Wednesday, 20 June 2018

French GP Betting Preview - French fancy

As F1 betting calls go, they hardly get tougher than for the returning French Grand Prix this weekend. Partly as it's a Paul Ricard venue that F1 hasn't visited since 1990 (and was very different then in any case) so there is no local form to go on. Also it's been resurfaced for its return so any learning from recent testing there has an asterisk against it too. Plus recent rounds tell us that there is very little to choose between 'big three' of Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull - and that outcomes can be decided in the margins that are hard to predict in advance. A mistake here, an inspired qualifying lap there...

Montreal confirmed that Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari
lead the way in 2018
Photo: Octane Photography
Sebastian Vettel's pole and win last time out at Montreal reminded us that he and the Ferrari have been 2018's most potent combination - something indeed borne out by fastest lap averages from the season so far (even if it hasn't always been borne out by results). And the Paul Ricard track doesn't look all that far removed from Montreal's - lengthy straights separated mainly by technical turns and switch-backs.

Despite this old habits die hard for the bookies as Lewis Hamilton remains their favourite to win this time at 13/8. But given everything the better value is with Vettel, at 9/5 for the win and 7/5 for the pole (Hamilton's odds for pole are 6/4).

Mercedes as we know had a tough time in Canada which came as quite the shock to all concerned. Hamilton's team-mate Valtteri Bottas indeed has on this basis declared it a "fact" that Mercedes is not the favourite this weekend.

Yet it has some reasons for greater optimism in France. Its engine upgrade - scratched in Montreal - is due to be run, the hypersoft tyre - which has given it bother in '18 - won't be available and Merc also hasn't gone out on a limb with its compound selections like it did last time out. Pirelli also brings the thinner tread tyres which apparently were to Mercedes's advantage when used in Spain. Plus the south of France in late June will be hot which also usually helps Merc.

And as ever Bottas's odds look generous - he's available at 8/1 for pole, 7/1 to win and even is odds against to finish on the podium at 5/4. While if you think the Merc still won't be quite on point this weekend then conversely that may boost Bottas's claim, as he tends to go better than his team-mate in such circumstances.

Will Max Verstappen be drinking more champagne in France?
Photo: Octane Photography
Red Bull as in Canada may be kept away from the very front by being a little breathless on the end of Paul Ricard's straights, particularly in qualifying (and overtaking doesn't look particularly presentable at this circuit plus as we saw in Canada it's tough at the best of times), so the best call is for one of them to sneak onto the podium. You can back Max Verstappen to do this at 8/5 and Daniel Ricciardo at 9/4.

Montreal indicated that 'best of the rest' will be a close fight between the Renaults and Force Indias. A top six finish for any of them will rely on one of the top six perennials hitting problems, but on that premise you can take your pick from Nico Hulkenberg at 9/4, Carlos Sainz at 23/10 and Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon both at 3/1. Either Force India pilot can also be backed for the top 10 at a still decent 7/10.

Another old bookie habit dying hard is that Fernando Alonso's odds for the top six and top 10 are in this range too, but Montreal by McLaren's admission showed up the car's low speed grip problems which required more wing which in turn impeded it on the straights - and this will be a bugbear at Paul Ricard too. Plus Alonso's had technical retirements in the last two races, so perhaps it's best to keep your money away from him.

But what of Alonso's former bete noire Honda? Its upgrade debuted in Montreal was good and only circumstances stopped either Toro Rosso making good on it in results. Pierre Gasly's odds to score in France look tempting at 5/2. His team-mate Brendon Hartley's odds to do the same are even longer at 11/2.

All odds quoted in this article were accurate on the Oddschecker website at 1600 BST on Wednesday 20 June 2018.

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