Hamilton to take the fight to Vettel
Tom Millard previews the Singapore Grand Prix and fancies track specialist Lewis Hamilton to bounce back.
- Related Content
The recent dip in form of Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes team has made the former world champion backable this weekend in Singapore.
Hamilton was caustic in his assessment of his own performance in qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, claiming he drove "like an idiot" in Q2.
But he might still have made the podium if not for a bizarre slow puncture sustained on the opening lap of the race, an occurrence which put him on the back foot and forced him into an unconventional two-stop pit strategy.
From there he was forced to pass half the field, twice, on his way to a thankless ninth position, but look beyond the superficial race chart and it is clear he had the second fastest car in the race, behind winner Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull.
Just as in the previous race in Belgium, Mercedes once again failed to hit the sweet spot in low-drag aero trim at Monza, their impressive top speed not enough to overcome their disadvantage in the corners.
But the underlying pace Hamilton was able to show as he scythed through the field suggests that his Merc might once again be a match for the runaway championship leader on kinder territory.
Let's not forget that the Englishman beat Vettel to pole position across four consecutive weekends before that Monza outlier, and let's also not disregard the former world champion's unparalleled aptitude for street circuits.
He won easily here for McLaren from pole position in 2009 and was set for a repeat last year when gearbox trouble robbed him of a near-certain victory.
In between, collisions with Mark Webber and Felipe Massa damaged potential podium bids but alongside Monaco, Hungary and Abu Dhabi, this ranks as a specialist track on which Hamilton thrives.
He's a best price 13/8 with Sky Bet to take his sixth pole position of the season (and his fifth in six races), which looks slightly too long given the qualifying form he showed at the Nurburgring and the Hungaroring in high summer, although upwards of 7/4 is being offered on the exchanges at the time of writing.
In fact given his heroics in Budapest, where he defied a double-figure SP to take the win from pole, the best bet could be bet365's 6/1 on Hamilton winning from pole position.
Factoring in the above qualifying price of 13/8, this bet has Hamilton down as a rough 17/10 shot to win in the event that he heads the grid, a price at which we'd fancy his chances.
It's not easy to see past the top two in the betting this weekend, meaning there could be some mileage in the Vettel/Hamilton dual forecast at Ladbrokes' 10/3.
Fernando Alonso is rated the most likely to separate the pair but Ferrari may find it difficult to repeat their promising form from Spa and Monza with a higher downforce configuration.
The Spaniard trailed home fifth at the race before the summer break in Hungary, and while the Marina Bay circuit is not quite as tortuously twisty as the Hungaroring, Alonso may find it tough to get into his stride if he doesn't deliver on Saturday.
He has been outqualified twice in the last four races by his Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa, who insists he is now driving for himself after finding himself surplus to requirements at the Scuderia next season.
Alonso will probably find a way to squeeze onto the podium once again, but if he doesn't, Nico Rosberg might be the man who pips him.
Rosberg has fallen under the radar since his wins in Monaco and Britain but his results bely a series of misfortunes which fail to reflect his continued pace and consistency.
His qualifying session at Monza, for example, was affected by a lack of running from a problem in Saturday morning practice, which had further knock-on effects into the race, leaving him a frustrated seventh in a car capable of a podium finish.
We'd always give the nod to Hamilton in the other Mercedes ahead of Rosberg on this circuit, but the German's chances are better than a top price of 16/1.
Rosberg also has decent course form here, qualifying third in a Williams in 2009 and being in contention for victory until straying over a white line upon exiting the pits.
And he took fifth from 10th on the grid in an increasingly uncompetitive Mercedes last year, suggesting he should be able to fight at the sharp end if he delivers in qualifying.
BetVictor's each-way terms ally their 14/1 win odds to a 7/2 podium price, which is more than a full point better than the best stand-alone odds for a top-three finish.
Rosberg certainly has the machinery to qualify ahead of Alonso - the trick will be keeping him at bay over a race distance, but at the price it's worth taking the chance.