Valtteri Bottas will be looking to extend his lead at the top of the Drivers’ Championship at the Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday. The Finn claimed his second win of the campaign in Azerbaijan, finishing ahead of his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton by a second.
Bottas now has the challenge of taking command of the race for the Drivers’ Championship, although he will expect a response from Hamilton. The two drivers have split the victories in the opening four races of the 2019 season. Mercedes have maintained their stranglehold over the sport and the German outfit do not show signs of relenting.
Sebastian Vettel and Charles LeClerc have been solid in the early stages of the season, but have not been able to make the inroads on the track to disrupt the Mercedes tandem. We’ll now break down whether Bottas will be able to maintain his momentum or will a challenge finally come from the rest of the field to stop him and Hamilton’s progress.
Bottas on the Charge
Bottas was under pressure entering the campaign to prove his value to Mercedes. He enjoyed a decent first term with the team after replacing Nico Rosberg for the 2017 campaign. The Finn provided a solid foil for Hamilton by winning three races, placing third in the Drivers’ Championship.
Misfortune and a lack of form were to hold Bottas back last season, as he failed to clinch a victory. The 29-year-old finished fifth in the standings as doubts were raised that he could challenge Hamilton for the crown in light of the fact both drivers were using the same car.
However, he came out of the blocks with a fast start in Australia this term, winning at Melbourne to end a run of 21 races without a triumph. Although Hamilton bounced back with successive victories in Bahrain and China, Bottas was there with him to take a place on the podium.
He dominated from start to finish in Baku, avenging his failure last term when he was on course for victory, only to be denied by a mechanical failure. This time, he got over the line to notch his second win of the season. The Finn now has the challenge of delivering back-to-back triumphs. Bottas has not won successive races in his career, but at odds of +250, he could take charge at the top of the standings.
1u - Valtteri Botas To Win @+250
Hamilton has the History
Hamilton has enjoyed another impressive start to the season, although once again, he has company at the top of the Championship standings. Vettel has usually been his rival in the early stages since the retirement of Rosberg. However, the rise of Bottas has seen another civil war between the two drivers of Mercedes. Hamilton has the experience on his teammate and has proven in the past two campaigns that the race for the Drivers’ Championship is a marathon, not a sprint.
The Brit has dominated the past two races in Barcelona. He finished comfortably ahead of Bottas last season, leading from start to finish after securing pole position during qualifying. Hamilton endured a battle with Vettel in the 2017 race, but the strategy of the Mercedes team proved to be crucial in securing the win for the Brit, as he finished three seconds ahead of the Ferrari driver.
Hamilton has won the Spanish Grand Prix three times in his career. Only the great Michael Schumacher has triumphed on more occasions. The 33-year-old continues to whittle down the achievements of the German at the top of the sport. He will be hungry to close the gap on a track that he knows extremely well and enjoys. At +160, he has good value to re-establish control of the Drivers’ Championship.
1.5u - Lewis Hamilton To Win @+160
Vettel and LeClerc’s Problems
Ferrari have been steady at the start of the new campaign, but have not been able to match the speed of Mercedes around the track. Vettel has not looked comfortable in the SF90, although he has recorded two podium finishes in his last two appearances. The German boasts only one victory at the Spanish Grand Prix, which came in one of his runs to the Drivers’ Championship in 2011 when he was with Red Bull. He will need a flawless week, beginning with qualifying, to attempt to knock Mercedes off the top two spots on the podium in Barcelona.
LeClerc has displayed pace in the opening four races, but not the nous behind the wheel to allow him to compete for victories. He put forward a fine run during qualifying in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, only to crash out of the final stage, knocking him down to ninth on the grid. LeClerc proved that he could have been on course for his first victory, notching the fastest lap during the race where he placed in fifth. It would have been a valuable learning experience for the 21-year-old and he could bounce back immediately to earn his second podium of the season at odds of -153.
1u - Charles LeClerc To Finish On The Podium @-153