Just when it looked like another Mercedes procession was inevitable in Formula One, things are finally beginning to spice up thanks to reliability issues, tropical conditions at the Malaysia Grand Prix, and the return of an old master.
World champion Lewis Hamilton suggested his preparations for Sepang were ‘heavily compromised’ due to problems with his Mercedes, and despite the Stevenage native claiming pole in qualifying there are reasons to believe the chasing pack are ready to pounce.
Hamilton only qualified for the top-ten shootout in eighth before setting the fastest time of the day on his first attempt in the wet, but Sebastian Vettel was a mere 0.074 seconds behind and will take his place on the front of the grid ahead of Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg.
Ferrari have surprised many, including Hamilton, with their pace this weekend, and after Kimi Raikkonen split the leading pair in last practice on Friday, four-time champion Vettel looks ever so interesting at 7/1 to win his first Grand Prix since November 2013 in Brazil.
The 27-year-old has already landed a podium place in Oz for his new team, but with conditions at Sepang International Circuit rated no better than unpredictable, the value lies in Vettel’s outright odds relative to the 1/2 about him finishing in the top three.
Formula One comes to life in the rain, so there could hardly be a better time to back an outsider to break the somewhat suffocating Hamilton/Rosberg axis that’s been prevalent over the past year or so.
The other big story of the day was 17-year-old Max Verstappen making the top six for Toro Rosso, the first teenager to do so for 54-years. He looks a great fan-friendly bet at 9/4 to replicate that feat during the race proper.
Of course, if you fancy the status quo to remain and Mercedes to win, as they have 17 of the last 20 Grand Prix (Hamilton eight of the past nine) then the Brit is 6/17, while Rosberg can be backed at 9/2, which seems rather big relative to his teammate.
McLaren’s horrendous problems continue, with former world champions Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso all the way back in 17th and 18th on the grid respectively, despite getting slightly closer to the rest of the field than they did in Australia last week.