Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari, Lotus and Mercedes within three tenths

Betting on the 2013 drivers championship before the season has started is not recommended. Without knowing which team has the best car it is very difficult to predict. The main information is last year and winter testing. In 2012 the quickest car varied between Red Bull and McLaren, with Ferrari and Lotus behind. Meanwhile Lotus and Ferrari had excellent reliability, Red Bull were okay whilst the McLaren failed mechanically many times. However, it is difficult to judge if this has changed. Since each car will have different fuel loads, the lap times they post in winter testing are not a reliable means of judging strength. Waiting until the championship develops or betting on individual races is recommended instead.

The final test times put Rosberg, Alonso and Hamilton on top of the combined times for Barcelona, reports Fomula1.com. Factoring in estimated fuel loads and it looks like all the top five teams are within about three tenths of each others, reports the BBC. It looks like it will be a very competitive and varied season but this makes predicting the drivers world championship very difficult.

The most obvious contender will be the Red Bull, primarily based upon their pace of last year. During testing they have rarely set quick times but Red Bull usually try and hide their pace so this proves nothing. Whilst there is no reason to suspect Red Bull will not be very competitive this year, this can only judged by comparison with the other teams who we have more information on. Webber thinks that the Red Bull will not be dominate, reports ESPN so Vettle's odds of 8/5 (2.6) from Paddy Power are not terrible value for money but are probably not the best bet. Meanwhile, Webber's odds are much higher at 20/1 (21.00) from Bet 365 but it is difficult to imagine Webber taking the championship if Vettel is unable to.

Ferrari seem generally pleased with their car. Although it is still slower than the Red Bull, the situations is vastly better than the start of the 2012 season, with Alonso claiming the Ferrari is 200 times better than a year ago, reports ESPN. Given how close Alonso came to victory in 2012 he is a strong contender. His odds of 3/1 (4.00) from Blue Squareare certainly as good as Vettel's. Massa is an interesting outsider. Although his first half of 2012 was terrible, during the second half he actually scored more points than Alonso if every time Massa handed a position to Alonso did not occur. Whilst still very unlikely to win, odds of 66/1 (67.00) from Bet 365 could be worth a small bet.

Despite often having the fastest car in 2012, McLaren do not look currently very strong. They appeared to be slightly behind the pace of the top teams, reports the BBC. They are likely struggle at the start of the season. However, unlike many of the other top teams, they have made a considerable upgrade to their car. As these are tested and tweaked, we can expect the McLaren to improve. The McLaren is a long term car, reports ESPN. If true then avoid betting on Button or Perez until after the first few races. Their odds will likely increase as their current low pace is revealed, giving good odds if they will improve throughout the season.

Lotus surprised many by being so competitive in 2012. Although they should still be competitive for race wins, it appears they are probably not yet quicker than their rivals. Grosjean thinks Lotus are in the top 4 or 5 cars, reports ESPN. Raikkonen will likely get the most out of his car and must be considered a strong contender given his performance last year. His odds of 12/1 from Bet 365 are not bad.

Mercedes appears to the wild card of the season. They had some success in 2012 but had a very weak second half of the season. It was very unexpected for Hamilton and Rosberg to set the fasted times on the last two days of testing, reports Sky Sports. The general consensus is that the Mercedes will have a unexpectedly successful season. Hamilton's odds of 19/2 (10.5) from Betfair are worth a small bet. Rosberg has far higher odds but few rate Rosberg as highly as Hamilton.

The recommended bets are Alonso, Raikkonen and Hamilton. However, all of this is very speculative. Whilst it can be enjoyable to place a small bet on the championship, it is so much more of a true gamble compared to races where the pace of each team is roughly evident, where past performance at the track is known and the times from free practice or qualifying is known. Avoiding the championship and betting on individual races is recommended.

Odds above accurate at Sunday 10th March, 20.28 GMT. Click to see live odds.

Heavy rain on championship deciding race
Qualifying Results
Starting Position
1st
Hamilton
2nd
Button
3rd
Webber
4th
Vettel
5th
Massa
6th
Hulkenberg
7th
Alonso
8th
Raikkonen
9th
Rosberg
10th
di Resta
11th
Senna
12th
Perez
13th
Schumacher
14th
Kobayashi
15th
Recciardo
16th
Maldonado*
17th
Vergne
18th
Grosjean
*Maldonado – 10 place penalty.
Rain is currently predicted (http://www.bbc.co.uk/weather/3448439) though the weather system of Interlagos is notoriously unpredictable. Assuming it is a wet race then making firm predictions is extremely difficult; anyone could spin off, anyone could be caught on the wrong tire in changing conditions or anyone could see their competitors gain a free pitstop due to the safety car. However, there are a few key factors that could help guess correctly.

