Massa the value; Red Bull for pole

  • Last Updated: March 20 2013, 17:22 GMT

Our F1 expert Tom Millard fancies Ferrari's Felipe Massa to snatch a podium finish at 4/1 in this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix.

Felipe Massa: A decent bet to finish on the podium at 4/1
Felipe Massa: A decent bet to finish on the podium at 4/1

"It was one of the easiest races to win," said Kimi Raikkonen after taking victory in the Australian Grand Prix. "Hopefully we can have more races like this."

You will, Kimi. But will Malaysia this weekend be one of them?

The conundrum for F1 punters is the same one which faces the teams: how will the tyre conservation/raw speed trade-off play out for each car at each circuit?

While dependent upon a good start and an early dispatching of the Mercedes drivers, Raikkonen was right about his ease of victory - he'd have won that race eight out of 10 times even from seventh on the grid.

What we don't know going forward (and neither do the engineers and technicians) is whether the Lotus' advantage, gained through gentle use of its tyres, has set a pattern for the season.

Has James Allison at Enstone outsmarted Adrian Newey at Milton Keynes and found the 'silver bullet' which renders Red Bull's sizeable qualifying advantage all-but redundant?

The Malaysian Grand Prix should provide the answer.

In fact, the Sepang circuit, near Kuala Lumpur airport, could not be more different from Albert Park.

It has a rough, abrasive surface with plenty of long, fast corners which exert strong lateral loads on the tyres, resulting in wear from thermal degradation rather than the "graining" the teams endured last weekend.

Tyres wear out quickly, but more linearly than we saw in Melbourne, where the super-soft rubber in particular was too soft for the track conditions.

Here we retain the medium compound, which will become the qualifying tyre as the super-soft makes way for the more durable hard compound.

Last year's race was held on a drying track so relevant data is at a premium but in the closing stages Raikkonen was clearly the fastest man on the circuit, setting the three fastest laps in the race on his way to fifth.

And the 2011 race, the last time the event was run in totally dry conditions, saw Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber pit four times, with most of the field electing for three stops.

It suggests that if Raikkonen's car can deal with the very different temperatures and track surface as comfortably as it did last weekend, another win from the third or fourth row is not out of the question.

We say the third or fourth row due to what looks like the inevitablility of another Red Bull pole position.

Sebastian Vettel was 0.420 seconds faster than team-mate Webber and 0.680 seconds faster than Lewis Hamilton in the leading Mercedes in third last weekend.

Pirelli have talked about the possibility of pulling a 'golden lap' from their rubber and the downforce-laden Red Bull seems to be the only car capable of maximising fully the ultimate grip that they offer.

This performance over one lap may or may not be related to their travails in the race at Melbourne but regardless, the RB9 should be capable of locking out the front row again at Sepang.

Vettel is a good price at 11/8 to repeat his pole position from last weekend but Webber has historically been quick around these long, sweeping turns.

The 10/11 that a Red Bull heads the grid is a fair bet.

The weather is always likely to throw a spanner in the works in Malaysia at this time of year but only light rain is currently forecast across the weekend, which could have little affect on the racing given the steaming heat and humidity in tropical Asia.

This means that a straightforward race might be in prospect, which could give Felipe Massa a chance to remind us who he is again.

Massa has now outqualified his Ferrari team-mate Alonso in each of the last three races and showed no signs of giving way when duelling with the Spaniard in the early stages on Sunday.

It bodes well for Massa's immediate prospects as his confidence has certainly returned now he has the full support of the team and a car underneath him capable of victories.

The Brazilian is 25/1 to win the race which looks a bit of a stretch, but the 4/1 on him finishing on the podium looks a good shout.

  • Friday's practice sessions start at 0200 and 0600 GMT; Saturday's FP3 is scheduled for 0500, with qualifying at 0800 GMT. The race starts at 0800 GMT on Sunday.

  • Preview posted at 1720 GMT on 20/03/2013.