Wednesday 25 April 2018

Azerbaijan GP Betting Preview - That perilous stuff

Betting on F1 in 2018 is a perilous business. A towel can be thrown over the 'big three' teams Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull. Adding to the confusion the Pirelli tyres are knife edge - this has manifested most noticeably with Mercedes dropping off the pace in Bahrain and China qualifying, but Merc insists others have had rubber related variation too such as Ferrari being off it in Melbourne.

Potentially madcap Baku presents problems,
and opportunities, for the gambler
Photo: Pirelli  Media
Adding further to the confusion the claustrophobic Baku street race for this weekend's Azerbaijan Grand Prix is one that could more generally go either way. On the basis of its inaugural race two years ago it could be a soporific demonstration run. On the basis of last year's it could be raucous with incidents, safety cars and jumbles of the order aplenty. Demonstrating as much Daniel Ricciardo won it having been 17th after an early unscheduled stop while the unlikely Lance Stroll finished on the podium.

If it remains quiet then this weekend seems a good time for Mercedes to bounce back from its woes. It dominated in Baku last year on the stopwatch particularly in Lewis Hamilton's hands - he took pole by half a second and was over a second clear of the nearest non-Merc. Dodging acrobatically between walls is just his thing.

Bookies still seem to like him and Merc but with the recent failures their odds to prevail are a bit longer than usual and may be worth your wager - 5/4 for a Lewis pole and 13/10 for a Lewis win.

If you fancy backing Valtteri Bottas to continue his recent habit of being the lead Mercedes then you can get a whole 10/1 on him to win. Plenty reckon he's the better at getting the most out of a Merc when it's under-performing.

Then again if it all kicks off Red Bull could be the team to watch. Its drivers have admitted that the track doesn't quite suit its car (presumably with its 2.1km straight in mind) but a madcap race presents opportunities.

Is Baku the place for a Mercedes bounceback?
Photo: Pirelli Media
Both Bull drivers are known for their bravery and opportunism and in China the team showed it's likely to be the sharpest with on-the-hoof strategy calls. Plus in similar madcap circumstances last year the car was about the best at heating its tyres up quickly after safety car periods.

Ricciardo can be backed at 9/1 to win and 7/4 to get on the podium.

You might be advised to keep your money away from Max Verstappen though, as he's had a scrappy start to the year and at this track mistakes likely will be published by an immediate visit to the scene of the accident. He's had more than one Monaco visit indeed wherein he's squeezed in several prangs. If you fancy a cheeky/slightly cruel punt then you get 18/1 on Max being the first retirement on Sunday, and 10/3 on him not to finish.

Ferrari has been the most consistent of the 'big three' in 2018 and therefore is the safest bet - yet bookies still seem a little unmoved by Sebastian Vettel's recent results. You can get 5/2 on him to win this weekend and 9/5 to get the pole.

But what of Seb's team-mate Kimi Raikkonen who looks on form this year, close to and even sometimes ahead of Seb's pace? He's had two near misses of pole in the last two - perhaps an engine de-rate cost him it in China - yet you can get a whole 11/1 on him to get pole this time. He also qualified ahead of Seb here last year. The 21/10 available for him to finish on the podium looks pretty good too.

Last year's result was a surprise - Daniel Ricciardo
won and Lance Stroll got on the podium
Photo: Pirelli Media
Sergio Perez has claim to being a Baku specialist - he set second quickest qualifying time here in 2016 and then finished third despite a grid penalty. Last year he might have won but was wiped out against a wall by his team-mate. And while Force India has had a tricky start to this year it showed signs of a pulse in China as Perez started eighth. And the odds on him to get a good result this weekend look generous - 8/1 to finish in the top six or even 15/8 for him to score.

Given what we said about the possibility of a crazy race it may be worth going for long shots to get into the points. Last year moreover Sauber finished in the top 10 thanks in part to being able to change tyres under the safety car as, given its cars were at the back, they weren't going to lose places. And the odds for similar to happen are tempting - you can back either Sauber driver at a fat 12/1 to score. It's not even that unlikely in a general sense, Marcus Ericsson finished ninth in Bahrain after all.

All odds quoted in this article were accurate on the Oddschecker website at 1930 BST on Wednesday 25 April 2018.


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