F1 / Review / Review 2008 F1 Season Races 13 18

Review: 2008 F1 season — races 13-18

Lewis Hamiton won his first Formula One Drivers Championship in the final race of the season. Read how our betting selections performed over the final third of the year.

Lewis Hamilton 2008 F1 champion

Race 13: Belgium

"Our standard practice is to prepare our preview and then look at the market before taking our position and we're surprised that Hamilton is as low as 1.85 with Felipe Massa, 3.9.

"Hamilton may well win because he has a strong record from pole as does the fastest qualifier in those races when McLaren and Ferrari have filled the front row in recent seasons. But Spa hasn't been as good a track for the fastest qualifier as elsewhere, or indeed for the front row, which is why we would want Hamilton closer to evens than his current price.

"If it rains then 1.85 is a fair price because when the spray is flying there is a distinct advantage in being out front. Overall we prefer Massa at the price, providing we can trust the Ferrari engine. True, his personal conversion rate isn't great from second but four of his eight such starts were two years ago when supporting Schumacher and he's clearly a better driver now than then. Furthermore, Ferrari have a three season 50% record from second on the grid and that supports the value of his 3.9 price.

"We can't see Kovalainen beating Hamilton unless fate intervenes but he could be key to the outcome if he were to beat Massa to the first corner and therefore let Hamilton get away. Although Spa is his track, fourth on the grid is just too far back for Raikkonen and he'd need to get ahead of Kovalainen early for any chance.

"Two other prospects we would consider closer to the start is to lay Mark Webber for a points finish at anything shorter than 2.0s and to back Glock for a points finish if he's trading at anything around 3.0s."

Result: F Massa 1st, N Heidfeld 2nd, L Hamilton 3rd,T Glock 8th, M Webber 9th.

Hamilton finished first but received a 25 sec penalty post race which placed him third. Bookmakers settled on Hamilton, Betfair on Massa.

Race 14: Italy

"We've never had a race as hard as this to weigh up and that's because a wet qualifying session completely shook up normal grid positions which left the three principals of the season down the field.

"As far as identifying the likely winner that's more difficult than usual because there are more negatives than positives against all top six qualifiers. Vettel has to overcome the poor stat for first time pole starters winning and fastest qualifiers if it's wet; Kovalainen has to contend with the relatively poor McLaren record when starting second with anyone other than a team-mate alongside.

"Webber hasn't a great record from this high up the grid and Ferrari drivers rarely win from the third row. Kovalainen is favourite at 2.92, Massa is 4.1, Hamilton 11 and it's 12 bar with Betfair. If it's wet, we'd quite like the 6.2 on offer for Alonso to finish top three for a small stake.

"But our information is that it is likely to be a predominantly dry race with any significant rain coming after the event. This should favour a Kovalainen victory and at 2.92 we think there is a touch of value about the price, after all, if Hamilton was starting from the front row with Massa back in sixth, the British driver would be heavily odds-on.

"Massa is the danger because he may well be on a one stop strategy and in which case Kovalainen will need a 25 second lead to stay in front when making his additional stop. Hamilton and Raikkonen are too short at around 3s for a podium finish; in fact, it's going to be tough for those two and Kubica to all finish in the points.

With all three odds-on for the lay, only one needs to fail to virtually cover the exposure on the other two. Our interest though, is to back Heikki for the win and Vettel at 3.25 for a podium finish, and if it looks like being a wet one, just back Alonso for a podium as our only interest. In the event, rain affected the start of the race and it wasn't until late on that drivers were able to change from extreme wets to intermediate tyres."

Result: S Vettel 1st, H Kovalainen 2nd, R Kubica 3rd, F Alonso 4th.

Race 15: Singapore

"Our feature on Singapore earlier in the week recommended Massa as the value at 3.8 and his odds have shortened to 1.98, starting as he does from pole. Those who took that recommendation might want to lay off on Hamilton at 3.35 because rain is scheduled, although it may not come until after the race.

"We can't see a winner beyond these two unless we have drama similar to what happened in Montreal when Hamilton's shunt on Raikkonen in the pit-lane let in Kubica. We think 1.98 still represents value for a Brazilian win because of the strong stat that when a Ferrari has started from pole with a McLaren alongside, the Scuderia has delivered in 8/10 races since the start of last season.

"With the top five starters delivering the vast majority of podiums this season, it should be a straight fight between them such is the nature of this track. Raikkonen should finish top three but is priced accordingly at around evens and with no one of great value leaping out as a potential points scorer, our only other consideration would be to lay Glock as a points scorer if, when the market becomes more settled, that's available at around evens.

"Massa to win is our call, with a saver on Hamilton for those who backed the Brazilian earlier in the week."

Rain never came but a safety car and that, together with a disastrous pit stop, put paid to Massa's chances when he was leading comfortably at the halfway stage.

