had qualified on pole and was expected to win.
2017 has seen Hamilton struggle to cope with his tyre strategy and this circuit in Barcelona is all about racing tactics. The Brit will need to be on top form to clinch pole ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who is the main challenger to the Mercedes this year.
Hamilton has won this race only once, as has Vettel. Historically it has thrown out some unexpected champions, including Max Verstappen in 2016 and 2012 victor Pastor Maldonado.
Hamilton is 2.40 to win the Spanish Grand Prix but those odds are shared with Vettel. This could be an interesting race.
Bet on Sebastian Vettel
If Vettel can start on the front of the grid — first or second — then he can really have a go a Hamilton here. The German has enjoyed better starts than his title rival so far this season. In fact, Hamilton has never been the most cool-headed of starters.
Vettel is 2.60 to be on pole compared to Hamilton at 1.90. That shows how much confidence the F1 betting community have in Vettel to challenge for the win even if he doesn’t qualify first.
Spanish Grand Prix circuit
This is as typical an F1 circuit as you are likely to see. Barcelona boasts a huge home straight followed by a right into Turn One, a smooth left over Turn Two and then a curve for Turn Three. It’s a long way and should benefit Hamilton’s Mercedes, which is better in a straight line than the Ferrari’s.
Overtaking opportunities over this circuit are limited. But the worn track surface means tyre ware is a concern for all drivers, especially Hamilton after the last couple of races. Tyre strategy and smart pitting may be the key to this race.
Mika Hakkinen tips
In his blog for bet.unibet, two-time F1 world champion Mika Hakkinen believes Valtteri Bottas is maturing into something special. Bottas won the Russian Grand Prix and did it in spectacular fashion. The Fin is 4.50 to top qualifying and 5.00 to win the Spanish Grand Prix.
Hakkinen has identified Bottas’ main asset: consistency.
“His big strength is that he is a really strong, balanced guy,” Hakkinen says. “He does not have ups and downs. This is an important quality because when you have personal downs it can bring the whole team down.”
So can Bottas really challenge Hamilton and Vettel for the world title? Mercedes insist they will let their drivers battle it out equally — just like last year with Hamilton and Rosberg. But that can be waring on a team. It could hand Vettel the opportunity to snatch vital points and wins in races through the season and emerge victorious at the end.
Vettel is 1.90 favourite to win the Drivers’ Championship, with Hamilton at 2.50 and Bottas out at 8.00. Expect those odds to change if Bottas claims victory in Barcelona.