GP Betting: Brits worth backing in China
Hamilton, starting seventh after his penalty, should also be looked at for victory in China.
Nico Rosberg will start at the front of the China GP grid but there are good reasons to think he's unlikely to still be there come the chequered flag, which James Frankland thinks might be just he chance for the McLaren boys to secure a race win.
Nico Rosberg starts the Chinese Grand Prix from pole position after blitzing the field in his Mercedes, lapping over half a second quicker than the next fastest man, McLaren's Lewis Hamilton. The Briton may not immediately be in a position to mount an attack on the young German though, having incurred a five place grid penalty which will see him start tomorrow's race from seventh. Hamilton's demotion elevates Rosberg's Mercedes stablemate Michael Schumacher to second place, making it an all-silver front row in China.
Mercedes are on the up, there's no doubt about it, but I'm sceptical as to whether their improved qualifying pace can be translated into Mercedes' first Grand Prix win since Juan Manuel Fangio triumphed at the Italian Grand Prix way back in 1955.
There are two reasons for my pessimism. Mercedes' one-lap pace lies in their clever interpretation of the DRS regulations, which gives their car a boost of around 5km/h over their rivals. At a circuit like Shanghai, where DRS can be used for around 65% of the lap in qualifying, that adds up to a significant advantage. In the race, DRS can only be used in one tightly restricted zone on the track, so that advantage is gone, added to which are Mercedes' well-documented problems with tyre management during the race, which has seen them deliver only one point from the first two races this year.
So if we're to discount Mercedes from winning the race, who is in position to pass them on race day?
Lining up third is Kamui Kobayashi in the Sauber, another of the surprise performers from qualifying. We saw by the performance of his teammate Sergio Perez in Malaysia that the Sauber is a good car and kind to its tyres, though in dry conditions I think it's a stretch to consider the Swiss team for a win or a podium. Much more likely is a top-six placing for the Japanese driver. Kimi Raikkonen starts in fourth place, the Lotus performing well in China with the team saying beforehand that they felt a good grid position was possible and Raikkonen's [3.2] for a podium finish is well worth considering.
A low-key qualifying for Jenson Button sees the McLaren driver line up fifth, alongside Mark Webber in the Red Bull. Although both drivers were around a second off the pace of Rosberg's Mercedes, both could come good tomorrow with slightly warmer temperatures expected to allow them to get their tyres working. Button is way out at [6.0] for the race win which I think is excellent value given McLaren have the fastest car and Jenson has the Sauber-esque ability to keep his tyres together during the race.
Webber's availability at [20.0] for the win reflects the fact that Red Bull no longer rule the F1 roost, but a top six finish at [1.52] is sensible or go for [4.6] for Mark to finish on the podium if you fancy he can repeat his performance from 2011, where he started 18th and finished third.
Hamilton, starting seventh after his penalty, should also be looked at for victory in China. He won in brilliant style last year, taking the fight to Sebastian Vettel in a car which was yet to match the Red Bull on sheer pace, and will relish the opportunity to fight his way forward against cars which really ought to be behind him. At [6.0] for the win, there's value in backing him to do it all over again.
World Champion Sebastian Vettel will need to dig deep in order to salvage something from the Chinese Grand Prix weekend. Having claimed pole position here every year since 2009, Vettel failed to make it to the final qualifying session and starts in 11th place tomorrow. I think he'll score decent points in the race, but unless the Red Bull's performance takes a dramatic upturn tomorrow, I think he can be discounted from getting another podium finish at [5.6].