The Chinese Grand Prix has generally been kind to Lewis Hamilton and he will hope to kickstart his 2018 Formula One campaign with victory at the Shanghai International Circuit this weekend (Race: Sunday, 2.10am ET).
Hamilton has claimed victory in China in three of the last four years and has a total of five wins there. A repeat on Sunday would be very much appreciated after watching his likely drivers’ championship rival Sebastian Vettel win both of the races so far this season.
Vettel qualified on pole position and drove his Ferrari forth to victory in Bahrain last weekend. Hamilton started ninth on the grid following a gearbox change and battled through to finish third behind his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas. The second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen was forced to retire following a botched pitstop that injured a team member.
It was an interesting and somewhat chaotic race that also saw both Red Bull drivers retire within the opening three laps: Daniel Ricciardo due to an electronics failure and Max Verstappen following crash damage. It was also one that seemed to bode well for a tight battle in this year’s drivers’ and constructers’ championships.
In Australia, it was a case of circumstance that saw Ferrari and Vettel pip Hamilton to victory. In Bahrain, however, the Ferraris out-qualified the two Mercedes and looked to have the edge during the race. The feeling within the paddock still seems to be that the Mercedes will generally be the car to beat, but Ferrari are, at the very least, mightily close.
Mercedes should, though, be expected to have an advantage this weekend. The team has won the Chinese Grand Prix in each of the last four and five of the last six years, while a Mercedes-powered car has emerged triumphant in eight of the last 10. The team are determined to make up for missed opportunities in the opening couple of races, and Hamilton is, as noted, very strong in China. He should therefore be fancied to top the podium on Sunday.
Pierre Gasly followed the top three home to secure a superb fourth place for Toro Rosso in Bahrain. It was an unexpectedly strong result in only the second race of their partnership with Honda. Indeed, it was the best result for a Honda-powered car since their return to the sport with McLaren in 2015. Toro Rosso should again have good pace this weekend.
The team have qualified in the top 10 and gone on to score points in China in each of the last two seasons. Those results were achieved with two different engine suppliers: first Ferrari, then Renault. While the McLaren-Honda package was never particularly strong in China, improvements from Honda allied to the new aerodynamic package that propelled Toro Rosso up the field in Bahrain should allow the team to be in points contention this weekend.
After an impressive drive in Bahrain – one that Red Bull motorsport boss Helmut Marko said had “made a man out of him” – Gasly can be fancied to finish in the top 10 again on Sunday.
Kevin Magnussen came home in a strong fifth place for Haas in Bahrain, followed by the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg, the two McLarens of Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne, the surprisingly rapid Sauber of Marcus Ericsson and the Force India of Esteban Ocon.
There is currently very little to separate the midfield teams. The performances of Toro Rosso and Sauber in Bahrain indicated that behind the top three, very little should be taken for granted.
In such a tightly-contested field, consistency is likely to be key, and there are perhaps few drivers as consistent as Hulkenberg. While he has yet to secure a podium finish since making his F1 debut in 2010, whenever he has had a capable car beneath him, he has been able to put together good results.
Renault are not as close to the front three teams as they had hoped to be and it even seems that other midfield runners may have better pace than them at certain circuits, but they do look like they will always be there or thereabouts in terms of challenging for a top-six finish if some of the front-running cars encounter problems.
Hulkenberg finished sixth in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix and has always shown good pace in China. He finished sixth there for Force India in 2014, qualified seventh for Renault last year and can be fancied to finish in the top six on Sunday.
Our Preview’s F1 Chinese Grand Prix Betting Picks & Predictions Verdict
Having studied the online betting from the USA oddsmakers, these are our recommended wagers: