There’s an old saying that predicting the future is a fool’s errand. Nobody evidently bothered to tell Nostradamus or, sadly, Mystic Meg but the point stands that reaching for a crystal ball isn’t what you’d call an exact science.
For every rule there must be exceptions, however, and as the Formula One circus descends on the Middle East desert for Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix, it’s jolly hard indeed not to predict another Anglo-German arm wrestle between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.
The two big beasts of F1 already have clear blue water between themselves and the best of the rest after Vettel’s season opening win in Melbourne followed by Hamilton’s revenge mission in Shanghai. After just two races, the championship has an unmistakable feel of a private party to which no-one else has been invited.
Both drivers know their way around Bahrain International Circuit.
Hamilton took the chequered flag in 2014 and 2015 and is the 7/10 favourite to complete his hat-trick this weekend while Vettel was champion in 2012 and 2013 and is 7/4 to outpace his fierce rival in Bahrain.
Rewind to events 12 months and there is though a glimmer of hope for the chasing pack.
Vettel suffered engine failure on the warm-up lap and didn’t even start while Hamilton was clipped on the first corner, dropped down to ninth, and had eventually to plaster on his best fake smile after coming home third.
Kimi Räikkönen gatecrashed the party in Bahrain last year for Ferrari with a second-place finish and the Finn is 17/20 to make the podium again. Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas is 4/6 to finish in the top three while Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, currently third in the drivers’ standings, is 2/1 to make the podium for the second time this season.
The big surprise in last year’s race was Romain Grosjean’s fifth place for Haas-Ferrari.
His best drive of the season, but the Frenchman is still 75/1 to improve on that performance and finish third or better.
There may be nothing to separate Hamilton and Vettel on the track so far this season but there is the most minute of margins at the top of the Constructor’s Championship with Mercedes sitting first with 66 points, and Ferrari breathing down their neck with 65.
Despite this, Mercedes are the overwhelming favourites to supply the winning driver at 4/9 while Ferrari are priced at 6/4 to get Vettel or Räikkönen over the finishing line first.
Red Bull are third in the constructors’ standings courtesy in chief to Verstappen’s third and Daniel Ricciardo’s fourth in Shanghai last time out and are 14/1 to have the winning driver while the next most likely victorious team are Williams, albeit at a distinctly distance 300/1.
Betting on Saturday’s qualifying session reflects Hamilton’s pre-race dominance so far this year. The three-time world champion took pole in both Australia and China and is a 3/5 shot to make it three from three this weekend. Vettel has lined up in second in both races and is 5/2 to go one better on Saturday.
Bottas has started from third twice this season and the Mercedes man is 4/1 to finish ahead of both Hamilton and Vettel in qualifying while Räikkönen is 8/1 to capture pole.