Championship Play-Off Final: Michael Owen’s View
The 2019 Formula 1 season gets underway this weekend with the first of 21 races coming from Melbourne. With time zones taken into account, most of us will find us tuning-in to our televisions from around 4.30am on Sunday.
Naturally there are three practice sessions and a qualifying session to help you make your betting decisions beforehand albeit these can, and do, also provide us with betting opportunities.
As with winter testing, practice sessions can prove misleading. Only six times last season did the fastest driver in the opening session go on to qualify on pole position. Qualifying is a far easier market to predict and for the Australian Grand Prix selecting Lewis Hamilton to start on pole position (the market is actually to ‘qualify fastest’) is not difficult.
Lewis Hamilton claimed 13 of 20 pole positions in the 2017 season and 11 of a potential 21 last year. More importantly he has started from pole-position in this race for each of the last five years.
However Hamilton has only won here once in the past decade and, as was the case 12 months ago, there is every reason to believe the Ferrari is a faster race car at this juncture of the season.
The uninitiated will question how a Ferrari can win the race if it is not fast enough to claim pole position. The answer is simple – there is an enormous difference between a car set-up in qualifying trim and one prepared for a full race distance. Last year Hamilton achieved pole position with a 1min 21.16sec clocking but the fastest race lap time was 1min 25.94sec. That’s a full four seconds difference which is an enormous difference given the top speeds that can be reached in Formula 1 cars.
In short a Ferrari is expected to be faster car over an entire 58-lap race distance and starting with full fuel tanks weighing up to 110 kilos. This was the case in both 2018 and 2017 with Sebastian Vettel winning by the Australian Grand Prix by comprehensive margins.
So who is most likely to win around Melbourne’s Albert Park Circuit? Given he is just 5/2 in the betting many believe Charles Leclerc, having his first race as a Ferrari driver, has an outstanding chance. Personally I think those supporters should check themselves into an asylum.
The Ferrari does start the season with a new and umpteenth team principle but their old policy of one driver and one wingman will surely remain intact. Their strategy of throwing their No. 2 driver under the proverbial bus saw Kimi Raikkonen (the driver Leclerc is replacing) win just one of 100 races for the Italian team.
Felipe Massa, the No.2 beforehand (to Fernando Alonso), went 86 races without recording a race win. So call me old-fashioned, but I cannot consider Charles Lecrlerc at 5/2 for a victory here especially considering this is his Ferrari debut.
With misgivings about Leclerc and this likely to be a straight fight between Mercedes and Ferrari, Valtteri Bottas is a strong fancy for a podium position. The Finn claimed eight podiums from 21 starts in 2017 and was set to win the Baku Grand Prix when a puncture forced him out of the race.
Bottas may lack the raw speed of his teammate, Hamilton, but like his car he is very reliable. Incidentally reliability is always a factor in this race with 5, 7, 6, 7 and 9 cars failing to be ‘classified’ as finishers during the past five years. Do consider this when looking at other BetVictor markets such as ‘points finish’.
Fastest Qualifier: Lewis Hamilton 15/8
Race Winner: Sebastian Vettel 15/8
Podium Finish: Valtteri Bottas 2/1