Grand Prix Betting: Button can still win
Red Bull have yet to prove that their car has the race pace to match McLaren.
Vettel might start the Bahrain GP in pole position, but James Frankland thinks beating the likes of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton over one lap is a different thing to doing it over an entire race.
After three races without much to shout about, Red Bull struck back in the searing Sakhir sunshine to secure pole position for Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix, courtesy of a 1m 32.422s lap by World Champion Sebastian Vettel. In a demonstration of just how close Formula One in 2012 has become, the next five grid places were covered by less than half a second, with Lewis Hamilton sharing the front row with Vettel.
Next up in similar formation are Vettel's Red Bull teammate Mark Webber, emphasising the Milton Keynes team's upturn in fortunes, with McLaren's Jenson Button lining up fourth. Chinese Grand Prix winner Nico Rosberg starts fifth for Mercedes, and an excellent performance bagged sixth place for Toro Rosso youngster Daniel Ricciardo.
Last time out in China, Rosberg and Mercedes confounded the entire paddock with their tyre management during the race, going the distance on a two-stop strategy with a car that almost all observers thought would chew up its Pirellis and leave the silver cars vulnerable. While Nico's first win was well-deserved and long overdue, it wasn't as dominant as his 20-second margin of victory may have appeared.
Button was the main threat, only losing out on a chance to attack Rosberg on a clear track when a botched third and final pitstop left the British driver sixth and behind a train of cars fighting for second. With vastly higher temperatures expected on race day than were seen in China a week ago, I don't see Mercedes repeating their China result as the operating window for their W03 car still appears to be too narrow. With Rosberg starting fifth they do not have the opportunity to control the race from the front.
Red Bull have yet to prove that their car has the race pace to match McLaren, so for that reason I would look at polesitter Vettel for a podium finish at 1.45, but not necessarily as a potential victor. Button is quite long at 6.8 for the race win and I think the McLaren man has the best value in the winner's market, or you can also back him at 2.1 to finish ahead of teammate Hamilton in the race match bets market. The Bahrain heat will play to Button's tyre management ability and I expect this to give him the edge over Lewis.
Vettel is there at 2.72 for victory and, taking a cue from last week's surprise result, it may be worth giving the Red Bull driver some consideration just in case they really have returned to winning form. But remember, it is easier to match the fastest cars for a single lap than it is for an entire race.
Two drivers start the Grand Prix out of position according to the accepted pace of their cars and are thus strong contenders to move up the field. Michael Schumacher will start from 17th after failing to progress higher than the first qualifying session, and will no doubt use the prodigious extra speed of the Mercedes 'double DRS' to move through the midfield. Back him at 1.5 for a points finish or, if you want the chance of a better return, look at Williams driver Pastor Maldonado, who is starting 22nd after incurring a five-place grid penalty for changing his gearbox. Williams have produced a car which tends to finish ahead of where it qualifies and, with an extra set of unused tyres to use in the race, the Venezuelan's availability at 3.7 to score points in Sunday's race is well worth a look.