The 2016 Formula 1 (F1) season has seen a frustrating start from everyone but Nico Rosberg, with the Mercedes driver winning in both Australia and Bahrain. Thus far, all teams and drivers have openly criticised a new qualifying system that has already been discarded before the 2016 Chinese Grand Prix this weekend.
Ahead of the race, the motorsport governing body FIA has officially announced that qualifying will revert back to the system used last season. The change has been approved in time for the Chinese Grand Prix this Sunday, with F1 commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone and FIA President Jean Todt conceding their argument against the sport’s teams.
The knockout system F1 tried to implement caused controversy in Australia, with drivers ending the qualifying session early to save their tyres. This left Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg to claim the front row for Mercedes, which is exactly what Ecclestone wanted to avoid when devising the new qualifying system.
For the second-straight race, Hamilton and Rosberg started one-two in Bahrain, further supporting doubts. Instead of persisting, Friday will see F1 backtrack in China. At the weekend, the slowest six cars will be eliminated after two qualifying sessions, leaving the remaining drivers to compete in "a final ten-car shootout for pole".
Nico Rosberg was the one driver not phased by the qualifying change. After starting behind teammate Lewis Hamilton in Australia, Rosberg finished eight seconds ahead of the reigning champion to clinch the first race of the season. In Bahrain, Rosberg again started behind Hamilton, but in that race finished ahead of Kimi Räikkönen in second place to beat the Ferrari driver by ten seconds. Meanwhile, Hamilton was forced to settle for third place, finishing some 20 seconds behind Räikkönen.
Although Rosberg ultimately lost the 2015 F1 Drivers’ Championship to Hamilton, the 30-year-old German finished the season in better form and impressed with his wins in Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi. Hamilton finished second in each and didn’t manage to win a final race as champion.
Now that the new season has begun, Rosberg seems to have a psychological edge over Hamilton, who has been forced to watch his teammate notch up five consecutive victories since last year.
Despite his second and third place finishes, Ladbrokes Sports still considers Hamilton as the 11/10 favourite to win in China, following his win there last year. Just behind him, Rosberg’s recent form has lead to him being priced at a slightly more rewarding 11/8.
Mercedes is currently the most successful team, having won the F1 Constructors’ Championship in 2014 and 2015 and possessing two of the most talented drivers. Both are performing extremely well, with an excellent chance to win in China, so it makes sense for punters to place an each way bet in case their driver has to settle for a podium finish.
Outside of the dominant Mercedes drivers, Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel is viewed as the next best prospect at 6/1. The four-time former F1 Drivers’ Champion made a positive start by finishing third in Australia, but was forced to retire on the formation lap in Bahrain due to an engine failure, meaning Vettel will drive with a replacement unit in China.
Ferrari teammate Räikkönen managed to disrupt a Mercedes one-two in Bahrain, where he finished second. This proved to be a strong return for the Finnish driver, who had to pull out of the Australian Grand Prix when flames burst from his car. Räikkönen is viewed by the bookies as a more distant prospect at 16/1, with Infiniti Red Bull Racing driver Daniel Ricciardo way back at 66/1.
Visit Ladbrokes Sports now for the latest odds on the 2016 Chinese Grand Prix.
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