Stan Hey: 6-5 Against

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The Independent Online

The Formula One circus pitches up in Europe this weekend, at Barcelona, after journeying through the southern hemisphere, and the Far and Middle East. Fans will now discover whether the acrobatic leaps of Brawn, Red Bull and Toyota over the big teams are for real or just a mirage.

What is certain is that frenzied activity will have been taking place in the garages of the early-season laggards such as Ferrari and McLaren in order to squeeze extra grunt and grip from their cars.

The Circuit de Catalunya is used by most teams for winter testing so no particular advantage accrues to any one driver, except perhaps Fernando Alonso who can expect passionate home support. Yesterday's early practice confirmed Button's speed is holding up, but there was some encouragement for our early season fancy Robert Kubica of BMW-Sauber. Maybe it's time to start backing him, race by race – if he's still 40-1 at Betfred today for the Spanish GP, try £5 each-way.

Betting before qualifying risks humiliation but at this time of year it's the essence of Flat racing, with Derby and Oaks trials at Lingfield today, and at York next week. I'm chancing a few bob ante-post on Sir Michael Stoute's Glass Harmonium, at 33-1 generally, and Aidan O'Brien's Fremantle (25-1) for the Derby before they run in the Dante Stakes on Thursday. Crazy but it might just work.

*Ronnie O'Sullivan, as feared, was quickly punctured in the World Snooker Championship but a small profit was gleaned thanks to Shaun Murphy's runner-up placing.