Venue: Shanghai International Circuit
It has been a frustrating start to the 2018 Formula One season for Lewis Hamilton and punters backing the defending champion, so he is under pressure to make amends in Shanghai this weekend.
After Hamilton stormed to pole position by more than half a second in the opening race in Australia, it looked as though the sport was set for another year of domination by the British driver and his Mercedes team.
Yet the world champions remain winless from the opening two rubbers heading into Sunday’s race, although Hamilton is still the odds-on favourite in the Chinese Grand Prix odds.
How the Bahrain Grand Prix finished:
1 Vettel (Ferrari), 2 Bottas (Mercedes), 3 Hamilton (Mercedes), 4 Gasly (Toro Rosso), 5 Magnussen (Haas), 6 Hulkenberg (Renault), 7 Alonso (McLaren), 8 Vandoorne (McLaren), 9 Ericsson (Sauber), 10 Ocon (Force India), 11 Sainz (Renault), 12 Leclerc (Sauber), 13 Grosjean (Haas), 14 Stroll (Williams), 15 Sirotkin (Williams), 16 Perez (Force India), 17 Hartley (Toro Rosso), DNF Raikkonen (Ferrari), Verstappen (Red Bull), Ricciardo (Red Bull) .
The Mercedes cars were never on the pace in Bahrain. Recent history suggests hotter temperatures suit the Ferrari, but their advantage over Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas appeared greater in Bahrain than last year.
There will be some head-scratching at Mercedes as to how their dominance in Melbourne – and indeed the two winter tests – seemingly evaporated in the space of a fortnight. But kudos to Ferrari; it looks as though we may have a title battle on our hands.
Hamilton, who will head into Sunday’s race 17 points adrift of Sebastian Vettel, ended both of Friday’s practice sessions at the top of the order.
His slim advantage over Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen at an overcast Shanghai International Circuit, though, suggests the Mercedes driver may not have it all his own way this weekend.
While defending champion Hamilton was a third of a second clear of Raikkonen in the day’s opening running, the margin at the conclusion of the second session stood at only seven-thousandths.
Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, under pressure following a middling display in Bahrain a week ago, was third, just 0.033 sec off the pace, while Vettel was also only one-tenth down.
That suggests Ferrari can continue their impressive start to the 2018 season and Raikkonen looks the value pick in the Chinese Grand Prix betting at 11/1, or either Ferrari driver to win can be backed at 2/1.
Grid position in China is important, with seven of the last 10 races here won by the driver in pole position. That also leads us to go for under 2.5 race leaders at odds of 18/25 as one of our Chinese Grand Prix predictions.
Past Chinese Grand Prix results
2017 Hamilton (Mercedes)
2016 Rosberg (Mercedes)
2015 Hamilton (Mercedes)
2014 Hamilton (Mercedes)
2013 Alonso (Ferrari)
2012 Rosberg (Mercedes)
2011 Hamilton (McLaren-Mercedes)
2010 Button (McLaren-Mercedes)
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