Asia gets its final taste of 2017 Formula 1 action this Sunday, with the field taking on the formidable Suzuka track out in Japan.
Thankfully, no one asked me for the bet as Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo would have put me in the poorhouse for the month with the former claiming race honours and the latter taking third place.
Sandwiched in between the Red Bulls was the Mercedes of title favourite Lewis Hamilton, who would have been elated with the result considering Mercedes form out in Asia. The ‘Brit has now picked up 43 points from his last two races while his only real title rival, Sebastian Vettel, has only been able to accumulate 12 points in the same period of time.
Speaking of Seb, the Ferrari man had a nightmare of a race weekend with Turbo failure seeing the German miss qualifying at Sepang. Unable to set a qualifying time, Vettel was forced to start from the back of the grid. He put in an almighty performance against all odds, however, and his fourth-place finish does mean his title hopes are still alive, although he would need Lewis Hamilton to suffer a run of shocking results for him to overturn the ‘Brit’s 34 point lead on the Drivers’ Championship standings.
Next across the line was the Force India of Sergio Perez whose sixth place, alongside teammate Esteban Ocon’s 10th place finish ensured that Malaysia provided a good return for the force. The rest of the top ten composed of Stoffel Vandoorne (7th), Lance Stroll (8th) and Felipe Massa (9th).
To Win Race
While the 130R sequence is one of the most trickiest to negotiate on the F1 calendar, it’s not the only set of corners that could give drivers a few hassles, however, as the Dunlop Curve turn is also a treacherous one to navigate – this was the corner that tragically claimed the life of Jules Bianchi three years ago.
In terms of the weather forecast for the weekend, it seems we’ll have much drier conditions compared with Malaysia with rainfall only being predicted for Friday’s practice sessions.
Last year’s Japanese Grand Prix was won by Nico Rosberg, while second place went to the in-form Max Verstappen. The podium was rounded out by Lewis Hamilton.
Podium Finish: Valterri Bottas – Yes – 2/1
He may be struggling for form at the moment and Suzuka is far from a happy hunting ground for the Finn, but I think we’ll see a big performance from Bottas this weekend. He’s one of the drivers who turns it on when you least expect it. Ferrari are also struggling to overcome last week’s engine issues which means there’s certainly a place on the podium in the offing for Bottas.
Fastest Qualifier & Race Winner: Lewis Hamilton – 9/10 & 14/10
These tips should actually go under the Value Bet segment as Hamilton will have little trouble claiming pole and the win here. The ‘Brit has won two of the last three races at Suzuka. And while he’s failed to claim pole at the track in the last three year’s, it must be remembered that those poles were claimed by former teammate Nico Rosberg who was driving an identical car to Hamilton. I can Lewis having further cemented his grip on the Drivers Championship come the close of this weekend.