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2018 F1

2018 F1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix preview

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As the flyaway season ends and Formula 1 heads back to Europe for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton is still firmly the favorite. Hamilton is currently listed at 11/8 to win at many sportsbooks, and a few books are even offering “Hamilton vs The Field” and “Mercedes vs The Field” odds. That’s about what you’d expect, given Hamilton’s dominance of Formula 1 since the start of the turbo era, but before you take any action I suggest visiting these sports betting sites to find the one offering the best price.

However, those bets on Hamilton and Mercedes to dominate might not be great value. For all his talents, Hamilton has yet to win a race in 2018, and Baku is home to exactly the kind of data-free, difficult-to-model street circuit that Mercedes has struggled with since building the “diva” W08. True to form, Hamilton and Mercedes have struggled to find pace this weekend, and even Hamilton admits that the Red Bull is “quite a bit ahead” of the Mercedes in terms of development.

Driving that Red Bull is Daniel Ricciardo, who recorded the fastest practice lap this week and won the inaugural race at Baku in 2017. There’s no reason for him to be listed at long 5/1 odds, as he is now. He clearly has a strong command of this track, and won last week in China. Both the drivers ahead of him on the odds sheet (Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel) are well behind him in practice pace.

After an era so dominated by Hamilton, the Mercedes, and with the only real challenge at the top end of the grid coming from Vettel in the Ferrari, it’s time to start considering the brash Australian as a genuine World Championship contender and more than a shoey-chugging jawline. If that’s a little too far for your tastes, then just think of him as the only top driver who knows the way around Baku’s streets.

It’s important for bettors to realize that this year has already given us something we’ve not seen in F1 for a while: three different manufacturers competing for race wins and Constructor’s Championship points. It’s easy to default to the Hamilton/Mercedes hegemony that started the turbo era, or maybe include Ferrari as an outside shot contender, but that simply isn’t the paradigm of Formula 1 in 2018. With Adrian Newey back in charge of development, and not having wasted months designing around a chassis-management system that was ultimately illegal, Red Bull is definitely in the conversation, if not quite back to their championship-winning ways.

It’s really hard to see why Vettel is so high on the odds sheet, now listed at 5/2. He’s struggling pretty openly with Baku and has admitted that it’s his driving that’s falling short, not the car. He was 10th and 11th in the two practice sessions, and has yet to find a rhythm.

If you’re a fan of the car Ferrari has built for 2018, and you probably should be, Kimi Raikkonen might be worth a look at 12/1. Raikkonen was second fastest in practice, so it seems like he’s got a better understanding of the track than Vettel. There are those who think Raikkonen’s winning days are behind him, but not included in that group is Ferrari, Kimi himself, and the bulk of the Formula 1 grid. The former world champion remains one of the fastest drivers on the grid, and it’s something of a miracle that his winless streak (which dates back to 2013) has gone this long.

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