Lewis Hamilton might now be the 2/25 favourite for the F1 World Championship after extending his lead at the Malaysian Grand Prix, but could his luck run out when his struggling Mercedes takes to the much loved Suzuka track this weekend?
The Brit is now 34 points clear of Sebastian Vettel in the standings, the biggest advantage either man has enjoyed over the course of the season. However, while Hamilton is pulling away from the German in the title race, Ferrari and Red Bull are reeling him in on the track.
Hamilton has had his fair share of luck in the last two races, with Ferrari shooting themselves in the foot at Singapore before mechanical issues scuppered their chances in Malaysia.
Vettel’s drive from starting last to finish fourth at Sepang proved who had the fastest car while Red Bull easily held off Hamilton as Max Verstappen took P1.
And so we head to Suzuka, with Mercedes admitting they have “big problems” as they finally start to lose their grip on the mantle of kings of the V6 era.
Japan has been a race where the Silver Arrows have thrived, winning the last three editions while Hamilton has taken the chequered flag in 2014 and 2015.
It is no surprise then that the three-time world champion starts as the 31/20 favourite to win the 16th race of the year.
However, surely Ferrari’s poor fortunes cannot last forever and, after Vettel avoided a grid penalty by saving his gearbox, the German could be the man to beat.
Should Ferrari’s hoodoo continue then the Red Bulls represent the value for this race. Verstappen drove brilliantly last week to keep Hamilton at bay and is 9/2 to make it back-to-back wins while Daniel Ricciardo is 27/4.
Away from the battle for a podium, McLaren duo Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne will hope to continue their recent revival. Vandoorne finished seventh in Malaysia and is 5/1 for another top-10 finish while Alonso is 8/5.
The Japanese Grand Prix has earned a reputation for deciding the fate of the World Championship – given its place on the calendar – and with five races to go, anything other than a Vettel win will surely snuff out his remaining title hopes.
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