Sebastian Vettel kept the title race alive with a heroic drive at the Malaysian Grand Prix last weekend. With Lewis Hamilton on pole and the German at the back of the grid, the four-time world champion had to produce one of the drives of the season to avoid Hamilton extending his lead at the top of the drivers’ championship further.
The Ferraris have often had better pace than Hamilton’s Mercedes this season, but the Brit’s sheer driving skill and competitive edge have led him to a 34 point lead. That is well, of course, well within reach for Vettel. After Hamilton won three in a row, though, the German needs to return to the top of the podium quickly.
Vettel has not won a race since the Hungarian Grand Prix at the end of July. He is 8/5 to secure his fifth Formula One win of the season in Japan, which is a decent price given his race pace last weekend. This Formula One season needs a Vettel victory here, and there’s a good chance of our wish being granted.
Hamilton and Vettel could give us a fantastic ending to the season. The rivalry has grown during a heated campaign, and – with five races remaining – it could go down to the final weekend. The primary concern, however, is that reliability starves us of the wheel-to-wheel racing that brings out the best in this sport.
With his lead now relatively comfortable, though, Hamilton will be happy enough to take a podium finish even if Vettel wins; he is at 1/4 to finish in the top three yet again.
One bet that may well be worth checking out is a double on Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo to make the podium. Fresh from his first victory last weekend, Verstappen is undoubtedly one of the most talented drivers in a generation and Ricciardo has quietly enjoyed a strong season despite being off the pace of the Mercedes and Ferraris. That double is available at 2/1.
Getting between the two title challengers to both make the top three will be tough, but Verstappen’s 5/1 price to take pole shows it might be a simple case of holding his position. The 20-year-old is at 4/1 to win back-to-back Grand Prix events.
As has been the case for the last few races, there is little value in backing Hamilton. At 6/4 the Mercedes man is not worth the cash, even with his recent form. Vettel is in a similar boat, but his 8/5 is far more reasonable, and is the pick for a Formula One optimist who hopes to see the season going right down to Abu Dhabi. And, for those who fancy the German this weekend, his 5/1 to win the title has to be worth a look.
The standout as of Thursday is Red Bull to win the race at 11/4. Their pair of drivers have the best chance of upsetting the championship contesting duo, and have shown on countless occasions that they will, and can, compete in the tensest moments. Verstappen would be my choice, but the 11/4 for either of the Red Bull pairing to win is a good way to straddle an energy-drink-sponsored fence.