Bahrain Grand Prix Betting: Mercedes can assert dominance

This year Mercedes are starting to look like Red Bull did last year: Unstoppable. Lewis Hamilton romped to his first victory of the season in Malaysia, leading every lap of the way, just as teammate Nico Rosberg did in Australia.

This was a significant moment for Hamilton, coming after his start to the season literally misfired in Melbourne. He never had the chance to compete there as his engine was not firing on all cylinders. But in Malaysia he easily outpaced Rosberg to win. And so even though Rosberg continues to lead Hamilton in the drivers' championship by 18 points, the odds favour the 2008 world champion.

Hamilton is on 2.00 to re-take the title, Rosberg 3.25. The only driver considered to have a reasonable chance at the moment is the man who joined them on the podium in Sepang on Sunday: Sebastian Vettel.


Special from Vettel

It may not have seemed a remarkable achievement. After all, Vettel has finished more than half of all the races he's started on the podium. But there was something special about this one.

Coming just weeks after a dreadful pre-season testing programme, during which the RB10 could scarcely string a dozen laps together without melting, this was a major relief for Red Bull. Yes, they got Daniel Ricciardo's car home in second place in Australia, but he was later excluded for a technical infringement. Vettel's result showed Red Bull may be Mercedes' closest challengers, rather than Ferrari, McLaren or Williams: A remarkable turnaround.

'Closest' is a relative term, however: you do not have to scrutinise the data too closely to realise Mercedes' rivals have an awful lot of work to do to rein in the flying W05s. Hamilton's fastest lap was a full second quicker than any other team could manage. On lap 23 of the race - well before half-distance - he asked his race engineer on the radio whether he could back off any more, to make sure he wasn't overtaxing his engine.

Bahrain has fewer of the long corners the RB10 likes and more of the acceleration zones where the Mercedes PU106A Hybrid power unit can do its thing. Therefore Hamilton is the overwhelming favourite for pole position at 1.60 and victory at 1.85, with Rosberg at 3.00 to win.


Williams to impress in Bahrain again?

One team which has not yet delivered on its pre-season promise is Williams. The FW36s looked very competitive when they tested in Bahrain before the season began, and Felipe Massa set the fastest time of the test. He and teammate Valtteri Bottas are on 5.00 for a podium finish in Bahrain.

If you fancy a longer shot for a podium, consider Nico Hulkenberg. Bafflingly overlooked for a seat by the front-runners, Hulkenberg has returned to Force India, who he drove for in 2012 and led convincingly in Brazil. He placed sixth and fifth in the first two races, and like the Williams drivers has the benefit of Mercedes power under his right foot. A podium finish would be a first for him, but odds of 12.00 look very inviting.

It's too early to say this season is going to be whitewash for Mercedes. They have a healthy advantage at present but the development rate among the teams is going to be quicker than usual and those who had disrupted test programmes - like Red Bull - will gain ground quickly. They expect to put up more of a fight against Mercedes after this weekend, when F1 moves on to the kind of circuits their cars usually thrive on, like Shanghai, Catalunya and Monaco, which place greater demands on downforce.



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