What the Latest F1 Odds Tell Us About Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and the Rest
With three races of the 2014 Formula One season behind us, it's a good time to revisit the latest betting odds to see who the bookies think are the real contenders.
Odds are a great way to get an idea of what is really going on behind the headlines. Bookmakers are open to huge losses if they get their odds badly wrong, so they make use of a variety of well-informed sources and experts to craft their odds.
Their aim is, of course, to make money. The favourites will be set at very short odds, often as a deterrent—a heavily backed favourite coming out on top equals a big loss.
Those with less chance of success will have longer odds—but not too long, unless failure is a near certainty—to tempt us into backing them. A long-odds winner tends to equal a substantial overall profit for the bookie.
Substantial wagers (usually in the tens of thousands of pounds) placed also affect odds, but these are rarely made without a bit of inside knowledge.
So here are some of the latest odds, and what they tell us about the chances of the drivers and teams.
All odds are taken from comparison site Oddschecker.com, and are correct at the time of writing.
Ferrari Problems Will Not Be Fixed
We've known since the start of testing that Ferrari were in trouble, and it's got worse since then. Their current constructors' championship odds are a huge 25-1, compared to just 6-1 before the start of the season.
No major contender has seen such a massive drop, and we're talking about the guys with the best driver lineup and one of the biggest budgets in the sport.
No bookie would push the odds on such a team that long unless it was a done deal.
The main issue for the Italian squad is in the powertrain. According to Andrew Benson at BBC Sport:
The Ferrari has good performance in high-speed corners but its engine is uncompetitive compared to the Mercedes, which can produce much more power per unit of fuel, the key measurement of performance under F1's new efficiency-focused rules.
And that's the area they can't improve. Big performance-boosting changes to the power unit are out of the question, because engine development is now frozen for the rest of the year.
In theory at least, Ferrari could make some improvements to their engine in the name of "reliability, safety or cost-saving reasons" (per the F1 regulations, page 46). These might make a tiny difference to the way the F14T runs.
But the bookies recognise that any changes they could make won't be enough.
Ferrari, and two of the best drivers in the field, are out of contention.
A Dash of Hope Remains for Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel
Mercedes are clear in front, but Red Bull are stubbornly hanging on at relatively low odds. They're 7-1 to win the constructors' championship.
Before the first race of the year, they were 4-1. Given the level of Mercedes' domination, that's a fairly small drop.
Their lead driver, Sebastian Vettel, is broadly available at 7-1 for the drivers' championship (from a pre-Australia 3-1).
The odds for Red Bull and Vettel suggest that while the bookies' confidence is low that they can bridge the gap to Mercedes, they're unwilling to risk pushing them too far out at the moment.
It's also interesting to note that Red Bull's constructors' title odds have lengthened by less than Vettel's title odds.
This indicates the bookies believe Daniel Ricciardo is more capable of scoring points for the team—and taking them away from his teammate—than they did before the season began.
The Australian's title odds haven't really moved at all, remaining at around 50-1.
Lewis Hamilton Now Clear Favourite
Lewis Hamilton has been the favourite for the drivers' championship since before the start of winter testing.
Teammate Nico Rosberg, even after his win in Australia, has always been a few points back in the betting stakes.
Hamilton's "lead" has now dramatically increased. His excellent display of defensive driving in Bahrain, coupled with Rosberg's guileless attempts at passing, have seen the Brit cut to clear odds-on favourite.
He's generally 4-7, with Rosberg remaining fairly stable at 2-1.
Looking at the odds for who will win the most races, the gap is even bigger. Hamilton is 1-10, with Rosberg 19-10.
The German's odds look quite long for a man who holds the championship lead and also drives the quickest car. And Hamilton's odds perhaps look too short.
But the bookies, and the extremely clever people who advise them, clearly have far more confidence in Hamilton at the moment.
The Midfield Battle Is Very, Very Close
It seems odd to refer to this as the "midfield battle," but that's the way it is at the moment. Mercedes are in a different class, Red Bull are next—then comes the midfield.
In Australia, McLaren came out on top. Malaysia saw strong performances by the Williams drivers from poor grid slots, and in Bahrain it was the turn of Force India to take the plaudits.
Meanwhile, Ferrari had decent results in Australia and Malaysia, but were poor in Bahrain.
There are eight drivers involved in this fight. Their odds to finish in the Top Six of the drivers' championship are:
Fernando Alonso is the only real anomaly. He alone can be relied upon to get the maximum from his car at every race, and is actually at shorter odds than Sebastian Vettel (1-8).
The others are very close together, suggesting a belief that the battle could go any number of ways.
The Rookies and Kids Are Making Excellent Progress
Before the season started, the odds for the McLaren and Williams drivers showed a clear bias in favour of the more experienced man.
Jenson Button was shorter odds than Kevin Magnussen, with Felipe Massa shorter than Valtteri Bottas.
At Toro Rosso, Daniil Kvyat and Jean-Eric Vergne had broadly similar odds.
That's changed slightly.
Bottas and Massa are now considered equals in all markets. For example, each is 5-1 for a podium at the Chinese Grand Prix, and their title odds are identical.
Button has a slight edge in betting for the Chinese race, but in the title hunt they each have odds of around 125-1. A Top Six championship finish for either is 21-20.
And Kvyat's impressive displays have seen him surge into the "lead" in his team battle. He's available at 80-1 for a podium in China, while Vergne is out at 150-1.
From these odds we can see that Magnussen is considered the real deal. Matching a hugely experienced teammate like Button at such an early stage is a special feat indeed.
They also tell us Kvyat has a future, while Vergne almost certainly does not.
And Bottas? Everything looks good, but maybe the jury's still out.
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