Lewis Hamilton will be confident of securing his fourth victory of the season as the Formula One paddock heads to Barcelona for this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix (Race: Sunday, 13:00 BST, live on Sky Sports F1).
Hamilton had to manage late-race brake problems to take the win in Bahrain three weeks ago, ahead of the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen (pictured). In doing so, he extended his early-season championship lead to 27 points over team-mate Nico Rosberg, who finished third.
Valtteri Bottas came in fourth for Williams after successfully holding off the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel during the final stint. It was a difficult afternoon for the German driver, who damaged his front wing after running wide under pressure from Rosberg two-thirds of the way into the race. A podium finish had looked possible prior to that mistake.
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Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo rolled over the line in sixth after suffering yet another Renault engine failure as he rounded the final turn. Romain Grosjean (Lotus), Sergio Perez (Force India), Daniil Kyvat (Red Bull) and Felipe Massa (Williams) rounded out the top 10. Fernando Alonso finished just outside the points for McLaren in 11th.
As the first European race of the year, the Spanish Grand Prix is often the venue for the unveiling of the teams’ first major upgrade packages of the season and updates are expected from most of the teams. Renault, too, have been hard at work during the three-week gap and will introduce a new engine specification for this weekend’s event.
The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya plays hosts to its 25th Spanish Grand Prix this weekend. It is a high-downforce track, with the first two sectors featuring a number of fast, sweeping corners, while the final sector is tight and twisty. The long main straight provides the best overtaking opportunity on a track on which it is otherwise difficult to pass.
Pirelli have selected their hard and medium compound tyres for this weekend’s event, mirroring their choices of last year. Weather forecasts suggest that it will be a sunny weekend, with temperatures in the mid-20s and little chance of rain.
Rosberg got the better of Hamilton in qualifying last year, taking 11 pole positions to Hamilton’s seven, but it is the Englishman who had dominated on Saturdays so far this season. He has qualified at the head of the field in all four of the races to date, while Rosberg has twice placed not just behind his team-mate but also the Ferrari of Vettel.
Hamilton is the clear favourite to take pole this weekend – as reflected by best bookies’ odds of 4/9 with BetVictor – and so betting on the margin by which he does so provides better value. He beat Rosberg to pole by .168 of a second in Spain last year, while the average gap between first and second on the grid over the last five years stands at .180 of a second. A similar winning margin can be expected in this year’s qualifying session.
Raikkonen is a two-time (2005 and 2008) previous winner of the Spanish Grand Prix and has also finished on the podium on a further two occasions. He had a difficult time on his return to Ferrari last year but with a change of engineer and a car that seems better suited to his driving style, he has showed good speed in the early races of this season.
He was forced to retire in the season-opener in Australia after his team failed to correctly attach one of his wheels at a pit-stop, but he then recovered from a lowly grid position and a first-lap puncture to finish in a superb fourth place in Malaysia. Another fourth followed in China before he drove an excellent race to come home second in Bahrain.
Ferrari have been the closest challengers to Mercedes this season and unless Williams have made significant gains since Bahrain that should again be the case this weekend. Raikkonen therefore has a good chance of finishing on the podium.
Lotus have shown promising pace in the early part of the year. They have reached the final session of qualifying in all four of the races to date and have finished in the points in each of the last two Grand Prix. They will also bring what their technical director Nick Chester has described as a “reasonably significant” upgrade package to this weekend’s event.
Grosjean has steered the team to consecutive seventh place finishes and has a strong record at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. He has qualified in the top seven in each of his three previous visits to the track and also finished fourth in the race for Lotus back in 2012. He dragged a largely uncompetitive car to fifth on the grid and an eighth place finish last year. This time around, he is capable of springing a surprise by leading Lotus to a top-six finish.
F1 Spanish Grand Prix Betting Tips Verdict
- Back the qualifying winning margin to be between 0.15 and 0.25 of a second @ 15/8 with Bet365.
- Bet on Kimi Raikkonen to finish on the podium @ 8/11 with William Hill or BetVictor.
- Back Romain Grosjean to finish in the top six @ 5/2 with Ladbrokes or BoyleSports.