Taking place from 27-29 November, the 2015 F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix looks set to be a very exciting bout indeed, especially considering the much-touted rivalry between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Ahead of the big Yas Marina event, here's a look at the context and betting prospects.
Lewis Hamilton secured his third Formula 1 World Drivers’ Championship (WDC) with three races to spare at the United States Grand Prix in October. The 30-year-old star moved equal with Formula 1 legends Ayrton Senna and Jackie Stewart, both on three WDCs, and has been celebrating (quite publicly) since. After heavy partying, however, exhaustion was the explanation for Hamilton crashing his £1.6 million Pagani Zonda in Monte Carlo and subsequently arriving late at the Brazil Grand Prix. Hamilton’s loss of focus then resulted in the Brit finishing second to Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in Mexico and Brazil.
However, Hamilton still displayed a strong competitive desire throughout the race in Brazil – making it clear that he's not satisfied to simply rest on his WDC laurels, and still has Rosberg firmly in his sights. Hamilton and Rosberg have been teammates since 2013, but have been fairly candid about their rivalry, with Rosberg expressing frustration when Hamilton tossed a cap at him after the United States Grand Prix.
Hamilton’s two consecutive finishes behind Rosberg will spur him to try and beat the German in the season’s ultimate race, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Friday 27 November will feature two practice sessions before a third is hosted on Saturday morning (local time). Qualifying will then be held early on Saturday afternoon to determine starting positions for the 1:00pm (GMT) race on Sunday 29 November.
Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina circuit has hosted F1 races since November 2009. Hamilton has previously performed well there, winning in 2011 and again last season in November 2014. Meanwhile, Rosberg has no prior winning form at Yas Marina – so Hamilton holds the advantage from an experience standpoint.
Ladbrokes Sports looks to favour Hamilton based on his past victories, given that the current WDC holder is 10/11 to win, while Rosberg is available at 11/10. Hamilton’s recent night-life escapades could explain the fairly narrow margin between the two racers. The story is similar over at Coral Sports, with odds of 8/11 on Hamilton to win, and 11/8 on Rosberg.
Excluding Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, Hamilton and Rosberg are the only drivers to win a Grand Prix this season, so it's no surprise they're the current favourites. Rosberg has been vocal in praising Mercedes for letting both drivers race “man against man”, and it looks like losing the WDC has only strengthened his resolve. Meanwhile, Hamilton’s attitude suggests he is gearing up for a fierce showdown in which either driver could triumph.
Much of the pre-race focus has been on the Mercedes pair, and this is reflected in the odds for the rest of the drivers. Vettel is the only driver who comes close at 9/1 with Ladbrokes Sports, while Kimi Räikkönen is much further back at 50/1. Valtteri Bottas of Williams is also 50/1, and is currently fourth in the WDC.
A victory for either of the Ferrari drivers would be much more rewarding than the short odds on the Mercedes drivers, with bookies seemingly convinced that Ferrari’s former world champions are long shots. However, it's worth remembering that Vettel has three previous Abu Dhabi wins under his belt. And although Ferrari’s car hasn't been at world champion-standard, Vettel has still managed to win three races this season, with his latest on 20 September in Singapore – so he may be worth a punt, given his prior form at the track.
To date, Vettel has secured a podium finish in 13 out of 19 races in the 2015 season, while Räikkönen has only managed two. This clearly suggests that Vettel is the more promising option to at least secure a podium spot in Abu Dhabi – and he could be a useful insurance option when backed each way. Ladbrokes Sports is currently accepting 'each-way' bets for the race, so head on over to the site to place your bets.