Confidence among Formula One drivers of ending Sebastian Vettel’s reign as the sport’s world champion have been boosted after the German suffered a horrid start to his pre-season campaign.
The winner of F1’s last four titles – and 6/5 favourite to land the crown again this year – completed just 11 laps in two days of testing out his new-look Red Bull.
This compares to the 174 laps he had completed at the same stage last year and even the laps he did produce were a cause for concern, with the 26-year-old finishing the day slowest overall.
The fastest man so far is Britain’s Jenson Button but it is fellow Brit and 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton who will take the most joy from Vettel’s misfortune.
Despite not posing a real threat to the champion’s throne last year Hamilton had a much better than expected debut season at Mercedes, following his switch from McLaren, and at 7/2 to win the title this year heads the chasing pack looking to wrestle the crown away from the Red Bull man.
The Constructors’ Championship betting market currently predicts a two-horse race between Red Bull and the Silver Arrows – with both priced at 6/4 to emerge victorious – but with Renault-powered cars all suffering in testing it is Mercedes who appear to have the early advantage.
The Caterham, Lotus and Torro Rosso cars are also powered by the French manufacturer and all four teams combined for a total of just 6.3 laps in Wednesday’s testing session.
Sauber, Marussia and Ferrari – all powered by the latter’s engines – fared much better after managing 47.5 laps but it was Mercedes-powered drivers who had the best of the action with Force India, McLaren, Williams and indeed Mercedes completing a total of 51.7 laps with the German-made engines.
There is still plenty of tweaking to come ahead of what promises to be one of the most exciting F1 season’s in years – thanks to a raft of rule changes – and while Vettel remains the favourite Hamilton and co. will be encouraged by what they have seen so far.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
Fancy a flutter? Sign up today to claim up to £50 in free bets.