F1 / Review / Review 2008 F1 Season Races 1 6

Review: 2008 F1 season — races 1-6

Read review of the 2008 Formula One season that saw a return of 87% from 46 recommendations, which included five successive grand prix winners, including Lewis Hamilton in the first race of the season at Australia.

Lewis Hamilton races at Monaco

Race 1: Australia

"With principle rival, Kimi Raikkonen, back in 15th and fellow Ferrari driver Felipe Massa yet to win from the second row, this should be Lewis Hamilton's race, but he's just too short at 1.69 for what is the first event of the season. We think either Kubica or Kovalainen will slip out of the top three and think it's asking a lot of Kubica to win a first grand prix for BMW, especially as he failed to make podium last year.

"Based on his past results when starting as far back as he is, we think Fernando Alonso will be a points scorer and would take the 1.88 on offer. Albeit from a relatively small sample, Kimi Raikkonen has had a 50% podium strike rate when driving a top car from this far back on the grid.

"Last year, Massa finished sixth from 22nd and we think Raikkonen could do a similar or better job, so would buy him on the race index at 17 (loss of two points if he finishes sixth). For those wary of spread betting, we'd take the 4.6 to finish on the podium for a small stake."

Result: L Hamilton 1st, N Heidfeld 2nd, N Rosberg 3rd, F Alonso 4th, K Raikkonen 8th.

Race 2: Malaysia

"Massa blew his chance from pole here last year with an indifferent start but the difference this time round is that he shares the front row with his team-mate and with first corner negotiation critical, is likely to face a less aggressive foe than Alonso last year. Raikkonen is favourite on most books but starts from the dirty side of the track.

"We'd back Massa at 3.05 as he's favoured by Ferrari stats when both their drivers start on the front row, has a good conversion rate from pole and did put in a much better time. Second fastest qualifiers, who trail by almost half a second, have won only five of 31 grands prix with the fastest qualifier winning 18.

"But we would keep stakes to a minimum because of two factors, the likelihood of rain and because Massa did make a couple of fundamental mistakes last weekend which were probably due to no traction control. He also has the additional pressure of knowing that a bad race here and he can almost forget the championship.

"A driver we do like from further back is David Coulthard, who'll be fuelled for a distance and has a good record in the wet. See if rain is likely and take 3.0s for a points finish would be our advice."

Result: K Raikkonen 1st, R Kubica 2nd, H Kovalainen 3rd, F Massa retired and by raceday the threat of rain had diminished which was the basis for backing Coulthard who finished 9th.

Race 3: Bahrain

"A fascinating race in prospect because Ferrari were expected to start from the front but Robert Kubica, fuelled lighter than any, starts from pole and should keep that position at least until the first round of stops. We can't see Kubica winning, mostly because of how previous drivers/constructors have done when landing their first pole.

"Massa has the fastest car of the front three but has been prone to error this season and has yet to win from second, but Ferrari have done well when starting alongside another team and only once in seven has a Ferrari team-mate starting on the second row finished ahead over the past five years.

"Lewis Hamilton has a good record of bouncing back after a disappointment such as Malaysia, but has yet to win from the second row and his team's five year record when their fastest driver starts from this position doesn't inspire confidence.

"Kimi Raikkonen is an interesting prospect because only once has he won from the second row; he doesn't have a great record for back-to-back wins and second race winners have disappointed in the third when not starting from the front.

"We think this will be a Ferrari win and the first two corners may well dictate which one it will be. From the grid, we'd back Massa but because he's under pressure, we'd wait until after the second corner and back him if he's second or better and his price is still odds-against (currently 2.46). However if he's only one ahead of Raikkonen, we'll take the Finn who's current starting price is 3.7.

"We've looked elsewhere for some interest but failed to find much because top eight qualifiers here have had a good record of mopping up the points, so there's little value in the points finishing market.

"If you can get Alonso longer than his current price of 1.85, he'd be worth a small investment to finish in the points as he's done so in 9/9 when finishing for Renault from a similar starting position in non-Championship seasons."

Result: F Massa 1st, K Raikkonen 2nd, R Kubica 3rd, F Alonso 10th.

Massa led from the start so his price dropped to odds-on and F Alonso's was never longer than 1.8 for a points finish.

