Lewis Hamilton is the 4/7 favourite to triumph in the Austrian Grand Prix after qualifying on pole while Drivers’ Championship leader Nico Rosberg is forced to start from sixth following a gearbox-change-enforced penalty.
The fact that the Brit has such unlikely companions at the front of the grid in Nico Hulkenberg (16/1) and former McLaren teammate Jenson Button (40/1), neither of whom have finished higher than sixth in any of this season’s eight races, increases the suspicion that the stars – or rainclouds in this instance – have aligned for him.
However, here are a number of reasons why all might not quite be as it seems for the 31-year-old, and why it might be worth taking advantage of some of the big odds offered on the other contenders, including his 4/1-rated rival Rosberg:
Poor pole conversion rate
One of the keys to Hamilton’s success last term was getting himself ahead of the pack in qualifying and then maximising that position on race day. He took pole in 11 of the opening 12 races of the campaign and transitioned it into victory on seven of those occasions (64%).
His performances in qualifying haven’t been quite as dominant in the early months of 2016, outpacing all adversaries in four of the first eight Grands Prix, but the bigger worry is that of those four instances where he did get on top on Saturday, he was celebrating on Sunday just once (25%).
There are a mere four races on the current Formula One calendar that Hamilton hasn’t won. Two of those are ones that he has competed in only once – the European Grand Prix in Baku and Mexico – while one is his bete noire Brazil. The other is the Austrian Grand Prix in Spielberg.
The two times that the reigning champion has been there, he has made it onto the podium but been forced to look up at his grinning Mercedes comrade Rosberg. Indeed, the last four editions were all won by Germans.
Hamilton even lost (by almost nine seconds) from pole last year, back when he was more effective at turning first place in qualifying into first place on Sunday.
No respect for the pole-sitter
In truth, the three-time champ perhaps should have been thankful for second in 2015 because the fastest driver on Saturday rarely gets treated well 24 hours later when the points are being distributed in Austria, with 2014’s pacesetter Felipe Massa winding up off the podium in fourth.
Two of the final three Austrian Grands Prix before the race went into hibernation in 2003 adopted the same trajectory, with Michael Schumacher (2001) and Rubens Barrichello (2002) both dropping back, so there is a one-in-five strike rate when it comes to qualifying kings prevailing.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.