Spanish Grand Prix Betting: Can Mercedes' Rivals Close The Gap?

Mercedes locked out the front row of the grid for the Spanish Grand Prix twelve months ago. But the moment the red lights went out on race day Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton suffered dire handling problems, and they limped home in sixth and twelfth places respectively.

Their form so far this season indicates we should expect a similar performance from them in qualifying - and a much better one in the race.

F1's annual visit to Spain is always an important point in the championship as it marks the beginning of the 'European season'. From now until the Italian Grand Prix in September the teams will mostly race at venues within range of their factories, most of which are in Britain, meaning they can fly out new parts at short notice. The race to develop their cars therefore takes on paramount importance.

This weekend's race comes after a three-week break and we can expect to see many developments on the cars at the Circuit de Catalunya. The track's layout is often considered a good indicator of who will have a competitive car for the rest of the season.


Has anyone made a big enough improvement to get anywhere near Mercedes?

We're four races into 2014 and so far no car has ended a race in front of one of the W05s. Had it not been for Hamilton's engine failure in Australia we'd surely have seen them take one-two finishes in all four races rather than just the last three.

So it's no surprise to discover the odds on another win for the silver cars this weekend are shorter than Bernie Ecclestone when he's standing in a hole. Hamilton is priced at 1.45 for pole and 1.60 for race victory, and Rosberg is at 2.60 and 2.75 respectively to do the same. As it stands, Hamilton has three pole positions to Rosberg's one, and he is yet to be beaten by his team mate in a race this year.

If we take it for granted that the first two places on the podium are likely to be filled by representatives of the three-pointed star, the question of who will join them is rather more interesting. No other driver has been up there more than once this year - the five who have are Kevin Magnussen, Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, Sergio Perez and Jenson Button (the latter inheriting a podium finish due to Daniel Ricciardo's disqualification in Australia).

Some of these drivers offer decent odds for a podium finish this weekend: Perez on 22.00 and McLaren pair Magnussen and Button on 20.00 and 15.00 respecitvely. Perez's team mate Nico Hulkenberg has got to be worth a look as well at 9.00 - he's fourth in the championship at the moment having finished all four races in the top six so far this year. All four of these drivers are powered by the must-have engine of 2014: the Mercedes-Benz PU106A Hybrid.

In the drivers' championship it's looking ever more likely that the crown will go to one of the Mercedes drivers. If any team is going to catch them it will surely be reigning four-times champions Red Bull, whose car clearly wants for little in terms of aerodynamic performance but is severely lacking in the engine department. If they can turn that around, Sebastian Vettel's current price of 13.00 could end up looking like a steal - remember how short his odds on championship success were 12 months ago.


Keith Collantine is the editor of Formula One blog F1 Fanatic.