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Putting the Sheen Back on Formula One Racing

02 May 2018

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With all due respect to Lewis Hamilton, there wasn’t a huge amount of coverage of his F1 Drivers’ Championship clinching race in Mexico a couple of weeks ago. Sure, there were the obligatory news bulletins on television covering the title win, Hamilton’s fifth, and much was made of it in media circles specific to motorsport, but in terms of general reception, it was muted.

Take nothing away from Hamilton, who now sits equal with the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio in second place on the all-time list. Just two more championships and Hamilton will catch Michael Schumacher.

While those accolades are well deserved for Hamilton, the almost predictable way the season panned out meant that there was a lack of a spark around the final few Grand Prix races. In fact, it was remarkably similar to the 2017 season, which again saw Hamilton win with room to spare.

Lack of rivalry hurts F1

In fact, there were many similarities between the 2017 and 2018 season: In both seasons, Hamilton and Mercedes started out as the betting favourite in the Drivers’ Championship and Constructors Championship, with both not looking in danger when they got into the groove; Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel offered some resistance, yet came up short; Kimi Raikkonen reminded everyone of his talent, while managing to look a little bored. Red Bull struggled for consistency, not completing races 13 times in 2017 and 11 times (so far) in 2018.

It all looks a little familiar, and while F1 enthusiasts are surely enjoying the thrills of the season, the sport is truly in danger of seeing the casual fan lose interest. Part of the problem is that there isn’t much narrative, no classic races and rivalries in the mould of a Damon Hill vs Schumacher or Senna vs Prost.

F1 is set to get an injection of young talent next season though, and it might shake things up a bit. First of all, Ferrari have decided to partner Vettel with 21-year-old talent Charles Leclerc. The Monaco-born driver has had one season in formula one with Sauber, but will surely thrive with a better car and experienced team behind him.

Special bets for Norris and Leclerc

Leclerc has created such a stir that some of the UK top bookmakers have released betting markets on his 2019 season, even before they have released odds for the 2019 Championship. For example, Ladbrokes have put odds of 11/4 that Leclerc doesn’t win any race in 2019, 4/11 that he wins at least one and 7/4 that he beats team-mate Vettel on points throughout the season. Perhaps most interesting of all is that Leclerc is just 11/2 to win the Drivers’ Championship. That’s a clear statement of belief in the young Monaco native.

Not to be outdone though, McLaren have put their own wunderkind in the driver’s seat for 2019. 18-year-old Brit Lando Norris will partner Carlos Sainz Jnr for the season. McLaren have been improving over the last couple of seasons, and they could really make a splash if Norris delivers on his talent.

Next generation coming through

Again, bookies have been quick to set out special betting markets on the young Brit. He is 2/1 (Sky Bet) to score points on his opening race of the season, but punters might be really tempted with the 5/1 Sky Bet have put on Norris to have any podium finish in 2019. A cracking bet on the precocious talent.

Indeed, another young British driver, 20-year-old George Russel, will join Williams for the new season. Having these youngsters in the sport could be exactly what F1 needs. Sure, Hamilton will start as favourite and likely win a sixth title, but with some special talent at a similar age means the sport could have a bit of sheen again with some wonderful rivalries over the next decade.

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