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Abu Dhabi GP Odds & Tips: Expect Drama On The Final Day

Can Hamilton win another World Title?
Can Hamilton win another World Title?

Drama, controversy, incidents and above all brilliant racing, what a season of Formula 1 it has been - and it all concludes in the Abu Dhabi sunset this Sunday. Joe Tuffin takes a look at the 22nd and final round of this thrilling year and selects his best bets…

Seldom do we see a rivalry so close and so intense as the one we have witnessed with seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton and the young Dutch challenger Max Verstappen this year, It’s a once in a generation sort of scenario. Hunt v Lauda, Prost v Senna, Hamilton v Verstappen - I have no doubt that these three rivalries will be recognised as the biggest and best the sport has ever seen and further fireworks in the Middle East on Sunday would only bolster that statement.

The situation is simple, Hamilton and Verstappen have been at each other's throats since the opening round in Bahrain back in late March. Four continents, 20 countries and 1,239 laps later, the pair are separated by… nothing. Nil points. Staggeringly, in this modern era of F1 where there’s a seven point swing between finishing first and finishing second, both are sat on exactly 369.5 points, 151.5 points more than third placed Valterri Bottas who, despite being a brilliant driver in his own right, would need an extra six races in which he wins all of them and Hamilton and Verstappen retire in all of them to be even in the same time zone as them - such is the brilliance of the champion protagonists.

Abu Dhabi GP Tips:

For a while it didn’t look like it would be this close however, just three rounds ago when Verstappen won the Mexican Grand Prix in commanding style over an audibly worried Hamilton, he boasted a 24 point lead and was trading as low as 1/5 to bag the biggest prize of them all. But Lewis Hamilton, who was as big as 9/2 - possibly the biggest price he’s been for the title at any stage since his move to Mercedes 2013 - has smashed the final few races out of the park, winning the last three impressively as Verstappen has begun to crack, with some desperate attempts in Brazil and latterly Saudi Arabia at keeping his foe behind him, all of which have been unsuccessful and resulted in intervention from the stewards. You just get that feeling with Hamilton, and I dare accuse himself and Mercedes of complacency, that someone tapped him on the shoulder after the Mexican Grand Prix and said “You do realise you’re going to lose this, don’t you?” and he and the team have just poured it on since.

This is not mentioning the newly designed Yas Marina circuit either. Since joining the F1 calendar 2009 the glitzy Abu Dhabi track has attracted plenty of criticism for being somewhat procesional, and areas where overtaking could take place were quashed with some fiddly, thin, low speed chicanes that presented difficult at best overtaking opportunities. The two main culprits for this, what was turn five & six and the old turns 11, 12, 13 & 14, have all been reprofiled and are no longer these tricky low speed corners, they’re now big sweeping medium to high speed hairpins which proceed further high speed sections. Why is this significant you ask? Well the Red Bull car of Max Verstappen is a high rake, high downforce car with a shorter wheelbase, compared to the polar opposite low rake, lower downforce and longer wheelbase Mercedes.

Put up a picture of the two of them side on on and you’ll notice the difference, the Red Bull has sharper angles, and a more aggressive front ring that points down to the ground rather than slopes down, where as the Mercedes looks like it’s been planted to the tarmac, with smoother and less aggressive angles on it’s rear and front ring. Low rake cars such as the Mercedes are typically more aerodynamically sound and thus faster in a straight line than their high rake counterparts, which are much more effective on fiddly low speed circuits where downforce is king such as Zandvoort and Monaco, with Mercedes only managing a 7th and a DNF in the latter compared to Red Bull’s 1st and 4th. The removal of these low speed corners at Yas Marina is surely a benefit for Mercedes, and despite Red Bull being quicker here last year, they’ve lost their two strongest sections on the track and now look vulnerable to that Mercedes, which appears to be as fast as it has ever been. It is rumoured Red Bull were bringing an upgrade to this final race of the season to improve straight line speed, but Sergio Perez was believed to have tested it in Saudi Arabia and was not a fan with it harming the downforce too much, so they may just have to accept the pace deficit and see how it pans out.

Today's Tips
Lewis Hamilton To Win The World Drivers Championship
1/2
Odds correct as of 2021-12-09 14:30 Odds subject to change.

Abu Dhabi GP Odds

But what about this weekend? What can we expect to see? Well Hamilton is rightfully the favourite to win the Grand Prix at 8/13, with Verstappen currently trading at 2/1. But of course, neither of them have to actually win the Grand Prix, it’s a simple case of who finishes in front of the other and Hamilton is the 1/2 favourite to do that, with Verstappen at 13/8. Neither of these offer great value but if you were looking for a bet out of the two then I think most pointers indicate that it should be Lewis Hamilton to win the World Drivers Championship (1/2) that you side with. As previously stated, the knight is in the form of his life and is driving with speed, precision and crucially composure, something that his rival may be slightly short of comparatively. He’s been in this position before, he’s won seven titles and has been involved in the battle for the title for at least 11 of his 15 years in the sport, 24 year-old Verstappen has never been in this situation before. As cool as he appears to be (sometimes), this will be a whole new form of pressure, but for Hamilton this is just another day at the office. The end of year appraisal if you will.

F1 Odds
Daniel Ricciardo To Be Fastest in Practice 1
100/1
Odds correct as of 2021-12-09 14:38 Odds subject to change.

Typically then we look towards the other low rake cars for a bit of value this weekend. I’ve been enjoying backing the McLaren boys of Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo this year on high speed circuits, particularly in practice when there’s a chance one of the Mercedes' or Red Bulls’ will be running race programs and the McLarens can fire a quick lap in, and again they’re a nice price at 33/1 for Lando Norris and 100/1 for Daniel Ricciardo to be fastest in practice. Now there’s a slim chance they will actually top the time sheets but there’s a high chance at least one of them will be knocking around the top five so both are worth an each-way bet paying three places for Practice 1 and Practice 2, with bet365 offering these three places. They’ve had a disappointing end to the season with Ferrari all but securing third in the constructors title, but there’s still a chance Norris can get P5 in the title as ‘the best of the rest’ so I don’t expect a defeatist approach from them this weekend and the track, particularly the first two sectors, should suit them perfectly.

No Safety Car at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
13/8
Odds correct as of 2021-12-09 14:40 Odds subject to change.

The final bet I’ll be having is for there to be NO Safety Car at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (13/8). This is a bit of a ‘moneyball’ approach, favouring the weight of statistics over the unpredictable, often emotionally affected nature of sport, but I think the bookies simply have this priced up wrong. The odds for there to be a Safety Car is currently 4/7, with some bookies even going 4/9, but I can’t work out for whatever reason why it isn’t the other way around. Since the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2009 there have only been four races from the 12 that have featured a safety car, meaning 66.6% of races have gone the distance without the need for Bert Mylander - yet some bookies are offering 4/9 on something to happen which statistically has only happened 33.3% of the time. Not to mention that the incidents that brought the Safety Car out in 2010 and for one of the occasions in 2012 both happened at the previously mentioned corners that no longer exist. There’s certainly less risk of a crash there now as the braking zones aren’t as severe, so with this considered, the stats to back it up, and the fact that Yas Marina is surrounded by tarmac run off giving plenty of room to clean up accidents without the need for a pause in play makes the 13/8 a very nice looking bet.

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