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The Start of Something Good

Formula 1 hits its stride with the Malaysia and China races. Iain Turner, from betting exchange WBX.com, analyses the betting nuts and bolts.

At a time when there are serious discussions about the future of horse racing on the BBC, it’s ironic to see that they have bought the rights to Formula 1 from ITV. Yes, we have Lewis Hamilton, a fitting world champion and someone who I thought was the proverbial good thing for “Sports Personality of the Year” in 2008. He may have been up against Olympic winners among others, but with the Grand Prix season returning to the Beeb, I almost thought they would push him. The failure to win that award, though, shouldn’t detract from Lewis and his achievement last season. He is the best of his generation and as long as his car remains sound he should have a good season.

Testing is well under way. But whereas by the mid-season problems and slight glitches can be worked out under practice conditions, this is the chance to get the car spot on for Malaysia on April 5 and before the carnival heads to China on the 19th.

But you can’t go too far anywhere these days without talking about the credit crunch, and it has begun to hit Formula 1 after a crisis with the teams has now been followed by changes to Malaysia. It was always the plan to hold a night race from this year but the cost of lighting up the Sepang circuit has been described as “prohibitive” with the current economic climate around the world.

Singapore hosted the first race under lights last year and it might be worth looking to that track for some pointers ahead of the race. Fernando Alonso won that one in Singapore in his Renault, and came from 15th on the grid to win less than three seconds in front of Nico Rosberg.

Kimi Räikkönen is one driver I expect to begin to return to the consistent form of a few seasons ago and I think he could be hard to beat in the beginning stages of the tour. In the last couple of seasons, he has started well giving the impression that the testing which he does over the winter acts as proper preparation for the start of the season. As a course and distance winner, he does need to be followed and with Lewis Hamilton a likely favourite, he could offer some value against the British driver.

For those who, like me, put profit ahead of patriotic behaviour, the value on WBX.com could exist in laying Lewis Hamilton. British punters are always keen on backing “one of their own” and Lewis, despite all his class, does often show too short and as such is one to lay.

A fortnight later the F1 jamboree moves to China which should be a fascinating race on the Shanghai circuit.

The outcome could really be determined by Melbourne’s outcome, so consider this race closely when looking at any possible bets. However, look beyond the winner. Find the hard-luck story, the one who, to use racing jargon, “will improve for the run.”

One of the biggest fans of the Shanghai Circuit is Flavio Briatore, boss of Renault. Maybe the tight twists and turns of Shanghai remind him of the ridiculous roundabout and traffic management system in Shepherd’s Bush near the Walkabout and O’Neill’s.

This race is really one to lay on. Pick a fashionable team who struggled in the first race and lay the winner. The team who struggled will still be struggling to find form only two weeks into the season and the winner will offer no value after his win in the first week of the season. By laying these two drivers, you’ll have the field driving for you, which will offer some good value for a race which could throw up a shock result.

In fact, for those statisticians out there, it’s worth noting that not since the dominance of Michael Schumacher in 2004 has a driver won the first two races of the season.

F1: Fact Attack

In the last 21 years, only twice has the eventual champion not won one of the first two races of the season (M Schumacher ‘03, Prost ’89).

19 of the last 21 champions drove for the same constructor the previous season. Of those 19 champions, 17 had won at least one of the final six races in the previous season, but only four had won all six.

In the last eight years, the eventual title winner has retired no more than twice in a season.

Last season, Kimi Räikkönen accounted for half the retirements during the closing stages (final 10 percent) of all Grands Prix.

In 2008, Nick Heidfeld, of BMW Sauber, finished every race becoming only the second driver to do so in 20 years.

Last year, Renault’s Fernando Alonso out-qualified team-mate Nelson Piquet Jr. in every race.

Since 1987, the driver leading the championship after eight races has gone on to be crowned champion 85 percent of the time (18), while the other four seasons saw the leader after eight races finish second. (In 1997 M. Schumacher was 2nd behind J. Villeneuve but disqualified.)

Michael Schumacher notwithstanding, Lewis Hamilton would be only the sixth champion since Juan Manuel Fangio in 1957 to successfully defend his crown. Fernando Alonso was the most recent to do so in 2006.

Experience counts! 18 of the last 21 champions started in at least 50 Grands Prix before the start of their winning season.

19 of the last 21 champions finished the previous season in the top four.
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