Malaysian Grand Prix: Alonso is the value bet


Kimi Raikkonen was the surprise first winner of the Formula One season, but Ralph Ellis warns that the Flying Finn won't sustain it for the season - and may not even  be on the podium in the Malaysian Grand Prix this weekend.

Grand Prix cars regularly touch speeds in excess of 200mph - so it seems a bit odd to start suggesting that the Formula One season is a marathon rather than a sprint.  But that is exactly what Red Bull's garage team have been doing after the first race of the campaign saw them lock out the front row of the grid in qualifying - and  then fail to back that up during the race.


In fact Dr Helmut Marko, the Austrian who advises Sebastian Vettel's backroom team, has accused them of being so worried about their pace in qualifying in Melbourne  that they failed to get the speed right for the race.


"There are more important things than being fast on a single lap, such as being fast over the whole race distance," was the way he put it.


So as the F1 circus moves on to Malaysia for this weekend you can be sure that the mechanics and engineers who work for Vettel and his team-mate Mark Webber have been  burning the midnight oil looking at all the data over how to handle the new Pirelli tyres.


I said last week that who best handled the 2013 rubber would be crucial to the outcome of the early races. At least I got that right - just picked the wrong person to  do it.  My faith in Jenson Button being the best when it came to gentle driving was undermined by the revelation that his McLaren car is way off the pace at the start  of the season. Instead it was Kimi Raikkonen whose Lotus was perfectly balanced to help him manage a two-stop strategy.


That success has seen the Finn come in to just 5.7 to win the drivers' title, which I rather think is one to lay if you can. In fact an even better investment  would be to lay the odds-on price of 1.95 about Raikkonen finishing in the Drivers' Championship top three.


The reality is that different conditions across the season, and the speed of development of the bigger teams, will inevitably catch up with Lotus and their star driver  in the end. Even he is being ultra cautious ahead of this Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix.


"We have to do two or three races before we really know who is where," he says. He knows the reality that the powerhouse teams of Red Bull and Ferrari will always  improve.


That's why I'd also shy away from backing him to follow up his Australian triumph with another win this weekend - particularly at a price as short as 5.7. At  the moment it's a question of looking at who has made the best start in terms of both pace of car and tyre management, and the Ferraris had two in the first four in  Melbourne.


Throw in that Alonso won the race in the rain last year, and is taking part in his 200th Grand Prix, and that all makes up to 4.6 for the Prancing Horse to  supply the winning car where my money's going this week.


(Source: Betfair)




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