Rosberg to bounce back
Nico Rosberg can wrest the championship lead back from Lewis Hamilton in this weekend's Monaco GP, says our tipster Tom Millard.
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After another crushing one-two finish in Spain two Sundays ago, what are the chances of Mercedes being challenged in Monaco this weekend?
On paper the prospects for their rivals don't look promising - the third-placed Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo finished nearly 50 seconds behind the duelling Silver Arrows at the Barcelona track.
The leading pair lapped all but four other cars on their way to a fourth consecutive lockout of the top two steps of the podium.
"They should be in a position to win all the races," said Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso after qualifying in Barcelona, and presumably the Spaniard saw nothing the following day to revise his opinion.
Lewis Hamilton's victory, by just 0.636 seconds from Nico Rosberg, was his fourth in a row and edges him ahead of his team-mate into the lead of the drivers' standings, the 2008 champion finally overcoming the deficit he has endured since the engine failure which put him out of the season-opener in Australia.
Parallels have been drawn between this rivalry and intra-McLaren duel between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, who won 15 of the 16 races between them in the 1988 campaign.
The gap between the Mercs and their challengers has been relatively steady throughout the opening five races, so despite a leap forward in performance from Red Bull in particular, the Brackley-based team have so far been able to match the development pace of the quadruple world champions and exceed that of the other teams.
Currently the lap-time deficit of the RB10 looks to be around a second, and with only two weeks since the last race, it has to be a long shot that the Mercedes winning streak will be brought to an end on the sinuous streets of the Principality.
Nevertheless, there does appear to be some value ahead of the weekend, both within and without the dominant German team.
Firstly, Hamilton looks too short in both the pole position and race winner markets at 8/13 and 8/11 respectively.
Despite his win in Spain he was never fully comfortable with the car, conceding that Rosberg was quicker on race day, taking less out of his tyres and enjoying a better balance.
Rosberg was consistently quicker throughout the weekend in sector three, a technical, twisty section of track that is traditionally seen as a good benchmark for how cars will perform in Monaco.
And last year in Monte Carlo the German was mighty, eclipsing an erratic Hamilton to win comfortably from pole position.
Hamilton finished down in fourth after misjudging the safety car delta and allowing both Red Bulls past.
Such an error is unlikely to happen again but the inevitable safety car deployments can cause havoc with pit strategies and lead to teams having to "stack" their second driver as the crews tend to each car in turn.
The drivers, strategists and pit crews are guaranteed to have curve balls thrown at them during the 78 laps of the race, and it nearly always pays to be the driver ahead on the road and able to have first refusal on a strategy call.
This is all conjecture at this stage but this weekend might just be Rosberg's turn to be in the pound seat at Hamilton's expense, so it might be worth seeking out bets that take the odds-on favourite out of the equation.
As well as a bet on Rosberg to take pole position at 2/1, consider a couple of dual-forecast bets involving him and the Red Bulls at inflated prices.
Hamilton is involved in the four most likely one-twos in Ladbrokes' list, meaning the book opens up for those combinations in which the championship leader does not feature.
It's 18/1 for a Rosberg/Vettel dual forecast, and 22/1 for Rosberg/Ricciardo - split a point between the two.
It's never a good idea to rely on weather forecasts five days in advance but most projections suggest rain is likely at least some point over the weekend, creating further headaches for all involved, and the possibility of some accidents and well-shuffled field.
With that in mind, it's frustrating to see the bookies tighten Romain Grosjean's price in all markets without being made to pay for underestimating the Frenchman last time out.
Grosjean, having qualified a sublime fifth, would have finished sixth if not for a partial failure of his energy-recovery system which allowed both Ferraris to vault his Lotus.
He's in from 25/1 in Spain to 5/2 for a top-six finish here, a price it's difficult to get excited about even though we suspect the black-and-gold car could once again be the third- or fourth quickest car in the field this weekend.
Grosjean is 33/1 for a podium finish which wouldn't be easy to make a case for on other tracks, but in keeping with our Monaco tradition of backing big prices in the hope of an unusual result, might be worth a small stake given that he is clearly wringing every ounce from the car at present.
On the 'plucky outsiders' theme, also try a small stake on a couple of tail-enders scoring an unlikely points finish.
Adrian Sutil hasn't had much luck at Sauber this year but the car is slowly improving and the German has a decent record at the track.
He finished fifth last year from eighth on the grid, his third successive points finish at this venue. while arguably his most famous race came in the Principality six years ago when his Force India was agonisingly knocked out of podium contention by Kimi Raikkonen's out-of-control Ferrari.
The current Sauber is slow and overweight but that's why he's as long as 10/1 to finish in the points - he'll need a high attrition rate to score but with the weather forecast he might just get it.
Also back Jules Bianchi to take a shock top-10 slot in the improving Marussia.
As with Sutil, this bet is speculating on around half the field not reaching the chequered flag, but the 50/1 odds chalked up by BetVictor make it worth the gamble.
Put simply, it's difficult to imagine that Bianchi, the 19th-fastest driver in the field, wouldn't finish in the top 10 more than once if this race was run 51 times in all kinds of conditions.
And a double points-finish for Sauber and Marussia are each 66/1 and 500/1, so have a look down the back of the sofa for some loose change.
- The first two practice sessions will take place on Thursday at 0900 and 1300; Saturday practice is scheduled for 1000. Qualifying is at 1300 on Saturday with Sunday's race also due off at 1300 (all times BST).