Lewis Hamilton’s early Mercedes career has defied expectation thus far and the British F1 ace has continued this trend by securing a first pole for the Chinese Grand Prix.
While the dusty Shanghai track played its part in qualifying, Hamilton’s fastest lap of 1:34:484 showed why the 28-year-old has taken the chequered flag on three of his last five visits to China.
The drive shows that Hamilton is well ahead of schedule in his mission to regain the F1 drivers’ championship crown and this is reflected in the betting market, which places the 2008 champion as the 9/4 favourite in Shanghai.
Lotus’ Kimi Räikkönen, a winner here in 2007, will start from second after posting a Q3 time of 1:34:761. And, after winning the 2013 season opener in Australia, the Finn’s price of 3/1 could prove a tempting option.
Fernando Alonso lines up in third in the Ferrari and is also priced at 3/1, but having not tasted success in China since 2005 the Spaniard could be overlooked, with many turning their attention instead to Hamilton’s team-mate Nico Rosberg.
The Mercedes is expected to go well in China, as it has done in the past, and with Rosberg winning last year and lining up fourth – with a Q3 lap time just half a second slower than Hamilton’s – the German’s odds of 10/1 could attract attention.
Rarely will you read an F1 preview and wait until the seventh paragraph to hear about Red Bull duo Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber but while the pair have clocked up column inches for all the wrong reasons of late, they underwhelmed in qualifying here.
The official line is that Webber suffered fuel problems in Q2, while reigning champion Vettel opted to save his tyres with pole seemingly out of sight.
However, whispers remain that Red Bull were desperate to keep the warring drivers apart as the fall-out from Malaysia continues to rumble on.
Whether their problems are on the track or off, the fact remains that Vettel will start the race from ninth place (but remains an 11/2 shot to win), while Webber lines up at the back of the grid and is ranked as a 40/1 outsider.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.