Follow the form with Vettel

  • By: Tom Millard
  • Last Updated: October 12 2012, 10:48 BST

Our Formula One betting expert Tom Millard picks out his best bets for this weekend's Korean Grand Prix.

Sebastian Vettel: Dominated in Japan

Fernando Alonso still leads the F1 world drivers' championship by four points, but the signs certainly look ominous for the Spaniard.

Sebastian Vettel didn't just win the Japanese Grand Prix, he obliterated his rivals, setting a fastest lap which suggested his pace advantage was upwards of a second per lap around the Suzuka track.

We've read this script once already this season, when the reigning champion dominated the European Grand Prix at Valencia before he was forced out of the race, an advantage which proved puzzlingly ephemeral.

But the upgrades introduced by Red Bull in Singapore and Japan - principally new front and rear wings, the latter incorporating a 'double DRS' device to shed drag when the overtaking aid is activated - look to have provided Vettel with the cliched 'silver bullet' which engineers so enjoy denying they have discovered.

The German's effort which lit up the timing screens on the penultimate lap of Sunday's race turned out to be 0.832 seconds quicker than anyone else would post and served as notice to what the car was capable of.

And at the other end of the scale, Mark Webber's charge through the field on an effective one-stop strategy after a first-lap collision proved the RB8 is also able to nurse its tyres while maintaining that searing pace.

So, should Ferrari, Lotus and McLaren simply wave the white flag and concede defeat to the Anglo-Austrian manufacturer?

There is always a chance that much of Red Bull's advantage at Suzuka could be circuit-specific - their cars have always been strong in long, high-speed corners and they could have hit a sweet-spot in the same way they did in Valencia, and indeed McLaren did with Jenson Button at Spa-Francorchamps.

For their part, McLaren's anonymous weekend could not have come at a worse time following Lewis Hamilton's gearbox failure in Singapore but it shouldn't be forgotten that he had the measure of Vettel in both qualifying and race-trim that weekend, despite the RB8 apparently being equipped with their enhanced drag-reduction device at the time.

The gap between the two is unlikely to be quite as yawning in Korea this weekend, while Ferrari too will be confident that Felipe Massa's Japanese runner-up trophy would have been on the other side of the garage had Alonso not been eliminated in a first-corner shunt.

Massa finished only 20 seconds behind an (admittedly cruising) Vettel, implying that by extrapolation Alonso would at least have kept the winner honest.

But on the other side of the coin, Red Bull's half-second advantage in Q3 could have been greater if Vettel and Webber had been able to complete their final flying laps, so at the very least we should expect them to retain their cushion in qualifying trim.

The pair will be most concerned about Hamilton, the Brit proving an also-ran in Japan after going down a set-up cul de sac, but taking the previous two pole positions prior to that.

It has not been revealed what went wrong for Vettel in Q3 in the previous race in Singapore but subsequent evidence suggests his pace drop-off was an anomaly, perhaps even related to a failure of the trick DRS system which debuted on the car that weekend.

An on-form Hamilton could well give the German a run in qualifying, but at odds-against Vettel has to be the pick at 5/4 to take consecutive pole positions with Webber also worth a bet at 7/4 for another front-row start.

A repeat of the grid lock-out in Japan would probably see Vettel go off around the 8/15 mark for the race, so the 7/4 on the current champion to take his fourth win of the season looks fair, but if he doesn't manage to snare pole then all bets are off.

In a similar scenario to last season the newly-modified Red Bull is likely to be optimised for qualifying pace ahead of raceability - the team are relying on their drivers to take advantage of their single-lap advantage and park it on the front row.

We saw in Belgium and Singapore how its lack of ultimate top-end speed compromised its ability to overtake so Vettel and Webber may have to make the most of the free rein they have to use their DRS device on Saturday.

Even if McLaren and Ferrari edge closer to them on the Yeongam circuit, expect Vettel at least to maintain a cushion in Q3.

Finally, take the 3/1 offered by Paddy Power and bwin that both Force India cars finish in the points.

On the surface, a strike rate of four double-points finishes from 15 races suggests that the odds of this copping are about right.

But various bouts of bad luck have disguised that the Silverstone-based team have developed their car into a genuine midfield challenger over the summer.

We expect the white, orange and green machines to have the edge on both the Mercedes and the Sauber this weekend and be in the thick of the battle for the lower reaches of the points.

Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg are two of the quickest and most reliable drivers on the grid and they can once again keep their heads when all around them are losing theirs.

  • As in Japan, Friday's practice sessions are scheduled for 0200 and 0600; Saturday's is at 0300 with qualifying at 0600. Sunday's race starts at 0700. (All times BST).

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