The Formula One season heads to China this weekend for the third race of the campaign. The Bahrain Grand Prix last weekend was a thriller, with Sebastian Vettel victorious for the second time in as many races despite a late push from Valtteri Bottas.
Vettel has a perfect 50 points and a 17-point lead over title rival, Lewis Hamilton. The Brit was at his attacking best to snatch a podium finish after starting ninth on the grid. Hamilton will fancy his chances of a return to form in Shanghai, though, where he was won on five occasions including in 2017.
Hamilton’s Mercedes should benefit from the long straights at Shanghai. The power of the Mercedes should see some of the highest speeds of the weekend. As is now expected, Hamilton is favourite to take pole at 4/6.
I think there’s pretty solid value in that this week given his dominance at this circuit, even after qualification disappointment last weekend.
Pirelli have picked the medium, soft and ultrasoft compounds. Hamilton and Bottas opted for a couple fewer sets of ultras than their rival Ferraris, however, which could see the Mercedes drivers look for length from their tyres during the race.
Leaving out the supersoft compound is a bit of a surprise. There’s significant variation in tyre selection across the grid, though, with teams beginning to get a sense of what works best for their setup.
Hamilton and Bottas have done well on harder compounds so far this year, which should stand them in good stead for this race. Hamilton is 19/20 to win the race, while I like the 3/5 price on Bottas to make the podium.
The story of Bahrain was the Toro Rossos. Pierre Gasly finished fourth, sending his team into a wave of post-race celebration. Perhaps a giant leap forward for the middle of the field team, or a one-off surge up the standings. Depending on your viewpoint, the 66/1 on Gasly to make the podium could be a decent longshot bet.
Any drivers from the midfield could be in with a chance at Shanghai. The tightening, chaotic turns one and two lend themselves to carnage on the first lap. A decent qualification on Saturday can quickly become an elevated race position with a smart – or fortuitous – piece of driving.
In stark contrast to the Toro Rosso joy, the Red Bulls had a disaster last weekend. Max Verstappen has endured a torrid start to the year but sits at 5/4 to make the podium in China. I think that’s on the short side given their struggles. Daniel Ricciardo’s 6/4 is a little better, though I prefer Kimi Raikonnen at that price.
The Formula One season has started brilliantly. Shanghai has the potential to follow in a similar manner. Its winding corners and DRS zones make for a challenging afternoon as a driver but has the potential for overtaking and driver error.
I am backing Hamilton to make it a sixth career win in China this weekend. Vettel will be happy to limit the damage.
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*