Race 4: Spain

"1.49 is a desperately short price but there is really only one winner for us at Catalunya: Kimi Raikkonen. Pole position has been such a factor in the Spanish Grand Prix since it moved to Catalunya and the only danger that we can envisage is retirement. Even if Alonso gets ahead of Raikkonen at the start, we expect him to pit some six laps earlier and Raikkonen will have enough time to regain the lead.

"Only if Raikkonen has a mishap can we see Massa winning but his stats and those for Ferrari make him a solid shot for podium (1.45). McLaren's poor podium conversion rate from the third row makes Hamilton's top three price of 2.42 far too low and we'd be more interested in Kubica for that slot at 2.8.

"With question marks about Webber, Trulli and Piquet Jnr finishing in the points, there's clearly an opportunity for one of those starting outside the top-10 to do so. The problem is that neither Honda driver have the stats to support such a finish. The most likely beneficiary is Nakajima but that's based solely on how Williams have done from the sixth row, so we'd keep our stakes low when backing him for a points finish at 5.1.

"Our advice is that if you don't mind backing a 1.49 shot then Raikkonen has to be the bet. If you don't fancy a short price then we'd back Kubica for podium at 2.8 and have a small stake on Nakajima for points at 5.1.

Result: K Raikkonen 1st, F Massa 2nd R Kubica 4th, K Nakajima 7th.

Race 5: Turkey

"Two weeks ago, there was only one winner for us — Kimi Raikkonen — and it's a similar situation this weekend with his team-mate, Felipe Massa. The Brazilian may be a shortish price at 1.57 but his record at this track and the doubts about his rivals conspire towards what should be his third successive win in Turkey.

"Second fastest qualifier Heikki Kovalainen is sure to win sometime this season but will probably need pole or a retirement to do so because relatively inexperienced McLaren drivers have a poor record unless starting from pole.

"The main barrier to Lewis Hamilton is a team-mate starting ahead of him and the poor recent record for McLaren drivers when starting from the second row. Likewise, Raikkonen has to cope with a faster team-mate and we would have considered laying him for podium because of how Ferrari drivers have done starting from fourth, but we can't ignore the Scuderia's current superiority.

"Further down the field, we'd expect Alonso to be in the points but he's too short for an interest (1.52) and we'd look outside the top-ten for a potential points scorer. The two we'd consider are Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button. Rosberg has a reasonable record, as his team in recent seasons for picking up points when starting just outside the top-10. His points price is starting to slide (currently 2.74) but we'd want close to 3.0s.

"Button can be backed for a points finish at 3.4 but we'd prefer Rosberg if his price does drift towards 3.0s as we expect it to, but our main interest is to back Massa for the win."

Result: F Massa 1st, L Hamilton 2nd K Raikkonen 3rd, N Rosberg 8th.

Race 6: Monaco

"Depending on the weather, this race may turn out to be something of a lottery as a tough circuit becomes even harder when the spray flies. Felipe Massa is out-qualifying his team-mate currently but whilst we were confident of success for the Brazilian in Spain, we have our reservations this time.

"That's mostly because this is not a track he likes particularly, and the Brazilian tends to perform best at favoured circuits, nor is there enough evidence of wet weather ability to convince us that he's value at 2.54 for a win.

"Although Olivier Panis won in the wet from 14th position, 12 years ago, it is hard to look beyond the top three qualifiers for the winner. Lewis Hamilton has never won from anywhere other than pole but probably could have done last year had he been given the right pit strategy. Kimi Raikkonen is a past winner, has done well when starting alongside a team-mate, but does have a 50/50 record in the wet and around this circuit.

"With McLaren having the better record around this street circuit than Ferrari over the past decade and that they may be fuelled longer, we'll just give it to the British driver at the longer price of 5.4, but it is tight and we won't stake as much as we have in last two races, both of which were successful.

"If it looks like being a rain affected race as the forecast suggests, we'd have a small interest on Alonso to finish top three at 7.0s because of his record here and podium performances when finishing in the wet. Jenson Button should always be considered in the wet and if he's trading at close to 3.0s for a points finish, we'd be interested in that or buying him on the spreads at 5 on the without Ferrari and McLaren race index (50-30-20-10pts)."

Result: L Hamilton 1st, R Kubica 2nd, F Massa 3rd, F Alonso 10th and J Button 11th.