We are only a third of the way through the Formula 1 season but already we are set for a ding-dong battle between Vettel and Hamilton for the Drivers’ Championship.
Vettel’s win in the Canadian Grand Prix moved him ahead by just one point and whilst he’s been very cautious of playing up any expectations regarding his position in the title fight it looks clear that this is the best car Ferrari have had for a few years (and since the German joined to boot) which makes the upcoming French Grand Prix a mouth-watering prospect to bet on at top F1 betting sites.
Hamilton, often so successful at Montreal, had a nightmare struggle with engine temperatures in the first quarter of the race, which forced Mercedes into an earlier than planned pit stop for fresh tyres so they could add more cooling to the car. There he was jumped by the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo, ending any hopes of really making gains through the field, and it was a sterling display of driving just to see off Kimi Raikkonen on old tyres towards the end of the race.
The gap between Mercedes and Ferrari on the clock was paper thin in qualifying but once Vettel got into the clear he was never in any real danger and it’s a surprise that this was the first race he’d won since Bahrain.
A safety car and bad pit strategy threw away what looked like a golden opportunity in China, and he was leading late into the Azerbaijan GP when he overshot an early corner and then had to deal with a safety car before a chain of events gave Hamilton victory.
The extra power at the Circuit Paul Ricard, a track with three large straights, should play into the hands of Mercedes, although the Ferrari doesn’t appear to have a big power deficit with their rivals at the moment.
Red Bull have been much improved since their new upgrade package and had two very solid results in Canada with third and fourth places, making Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen tempting each/way bets. Riccardo couldn’t overcome a grid penalty to make the podium but fourth was a fine effort and Verstappen now has two podiums in his last three races to be proud of.
Big money bettors might be interested in backing the 1/2 with Bet365 on them having two cars in the points, a bet that usually rests on Verstappen finishing his race, but just as interesting might be the 5/6 on both Renault trade cars finishing in the points.
The trade team has improved vastly on last season’s performance, having trebled its points haul from the first seven races of 2017 and almost matched that season's total already after Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz Jr finished seventh and eighth in the Canadadian Grand Prix last weekend.
The pair were able to run long stints last weekend, which helped the pair of them jump Esteban Ocon of Force India despite a poor start, and they both managed to take top ten spots in Monaco too. Had Hulkenberg not been wiped out on the opening lap of the Spanish Grand Prix they could have had a double points finish three times in a row.
We now head to the Circuit Paul Ricard for the first time since 1990, and as one can imagine the circuit has had a significant number of updates since then. The result is an extremely technical course, one so highly rated by its peers that has been designated as a "Centre of Excellence" by the FIA.
It is defined by its straights, however with three high speed sections bringing the course together. The Mistral straight is 1.1km alone at full speed, and momentum is also carried into the opening chicane with an easy exit allowing speeds of near 200 mph before the first real technical section at the Virage du Camp.
An easy chicane leads into another sustained straight which is broken up by the Chance Nord before another kilometre and a half at what is essentially full speed even taking the Courbe de Signes into account and then after a double apex, the track’s most technically challenging section.
The Virage de Bendor and Virage du Lac are the tightest corners on the circuit, both opening into the mighty home straight, and there is the potential for overtaking around the outside here before hitting the DRS Zone.