Five years ago, if you had said that going into a German grand prix race, that Michael Schumacher would be a 60-1 outsider with Betfair to win the race. Most people would have tried to have you sedated and committed somewhere. At the time, the German legend was imperious over his rivals. It wasn’t so much that he and Ferrari had by far the better car, it was just that Schumi was simply too good; a class apart from his rivals.
After a three year break from the sport, Schumacher returned to F1 this season to spearhead a new Mercedes team which grew from the ashes of last year’s surprise constructors championship winners Brawn GP. Much was expected of the new German based team with fellow German Nico Rosberg expected to push on from his promising 2009 season.
Unfortunately for Rosberg, Mercedes and Schumacher thus far, the 2010 season has been nothing short of an unmitigated disaster.
The team are well off the pace shown by McLaren and Red Bull in particular. Rosberg has showed promise but Schumacher has too often found himself engaged in contests for 11th,12th or 13th place and often outmanoeuvred by the new generation of drivers and cars.
As a result, Mercedes hopes for a triumph in their home GP look slim. Rosberg is currently around 42-1 on the Betfair exchanges and you can get 60-1 against Michael Schumacher winning at Hockenheim. Stunning odds, but ones to steer well clear of.
The reason is simply that Mercedes are no match for the pace of Ferrari, let alone McLaren and Red Bull and not even the slight advantage of being on home soil for the Mercedes team is going to be enough to bridge the gulf in class between them and the top three teams at the moment.
Certainly in the race on Sunday it looks like being a four way competition to take the chequered flag and all of Germany will be hoping if Schumi can’t complete a victory, then another German, Sebastian Vettel, will be stood atop the podium at the end of the race.
The Red Bull driver certainly has a lot to prove. With magnificent support from his home crowd and without doubt the best car in qualifying this season, Vettel should be on the front row for the race come Sunday.
There is also the very real need for Vettel to finally allay Mark Webber’s vocal disquiet from the British GP last time out, when the outspoken Aussie blasted his team for taking a wing from his car, to place onto Vettel’s, admonishing them as he crossed the finishing line as the victory by stating “Not bad for a number two driver.” Red Bull have since insisted that no hierarchy exists with their drivers and there is no better way for Vettel to prove this than by winning with his own car and his own team in his home GP on Sunday. Betfair have him as the 3-1 favourite at present and those odds look tempting.
Not that he will have it easy. Team mate Mark Webber will be going for his second GP victory in a row and the third for the Red Bull team, while the British McLaren pair of Jenson Button and Drivers World Championship leader Lewis Hamilton will also no doubt be right on the pace once again. A crucial point given the speed of Hockenheim, which despite the changes made in recent years, remains one of the quickest F1 circuits on the current calendar. However Red Bull’s dominance of qualifying this year could mean that it will be a good weekend for Vettel and his team. But perhaps not the best weekend once again for poor old Schumi.
My Outside Bet: Fulham 6/1 (William Hill)
With Roy Hodgson gone, it remains to be seen who will manage Fulham next season after Martin Jol rejected the job this week. Sven Goran Eriksson and Dave Jones seem to be the favourites but neither will instil great confidence in Fulham fans. When Hodgson took over, Fulham seemed destined for the drop and on a meagre budget he not only kept them up, but took them into Europe and to the final of the Europa league. It is hard to see the team repeating this success without their manager and I fear Fulham could well struggle next season.
The question is do you go for the safety of a smart money bet, or do you take a chance with a risk and reward policy of going for an outsider?
That, my friend, is entirely up to you!