Result: F Alonso 1st, N Rosberg 2nd, L Hamilton 3rd, T Glock 4th.

Race 16: Japan

"With no rain forecast for Sunday, this race should be fairly straightforward and we did expect Lewis Hamilton to be shorter than 1.94 with Betfair. The way final qualifying went, the assumption has to be that Kimi Raikkonen was set up with a lighter load to take pole so he could then hold up Hamilton to set up a heavier Felipe Massa.

"But with Massa starting back in fifth, that plan is now in tatters and Raikkonen will be left to run his own race. Raikkonen has to get ahead early to deny Hamilton and so far this season, he's failed to show the necessary early race pace to suggest he can.

"That all suggests Hamilton has to be the value winner but the only doubt in our mind is the Ferrari record of seven wins in 10 races when starting second alongside another team and defeating McLaren in five of those seven. Hamilton would be our main bet but you may want to have some cover on Raikkonen at 4.1.

"We think Kovalainen is vulnerable for a podium finish but off a small sample size, he's too long at 3.2 to lay and, again because of a small sample for the season, we'd be wary of backing the most likely beneficiary, Fernando Alonso, at 3.55. We don't think both Toyota's can score points and there is some value in laying both Trulli and Glock at around 1.5, with marginal preference for Trulli.

"If you don't want to lay, then a Red Bull to score points is an alternative option and whilst Webber is currently quoted at 4.0 with Sporting Bet, we'd expect him to be longer on Betfair and would like something close to 5.0s."

Result: F Alonso 1st, R Kubica 2nd, K Raikkonen 3rd, J Trulli 4th, M Webber 8th, T Glock failed to finish.

Race 17: China

"The first thing we need to get right is the weather and the majority of the forecasts are for rain showers with the possibility of a thunderstorm. We supported Hamilton last weekend and he's available at fractionally longer odds for this race (2.0 with William Hill).

"He has proved himself in the wet on numerous previous occasions and his two main rivals, Felipe Massa (4.9) and Kimi Raikkonen (7.0) have had mixed performances in such conditions. Massa's big chance is if Raikkonen can get ahead of Hamilton early and then hold him up for the first pit window when Massa may seize the initiative because we think he's fuelled to stay out longer.

"Hamilton, though, has had the better package so far this weekend and our concern about giving him our full support is the pressure he's under and McLaren's poor return from pole when another car starts alongside.

"One indication of the competitive nature of this season compared to last is that in only one of the races has the top three in qualifying filled the podium and that was at a track where overtaking was virtually non existent — Valencia.

"The two we'd consider for any fallout from the top-three here are Alonso (2.5) and Heidfeld (9.0). Regardless of conditions, Alonso has every chance but Heidfeld is very much based on there being a wet track and you'll need to check that he does start from sixth because his Q1 performance was being referred to the stewards. He could be docked places."

The rain never came and Hamilton lead from start to finish.

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

Race 18: Brazil

"Felipe Massa should win here, in fact, Ferrari should finish 1-2 but the Brazilian is plenty short at 1.57 especially as a thunderstorm is forecast for the second half of the race. We can't see Hamilton (8.6) winning nor Raikkonen (8.2) unless anything were to happen to Massa and we don't think that should be the basis for having a bet.

"Jarno Trulli's record from this high up the grid and when the spray is flying should keep him of the podium but he is quite long at 5.7 for a lay. Wait until closer to the start and if his price contracts to around 4.0s that is certainly a consideration.

"Another to lay is Mark Webber for points because his record when starting outside the top 10 and at this track is poor. Currently available at 2.96 we'd expect that to shorten as liquidity grows.

"Alonso with two fourth's and a pair of wins in his last four races is worth considering for a podium finish at 3.4, especially if rain is likely. Alternatively, have a small buy on the race index at 23 (25 points for finishing fourth). Another reason to check the weather is because if there are dark clouds on the horizon, then have a small interest on Barrichello on the race index at 2 (6.4 to score points).

"Our final proposition is to lay Heidfeld to be classified at 1.2, simply because, as previously mentioned, only one other driver in the last 20 years has lasted the season without a retirement and Kovalainen was in the same position last year when retiring at the halfway stage.

"We were caught out two weeks ago because we were told it would rain and it didn't. Our advice this time is to check the weather and if dry, Massa should coast to a win with Raikkonen likely to follow him home.

Regardless of conditions we'd lay Mark Webber as a points scorer. If rain is likely then we'd back Alonso for a podium; take an interest in Barrichello on the spreads or to score points, and lay Heidfeld to finish.

"Hamilton should do enough to take the title unless the mist descends going into the first corner or tyres fail him late on just as they did for Nigel Mansell when he was in a similar position to win the title 22 years ago."

Result: F Massa 1st, F Alonso 2nd, K Raikkonen 3rd. M Webber failed to score points but N Heidfeld did finish.