As Mercedes cars make engine changes and differentiate their tyre strategy in practice, Belgian Grand Prix could hold more surprises.
Mixed results from Mercedes during Friday's two practice sessions have left punters puzzled on the strategy of the Silver Arrows. As both drivers chose not to use Pirelli's fastest supersoft tyre in the second Free Practice, Red Bull cars scored a one-two. That result came a few hours after Rosberg and Hamilton had dominated the FP1 of the Belgian GP!
So, who's right and who's wrong?
Who can really tell until the checkered flag flies on Sunday's race? Bettors are speculating strongly in favor of Rosberg since Tuesday, when sportsbooks began accepting bets on the Spa-Francorchamps Grand Prix. That's well reflected on the betting charts, where Rosberg's odds have been on a freefall. They have dived from +140 down to -200 at some of the best sportsbooks, such as the odds at Bet365 and William Hill.
At the time of writing these lines, the lines at WilliamHill offers almost the best odds available at -160.
However, Mercedes tyre experimenting didn't go unnoticed by handicappers, who began betting heavily on Ricciardo and Verstappen as expected, following the practice outcome. Both drivers' odds began dropping, while Rosberg's line most notably changed direction. As the momentum is building up before Saturday's third Free Practice, I would be surprised to see a reversal right now.
Come Saturday though, and depending on the Mercedes strategy, positive results on practice and most importantly on qualifying session will have the most impact on Rosberg's odds. Unless Mercedes tries something strange, results similar to FP1 should repeat before the race.
On the other hand, Hamilton's second place in FP1 doesn't seem to affect his moneyline at all. In fact, his betting odds' drift accelerated the last couple of days, moving from +150 all the way up to +1000. That price action should not come as a surprise, as the Mercedes driver was given a 30-place grid penalty due to engine changes. WilliamHill is one the few bookmakers offering Hamilton's win that high, potentially paying up a hefty amount should the British score a miraculous win.
Due to the penalty, bettors predictably have shifted their focus on other drivers this weekend. As a result, odds for other drivers such as Verstappen, Ricciardo and even Raikonnen have been on a decline the last hours.
Analysis of their betting charts should not deter punters from betting on longshots, if they are looking to avoid Rosberg's short odds. Those three drivers seem the most likely contenders for the win in Belgium GP, given Hamilton starting from the end of the pack.
Let's not forget that Rosberg won't be starting next to his teammate, in case he grabs the pole position on Saturday, which makes very likely a start next to a rival team's driver. The first few corners of the first lap may prove decisive.