By Alan Baldwin
SHANGHAI (Reuters) - The death this week of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher can point to only one outcome for superstitious Formula One gamblers and lovers of bizarre sporting statistics - a victory for Lotus in Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix.
A flick through the sport's record books shows that the last four deaths of former British premiers have been followed immediately by victory on the racetrack for the team from Enstone.
Edward Heath's demise on July 17, 2005 was followed on July 24 by success for Fernando Alonso in Germany with Renault, the team that is now Lotus and operates from the same English factory.
James Callaghan's death on March 26, 2005 came just before Alonso won in Bahrain for Renault.
In October 1995, Alec Douglas-Home passed away and Michael Schumacher won for Benetton, the team that went on to become Renault. Earlier that year, Schumacher triumphed in Monaco four days after Harold Wilson died.
Going back even further, the first race held after the death of Clement Attlee in October 1967 was won by...Britain's Jim Clark in a Lotus.
Still not convinced enough to take a flutter on Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen or Romain Grosjean in a country famed for its love of gambling? Then consider this - Thatcher's son Mark was once the chairman of Lotus cars in North America.
The morbid prime ministerial statistic follows another popular one that did the rounds of the F1 media centre before the season-opening Australian Grand Prix that linked papal conclaves with grand prix racing.
Three of the last five papal conclaves before the election of Pope Francis were followed by either victories for Lotus or a team from Enstone.
True to form, Raikkonen won this year's Australian season-opener only days after the Argentine pontiff was installed.
British bookmakers William Hill offered odds of 7/1 on Thursday on Raikkonen winning in China with Grosjean at 33/1. Red Bull's world champion Sebastian Vettel is 15/8 favorite.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Tom Pilcher)