Nico Rosberg may have claimed pole position for the inaugural Grand Prix of Europe from Baku, but the race for the top step is far from over.
The street circuit, featuring a 2,2km flat out section followed by the tightest series of corners on the F1 calender only a few moments later has proved to be a truly unique challenge for drivers and engineers. In the quest for ultimate top speed teams have been forced into a low downforce set up leaving cars on the absolute edge. This coupled with high pressured , hard compound tyres from Pirelli, alongside a number of niggling 1st race issues around the Baku venue gives us a thrilling Grand Prix in prospect.
The attrition rate seen in the GP2 feature race hinted at the spectacle we can expect in the F1 race. Overtaking is possible all over the circuit, T1 the most common. Run off zones whilst small are just about large enough for drivers to force competitors into them without risk of penalty. All in all, the F1 race really could be anyone’s. Judging by the GP2 race pole position or running in first place could actually work against a driver, expect oval racing levels of slipstreaming and overtaking along the main straight.
With this in mind bookmakers have been surprisingly generous in the odds being offered on drivers in the top ten. It’s hard to pick out one specific driver to follow for the race, so I’m suggesting 5!
Lewis Hamilton -Dominated the weekend until a shocker in qualifying, starting 10th on the grid. He is in the fastest car and Mercedes have introduced a low downforce wing which should mitigate the issues the team have had running in traffic in earlier races this season. Winner odds 3/1
Sergio Perez – Second only to Nico Rosberg in qualifying. A gearbox penalty drops him to 7th on the grid, but after a podium in Monaco, and rumours of Ferrari considering him for 2017, Perez will be eager to impress. A great offering of 40/1 – consider an each way bet
Kimi Raikkonen – Yes Vettel out-qualified him, but he has been quietly doing his thing around Baku, and has engaged reverse far fewer times than his competitors this weekend. Also offering at 40/1
Max Verstappen / Carlos Saniz – How bold are you feeling? If Baku is to be a race of attrition, which may expect it will be. Max showed the world in Canada how calm he can be under pressure, at 80/1 the return could be great! More out there, but an even greater opportunity, Sainz. Arguably driver of the day in the last few races. With a new contract under his belt Saniz could be a great outside bet and a huge pay day at 500/1! Are you feeling bold?
Check out these odds and more at William Hill.
Finally, don’t forget to check out the live IN-PLAY odds available during F1 Races. In a race of attrition there could be some special odds availble for the fast fingered. To find out more about IN PLAY odds, check out my feature here.