What the Latest Formula 1 Odds Tell Us About the Chances of the Teams, Drivers
Formula One betting odds are often a great way to get an insight into where each team and driver stands.
The financial stakes are huge, so the bookmakers can't afford to get it wrong. They don't just make guesses; instead, they use knowledgeable sources and experts to help craft their odds.
They trawl through the rumours, news and inside information so you don't have to.
A bookie will try to set the favourites at odds which don't pay out a lot, but which are long enough to tempt people to bet on them.
For those at the other end of the spectrum, the bookie will never set very long odds unless they're almost certain the outcome will not occur.
Here are some key betting lines, and what they tell us about the drivers' and teams' chances as we approach the first race of 2014.
All odds are given in the fractional format—the first number is the winnings you would receive for staking the second number. You also get your stake back. Odds are taken from Oddschecker's comparison page, and are correct at the time of writing.
No Confidence in Williams and Force India
This one stands out the most.
Williams had a near-perfect preseason. Felipe Massa set the fastest time of anyone at the Bahrain tests, and the team did a total of 4,893.432 kilometres overall—second only to Mercedes.
So they're up there with the title favourites?
Far from it. Williams are available at odds as long as 40-1 for the constructors' championship. More typical is a figure around 33-1, but that's still huge for a team coming off such a successful winter.
Force India also looked good in Bahrain, but they're out at 100-1.
The message is loud and clear—there's absolutely no confidence in either team to carry their good form throughout the entire season.
And it makes perfect sense.
Those two teams have far smaller budgets than the likes of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull. As the cars are developed over the course of the season, they'll get quicker—and big-budget teams have far more cash and resources to throw at this area.
Williams and Force India also have less-capable driver line-ups.
Valtteri Bottas could be a future champion and Felipe Massa can put in a great race when he wants to. Nico Hulkenberg is another future champion and Sergio Perez is no slouch either.
Neither team is likely to be a factor come the end of the season.
An Insight into Daniel Ricciardo's True Place at Red Bull
Most team-mates are fairly close together in the drivers' championship odds.
There's one exception, and that's the Red Bull pairing.
While Sebastian Vettel is down at a typical 3-1 (second-favourite) for the drivers' championship, Daniel Ricciardo is widely available at 50-1. For a bit of perspective, that's behind both McLarens, both Ferraris, both Mercedes and Felipe Massa.
A successful bet on Ricciardo would return around 17 times the amount the same bet on Vettel would.
The bookies are confirming what many of us already knew—Red Bull have constructed a one-man team. Ricciardo isn't there to win the title; he's there to fulfil the role Rubens Barrichello and Felipe Massa played at Ferrari.
Score points to help the team and assist the team leader when possible.
Vettel's odds are shorter than they might otherwise be because, unlike the other "team favourites" (such as Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso), he won't have a troublesome team-mate taking points off him.
Also, Ricciardo's odds are longer because he's the only true No. 2 driver in the field.
Red Bull Set to Lose Too Much Ground Early on
Speaking of Red Bull, their constructors' championship odds have drifted out to somewhere in the region of 4-1.
Red Bull haven't been that long since at least 2009, and even after Jerez earlier this year they were no higher than 7-4.
The general belief is that once they can get the reliability issues fixed, the car will be quick. Possibly the quickest in the field, if appearance and detail are anything to go by.
But their rivals will open a points gap before that happens. We can say with a good degree of confidence that Red Bull won't be competitive or reliable enough to come out on top for at least the first three or four races.
Further ahead than that, it's less certain. Taking a bit of an educated guess, they have the personnel and resources to be on a par with the top teams by the fifth or sixth round.
But that could be too late to catch up. Even if the Austrian team have the best car, it's inconceivable the advantage will be the same as the one they enjoyed towards the end of 2013.
Also, Mercedes and Ferrari will have two top drivers scoring points for them; Red Bull will have only one (sorry, Daniel).
It's too early to write them off, but if the bookies are willing to push their odds that long, maybe that fifth-consecutive title is a step too far.
Mercedes in the Clear
Mercedes are now clear title favourites.
The average price on them is evens (1-1) for the constructors' championship. This is down from a best of 13-8 after Jerez.
No other team is shorter than an average 4-1. That sort of gap suggests a far greater confidence in Mercedes to do well than anyone else.
They have a huge budget and the second-best driver line-up on the grid.
Most importantly, they'll be ready and in a position to score big points right from the off. If the cars hold up, they could easily be first and second in every race before the start of the European season (Round 5).
That would give them a massive lead, and they're good enough to hold on to it.
Australian Grand Prix Set to Be Chaotic
Season-openers have a long and proud history of being a little bit unpredictable, and 2014's is set to be no exception. A look at the early odds for the race give us a hint of what the bookies think it'll be like.
A safety car appearance is 1-4, meaning it's considered a near-certainty to occur.
And, though no odds are yet available for the number of finishers, every driver on the grid has short odds to record a Did Not Finish (DNF).
Those considered least likely to fail to finish are the Mercedes drivers (both 3-1), closely followed by the Ferraris, McLarens and Williams.
At the other end, Pastor Maldonado is favourite to retire on 6-5.
On top of that, nine drivers have odds lower than 20-1 to win the race and 12 drivers are 8-1 or lower to finish on the podium.
Points finish? Even Kamui Kobayashi's Caterham is just 6-1.
It's unlikely the grid has been covered by such a small range of odds since the 1990s.
Ferrari Hanging on
No one is entirely sure where Ferrari lie in relation to the other teams.
On available evidence, they currently appear to be behind Mercedes, and in a tight battle with McLaren, Williams and Force India. But testing is rarely a perfect indicator.
The bookies typically have Ferrari at around 4-1.
That's the same price they've been at since last year, and it suggests there's not a lot of confidence in either their current position or their ability to improve.
But they're still there, hanging on. The Scuderia have the best driver line-up and—reliability permitting—both men will be relentlessly scoring good points every weekend.
Like Red Bull, it's far too early to write off Ferrari.