The next round of the Formula One world championship, the Hungarian Grand Prix, marks the halfway point in the 19-race season.
It’s been a year dominated by a single subject: tyres. In the opening races there were claims this year’s tyres were too aggressive. Then came the row over Mercedes illegally conducting a tyre test in Spain.
At Silverstone a series of tyre failures forced Pirelli to take swift action, rolling out revised rubber for last weekend’s race in Germany. In Hungary, the tyres will be overhauled again, with a new set of compounds being used for the rest of the season.
Vettel on course for title
Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull have a strong chance of extending their championship success for a fourth straight season. Their odds of lifting the crowns once more have been cut to 1.22 and 1.12 respectively.
While they’ve usually been in contention for victory, the identity of their closest rival tends to change from race to race. One weekend it might be Ferrari, the next Mercedes or Lotus.
But it’s easy to lose sight of how quickly things can change. No one can say for sure how the changes to the tyres in Hungary will affect the field.
At present, Fernando Alonso is only 34 points behind Vettel with 250 still available. The two-time world champion is rated by many as the best driver in F1 today. Backing the Spaniard offers good odds on a title win at 7.00.
Sunday’s race also demonstrated why Kimi Raikkonen shouldn’t be ruled out of the title battle. He is seven points behind Alonso, and his Lotus has consistently been excellent in hotter conditions. With races in Hungary, Singapore, Abu Dhabi and other venues which often see hot temperatures coming up, circumstances could swing in his favour. And 12.0 is a great price to back to 2007 champion at.
Tough times for Hamilton and Button
Things haven’t gone so well for Britain’s two past champions. Finishing on the podium seems a distant dream for Jenson Button as he toils away in McLaren’s uncompetitive MP4-28.
Lewis Hamilton, meanwhile, has enjoyed three pole positions since switching to Mercedes but is yet to register a win for his new team. He suffered the heartbreak of dropping out of the lead when one of his tyres blew at Silverstone.
But the competitiveness of Mercedes, and the expectation that they are well-prepared for next year’s engine regulations change, means it is certainly worth considering backing Hamilton at 1.45 to win his next drivers’ title before Button does.
One of the stars of last weekend was undoubtedly Romain Grosjean. The Lotus driver was in a strong position to beat Vettel to victory when the Safety Car wrecked his strategic advantage. Although he’s likely to be ordered to let his championship-contending team mate past if the opportunity arises (as happened in the last two races), he’s still worth a look at odds of 3.50 to score his first win this year.
His odds on doing so in Hungary – a typically hot race where he was in great form last year – are an appealing 18.00.
Felipe Massa (pictured above) ended last year strongly and carried that form into the beginning of this season. But it’s gone sour again: the Ferrari driver has crashed or spun at least once in each of the last four race weekends. Sunday’s race exit was the worst: Massa simply slithered off the track and came to a stop after just three laps.
So it’s probably not worth considering putting money on him to win a race this year, despite odds of 4.50. It could prove a wiser move to take up the odds of 2.20 on him not starting a race for Ferrari next year.
Keith Collantine is the editor of Formula One blog F1 Fanatic