Hamilton made clear favourite for F1 title – but have the bookies got it right?
Lewis is 1/1 to retain his crown, with Vettel and Verstappen next on the list.
F1 is not known as a betting sport. There are no adverts advising us to bet during a race and odds don’t flash up on the screen for when the next pit stop will be.
Still, it is interesting to see how the bookmakers are setting their odds for the world championship. They’re not in the business of losing money and use plenty of data to make decisions, so the odds should reflect the competitive order for the year ahead.
So, we’ve taken a look at the current market. We’ve used one major bookmaker to collect these odds, but they reflect the general trend across the board.
Let’s begin by stating the obvious: Lewis Hamilton is the clear favourite among all bookmakers. The one we used has him at 1/1 (so if you put £1 on Lewis to win the title you’ll get £2 back), which is consistent across various bookies bookies.
Lewis is heavily fancied to win a fifth world title this year. Pic: Sutton Images
It fluctuates only slightly – you might get £2.10 back, you might receive £1.90 – but there’s no wild outlier. Either way you won’t win much by backing Lewis, unless you drop a huge chunk of change on him winning the title.
The odds are fair, however. Lewis is the clear favourite and his rapid pace on worn medium tyres during the final day of testing suggests he’s the man to beat this term. He’s won three of the past four titles and, if pushed, most people would probably back him again in 2018.
In another non-surprise Sebastian Vettel is second favourite, coming in at 10/3 with our chosen bookie.
Seb is considered a very strong contender for the championship. Pic: Sutton Images
In terms of value this isn’t bad. Ferrari look to have a competitive car again this term and Seb is plainly a world-class driver. Backing him won’t result in a fortune – £1 would become £4.33 – but it’s better than betting on Lewis.
Next up we have Max Verstappen at 9/2, while Daniel Ricciardo is 7/1. You could probably class these four as the realistic title bets, with Lewis and Seb the likely contenders and the Red Bull boys the dark horses.
Again, this all seems sensible enough. Red Bull have a quality car and excellent drivers, but there are questions over their Renault engine. Can they win the title? Yes. Are they favourites? No, so the bookmaker has this about right.
He dropped it in the gravel yesterday, but the bookies fancy Max as a realistic bet for the title. Pic: Sutton Images
The next three contenders are interesting: Valtteri Bottas is 12/1, Fernando Alonso 16/1, and Kimi Raikkonen a whopping 33/1.
You cant really argue with Bottas’ odds. He was plainly outperformed by Lewis last term and it’s difficult to see him beating the Brit this time around. 12/1 reflects the fact that he has a very good car – maybe even the best – but also a teammate who’s near impossible to beat.
Still, it’s not a bad bet. £1 returns £12 if Valtteri somehow turns things around and wins the title.
Alonso’s odds simply tell us how highly-rated the Spaniard is. 16/1 suggests a title dark horse, but it’s a huge leap to expect that McLaren might compete for the world championship this year. Nevertheless, with Alonso you just never know and the odds reflect that.
Fernando Alonso is ranked at 16/1 largely by dint of being Fernando Alonso. Pic: Sutton Images
Raikkonen will have a more competitive car than Fernando this year, but at 33/1 he’s clearly not fancied.
This actually seems fair enough. Kimi’s only hope of the title is if Seb is forced to miss races and Ferrari throw their weight behind the veteran Finn. Even then, is he likely to beat Lewis? On recent form he’s probably not.
From here we move into the territory of genuine outsiders. Renault duo Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz are priced at 100/1, as is McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne. That seems like an accurate forecast. All three are quality drivers but none have the car to take the title, barring some kind of massive upset. The odds reflect this.
Renault are 100/1 outsiders. Pic: Sutton Images
Thereafter, there seems to be a lot of making it up as they go along from the bookies. Marcus Ericsson comes in next at 200/1, giving him better odds than Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon (both 250/1).
It’s impossible to work out what’s going on here without understanding the world of odds-setting. Ericsson is plainly not as good a driver as Perez or Ocon, Force India have been beating Sauber for several seasons, and they have the class-of-the-field Mercedes engine.
Why are the Swede’s odds better? Answers on a postcard, or better still in the comments section, if you have an insight.
Hopefully they're asking Marcus about his title chances. Pic: Sutton Images
Finally, the rank outsiders. Williams teammates Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin are 500/1, as is Brendon Hartley. The sister Toro Rosso of Pierre Gasly is 1000/1, along with Charles Leclerc (though if a Sauber was somehow to win the world title, surely it would be Leclerc and not Ericsson).
Finally, the Haas drivers get the wooden spoon – Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen are both a huge 1500/1. Still, that’s shorter than the odds on Leicester City winning the Premier League a few years back.
In truth, everything beyond the top 10 seems a bit slapdash. Ranking Lewis, Seb and Max as the top three title favourites is sensible enough; putting Ericsson at number 11 really isn’t. The long odds given to Force India are a mystery, too.
Both Force India drivers have longer odds than Ericsson. Pic: Sutton Images
But does it really matter? We already know who the pace-setters will be this year and the chance of an upset over 21 races is very slim indeed. The bookmakers need only get the real contenders’ odds right as everything else is irrelevant to them.
And, looking at the drivers they’ve picked as favourites for the title, it’s hard to argue that they’re wrong.
Do you think the bookies have got the odds for this year's world championship right? Let us know your take in the comments section below.