Predicting the outcome of this year’s Formula One championship before the first race of the season is akin to betting on a poker hand blind. It is notoriously difficult to tell anything before the F1 cars have competed at a race weekend. But it’s precisely because of this that some of the best odds can be had by those willing to take a punt.
When the teams left the Circuit de Catalunya on Sunday the difference between the fastest and the slowest cars was 3.2 seconds. What does that tell us? Practically nothing. There is no way of knowing what fuel loads the cars were running – and a full tank at the Barcelona track adds up to five seconds to a lap time.
Even the first race of the season may not enlighten us very much about the state of play. Melbourne, which plays host to the opening round a week on Sunday, is a temporary circuit with an atypical layout, which often produces unusual results.
The consensus view emerging from testing is that the field is very closely matched. So Melbourne may be your best opportunity to back a winner on double-digit odds.
Australian Grand Prix betting
Lewis Hamilton is at 11.00 to win first time out for his new team, Mercedes. Although he has been eager to play down the potential of the W04, he and team-mate Nico Rosberg set some promising times in the final two days of testing.
The Lotuses have also looked quick, though unreliable. McLaren’s drivers have admitted they are still trying to understand their car, which is more of a departure from last year’s design than that of their rivals.
However, odds of 15.00 for Sergio Perez to win on his debut for McLaren might be enough to tempt you. He has always gone well in Australia, finishing seventh on his 2011 debut before being disqualified for a minor technical infringement, and running strongly last year before an untimely safety car deployment left him eighth.
When it comes to drivers who have been enthusiastic about their new car, check out the Williams pair, both of which had positive things to say about the new FW35 and its latest upgrades. Pastor Maldonado, who won last year’s Spanish Grand Prix, is at 40.00 to win the first race of the year. Valtteri Bottas, who is making his F1 debut next weekend, is on even higher odds at 100.00. But before you snap that last one up it’s worth knowing he spent all last year as a test driver and hasn’t started a race in 15 months.
When it comes to betting on the championship, it is likely that the odds will look very different in a few weeks’ time once we have our first reading on the true pace of the cars. The current figures owe a lot to last year’s historical data. But most of that will go out of the window as the picture for 2013 begins to come into focus.
So look for drivers whose odds are likely to shorten in the coming weeks. Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen – both previous title-winners – are on 15.00 and 12.00 respectively to win the championship this year.
The odds in the constructors’ championship are distinctly less rewarding so unless you feel very strongly that this is Lotus or Mercedes’ year, look elsewhere.
Finally, if you fancy a bet on something completely different, odds of 7.00 for ex-F1 driver Heikki Kovalainen to start this year’s round of the World Rally Championship at his home event in Finland are worth a look.
Keith Collantine is the editor of Formula One blog F1 Fanatic.