There have been three different winners of the four races so far in the Formula One season, but Sebastian Vettel has started in pole in three of them and the German, who hasn’t always had the best of luck this season, looks the standout candidate to take pole and perhaps more in the Spanish Grand Prix
The four-time World Champion hasn’t had the luck in races, but he evidently has a better car than last year when the managed to push Lewis Hamilton right to the end of the season and that has been clearly shown so far this year.
Ferrari served notice of their winter improvement when they dominated the last two days of winter testing here, with Vettel taking the fastest time for the third day of March, including a 1m17.182s that shattered the previous fastest lap of the Spanish Grand Prix circuit by 1.2 seconds, whilst he was also fastest on the first two days with Kimi Raikkonen taking the final day, so we know the long straights suit the SF71H and perhaps give an advantage over its rivals.
The strength of the Ferrari performance can be seen through the improvement of Kimi Raikkonen, who has been a key player to start the season. Raikkonen's qualifying deficit to Vettel over the first three races was 0.073s – a significant improvement by F1 margins compared to 0.391s over the same three races last year, and 0.276s over the course of the entire 2017 season.
Ferrari’s big improvements in their downforce and full engine mode have allowed them to get an edge in grid position whilst the better balance they have cannot be underestimated either.
There’s also an argument to suggest that Vettel is unlucky not to have had more than the one success this season. A pit lane miscalculation from Ferrari gave him victory in Melbourne but he managed to hold on brilliantly over the 10 laps of Bahrain’s long and sweeping circuit despite having completely worn tyres.
In China Vettel was leading by more than three seconds before Bottas' stop on lap 19 of 56 with the German stopping a lap later and getting jumped before a safety car which allowed Red Bull, who had better tyres strategy, to leapfrog their way into proceedings and he was leading with four laps to go in Baku but he famously overshot the corner after a safety car wrecked a comfortable lead.
All those have probably conspired to make him a bigger price than he should be on the balance of his efforts this season and the 6/4 with Bet365 for pole makes more appeal than the same price to take the victory although he is worth backing for both.
Valtteri Bottas looked set to win in Baku and has been an much improved force this season, making him and interesting watch/way contender given the gap between him and Hamilton in markets, despite the fact that the Finn would have three podiums but for his unfortunate blowout last weekend – There’s a feeling that Hamilton hasn’t yet hit top form so far this season. Raikkonen has been qualifying better than ever and also has three podiums to boot so far this season, so is an interesting podium choice.
Red Bull have had their season blighted by a series of unfortunate calamities, but they have two of the fastest cars on the grid and if they manage to keep in one piece until the end then it would be a shock if both cars weren’t in the top 10, so the 4/6 that Unibet have for a double points finish makes a lot of appeal.
Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen were pushing for a podium when Riccardo crashed into the back of Verstappen on lap 40 of the 52-lap race while they were disputing fourth place, and it’s worth remembering how much speed they found in China when Daniel Ricciardo took a sensational win.
Barcelona is the most well-known track in F1 for teams and drivers alike given its place in the calendar since 1991 and the fact that It has served as the F1 testing ground for so many years, meaning the whole grid has had hundreds of laps of data by the time they come around.
Despite long straights and high speeds, the circuit is not known for thrilling overtaking with the amount of downforce that modern F1 cars produce. A 2007 redesign of the final two corners was implemented to help this but has not had huge effects.