In previous years Interlagos has been a Red Bull hunting ground. Webber won in 2009 and 2011 whilst coming 2nd in 2010. Vettel won in 2010, came 2nd in 2011 and 4th in 2009 (having qualified 16th). Whilst they were both beaten by the McLarens it is possible that Red Bull went for a wet weather setup whilst McLaren were more balanced on the setup. This would make sense since a wet race is probably the only chance Vettel has of losing the championship so Red Bull would compensate with a wet weather setup. Meanwhile, earlier in the season the McLaren was extremely poor in wet conditions. Since there has not been a wet race since Germany it is possible this may not be true due to developments of the car. Whilst there are no certainties, the Red Bulls look substantially stronger for victory than the McLarens providing there is substantial rain. Vettel's odds of 8/1 (9.00) from Betfair are excellent value for money. Given the uncertainty of a wet race, a small back up bet on Webber at odds of 11/1 (12.00) from Bet 365 is recommended.

The big uncertainty is Alonso. The Ferrari is good in wet conditions but not truly dominant. His victory in Malaysia involved much skill but also a level of luck. Having never won at Interlagos before and being quite far down the field it is difficult to imagine him beating the Red Bulls. Whilst not impossible, higher odds than those Vettel has would be needed to make Alonso good value for money yet he has near comparable odds of 9/1 (10.00) from SkyBet. Keep a close eye on him for live betting but currently he is not good value for money.

Massa could have an impressive race. The Ferrari does well in the wet, Massa has won here twice previously, he is racing almost as well as Alonso currently and had qualified higher. A win would be unlikely, having not won in other two years and probably having to move aside for Alonso. A podium might be possible and odds of 5/1 (6.00) from Paddy Power is good value for money, even given the possibility having having to hand it to Alonso.

As for the championship, Alonso has odds of 4.1 (5.00) to win from Bet 365 whilst having odds of 5/4 (2.25) for a podium from Bet 365. Since Alonso has to take a podium to win the championship reguardless of what happens to Vettel, betting on a podium is probably wiser if you think there is a realistic change of Alonso being crowned world drivers champion.

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Odds above accurate at Sunday 25th, 12.59 GMT. Click to see live odds.

Image © Dell's

Storm clouds loom over Interlagos
FP3 Results
1st
Button
2nd
Vettel
3rd
Webber
4th
Hamilton
5th
Grosjean
6th
di Resta
7th
Hulkenberg
8th
Alonso
9th
Maldonado
10th
Massa
11th
Senna
12th
Rosberg
13th
Perez
14th
Kobayashi
15th
Schumacher
16th
Ricciardo
17th
Vergne
18th
Petrov
The rain is on the horizon but with no one certain if it arrive in time for qualifying this could be the most unpredictable battle for pole this season. The usual safe bets are today far from safe but this opens opportunities for those willing to make risky bets.

Hamilton and Vettel are joint favourites to win qualifying, with odds of 47/25 (2.88) from Blue Square and 47/25 (2.88) from SkyBet respectively. Neither of these odds are exceptional value for money. Button was two tenths quicker than Hamilton yet only has odds of 33/10 (4.30) from Bet 365whilst Webber was only a tenth slower than Vettel yet has odds of 15.0 from Bet 365. The usual two contenders for pole, Vettel and Hamilton have lowers odds yet do not look particularly stronger than the competitors. With four drivers being so close there is very little to choose between them and none can be recommended.

The key issue is the rain, with the possibility of rain towards the end of qualifying. If so this will likely change everything. However, the last race with rain was Germany and the cars have developed massively since them. However, back then the McLarens were very weak in the rain whilst Alonso was masterful. On this basis, unless you wait until qualifying is taking place before betting, the McLaren is best avoided. Meanwhile, Alonso's odds of 21/1 (22.00) from Betfair are excellent value for money. This bet would be purely dependent upon the rain and the hope that the comparitive speed in the rain will not have changed since Silverstone. Since both of these possibilities are reasonable possibilities a small bet on Alonso is worthwhile.

Odds above accurate at Sunday 24th, 15.19GMT. Click to see live odds.

Image © Leandro's World Tour