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Japan GP: Hamilton seeks launchpad for title comeback

Japan GP: Hamilton seeks launchpad for title comeback

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Suzuka has provided some stunning racing moments over the years and there is no doubt that the Japan GP is one of the most eagerly-anticipated dates on the sport’s calendar.

This year the title is not quite up for grabs, but Nico Rosberg is closing in on his first ever world championship having extended his lead over team-mate Lewis Hamilton last weekend in Malaysia.

While it was Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo who won the race, Rosberg’s podium finish, coupled with Hamilton’s failure to finish due to yet more issues with his car, meant the German now has an advantage worth 23 points atop the leaderboard.

Hamilton’s technical problems caused him no end of frustration last week and the fast turnaround of back-to-back races means it will be tough for Mercedes to get his car ready in time.

Rosberg is now the favourite to win the title but once again the bookmakers have put Hamilton at the top of their odds for this race, with the Briton offered at 5/4 to triumph even though he has not won any of the last four races.

Team-mate Rosberg is at 2/1, which looks generous considering he has won three of the last four races, but the German is almost in a position where he does not have to push to win races.

As long as Rosberg can stay ahead of Hamilton he will be world champion, with the Briton the driver who is going to have to make something happen over the weekend to turn things around.

Hamilton has won the race three times, including in each of the last two years and as usual, Hamilton and Rosberg are well clear in the betting for this race, but is there any value to be found in the other drivers?

Where does the betting value lie?

The German Grand Prix back in July was the last time Rosberg did not feature on the podium, so a price of 4/11 on him to get another top-three finish looks to be one of the safest bets for the Japan GP and is worth taking despite the low odds.

Away from the Mercedes pair, Ricciardo can be backed at 13/2 to win what would be his second successive GP and that could be good value considering how impressive the Red Bull cars were last weekend in Malaysia.

Ricciardo might yet have an outside shot of catching Hamilton and Rosberg to clinch the world title, but if he is going to make it a three-horse race he really has to win at Suzuka on Sunday. Ricciardo has three podium finishes in his last four races and is a generous evens to be in the top three again in the Japan GP.

Hamilton is at his best when he races on the edge and losing his grip on the championship race to Rosberg could bring out his skills with just five races remaining before the end of the season, although the issues with his car make it hard to back him.

After a dip in form following his sensational start to the season, Rosberg is driving fluently again and only mechanical failure looks likely to deny him another massive points haul on Sunday.

Rosberg at 2/1 looks like the best bet for a Japan GP winner this weekend, with Ricciardo’s odds of evens to be on the podium again also recommended.

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