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The dynamics of the championship has suddenly finally settled down as the championship goes into the final quarter of races. Prior to Korea Hamilton looked like Alonso’s greatest challenger and even only two races ago in Italy Raikkonen was a reasonable outsider bet. However, two factors have changed everything. Hamilton’s retirement in Singapore has probably ended his championship bid whilst Alonso’s retirement in Japan has vastly narrowed his lead. Meanwhile, Alonso always looked like the 2012 champion as long as race victories were spread between all his main competitors. However, Vettel’s victories in Singapore and Japan have made this a two horse race, between Vettel at 31/50 (1.62) from SkyBet for the championship and Alonso at 81/50 (2.62) from Bet 365 .

Vettel certainly currently looks like the most likely to take the championship. He has had an excellent run of races since the Summer break. He was in 12th position after the 2nd lap of Belgium yet finished 2nd. He was 4th at Italy – probably the worst track for the Red Bull - until taking the penalty for forcing Alonso off the track, working he way back to 6th until the retirement from mechanical error. Hamilton’s retirement at Singapore gave Vettel a lucky victory but ignoring that he’d easily have finished 2nd. Finally, his victory at Japan looked like an emulation of 2011 performance. Alonso’s current performance is more difficult to judge, having been taken out on the first lap at Belgium and Japan. He had an excellent race in Italy, finishing 3rd from starting 10th and his 3rd place finish in Korea was respectable. There’s no denying that Alonso is currently extremely competitive but Vettel has generally looked stronger since the summer break.

Looking back at 2010 and 2011, Vettel was far stronger at the forthcoming circuits this season. He retired from 1st in Korea in 2010 and won in 2011. He won India in 2011 (there was no 2010 race in India). He won Abu Dhabi in 2010 and retired from 1st in 2011. Finally he won Brazil in 2010 and was 1st until a mechanical failure in 2011. This means that of remaining races this year (obviously except America), Vettel would have probably won every single one in both 2010 and 2011 except for mechanical error. By contrast, Alonso only managed four podiums in those seven races and only one victory after Vettel’s retirement in Korea in 2010. Vettel very clearly holds the upper hand based on previous years.

The only hope for any other driver would be both Vettel and Alonso suffering at least one retirement in the remaining five races. Hamilton has odds of 20/1c(21.00) from Betfair and Raikkonen has odds of 40/1 (41.00) from Paddy Power . Hamilton is probably the better bet despite lower odds since he arguably still has the fastest car although only moderately so compared to the Red Bull. However, assuming that Hamilton wins the next race and both Vettel and Alonso failed to score he’d still be 13 points behind them with only four races remaining. This makes him truly an outsider bet. Raikkonen is five points ahead of Hamilton but with so few races remaining he could not narrow the gap on consistency alone, he would have to have race victories but has yet to win this season. He cannot be recommended for a bet.

Despite the lowest odds, Vettel is the only recommended bet. Given his dominance at the remaining courses in previous years and strong results in recent races there’s a high chance he will still take the title even if he has another retirement in the remaining races. Perhaps the most likely route to victory for Alonso would be to have Vettel retire once more whilst Hamilton takes most the remaining victories, meaning Vettel would be unable to score decent points to make up the deficit. Whilst it is not impossible for Alonso to win his odds are too low to be value for money.

Odds above accurate at October 11th, 14:23 GMT. Click to see live odds.

Massive crash but Button needed no help to win

Race Results
1st
Button
2nd
Vettel
3rd
Raikkonen
4th
Hulkenberg
5th
Massa
6th
Webber
7th
Schumacher
8th
Vergne
9th
Ricciardo
10th
di Resta
11th
Rosberg
12th
Senna
13th
Kobayashi
14th
Petrov
15th
Glock
16th
Pic
17th
Kovalainen
18th
de la Rosa

After such a weak season Button notches up another victory. Although he faced far fewer competitors than normal his pace was incredible and no one could touch him. With quickest times in free practice and in the qualifying sessions, his weekend was more dominant than Hamilton's in Hungary. However, it's difficult to know if Button has genuinely stepped up his game or if he just got the set-up on his McLaren perfect. Regardless, he certainly looks likely to be more of a factor than than he has been mostly this season.

The big upset was Grosjean's crash taking out Hamilton, Alonso, Kobayashi and Perez. Whilst none of these could have challenged Button it would have been extremely interesting to see if they could have matched Raikkonen for pace. Especially disappointing is Sauber not getting a chance to show their potential. Although Kobayashi was slow during the race he probably suffered damage during the crash and they are worth watching for the future as more podiums are likely this season. Vettel and Hulkenberg also had very impressive races, Vettel using his one stop strategy to move ahead of even Raikkonen from 11th and Hulkenberg took his Force India to 4th.

After Alonso's first retirement this year his competitors had a chance to keep up. Button's win moves him closer to putting himself into the hunt for the championship but he is still far away. With Hamilton also retiring and Webber not having a great race Alonso has got off lightly in the championship race. Raikkonen is now a single point behind Webber and 14 in front of Hamilton. Alonso's main concern is Vettel, now 8 points ahead of his team mate and 24 behind Alonso. The margin is still big but Alonso now has an even harder fight on his hands.

Monza race weekend 7th to 9th of September. Click to see live odds for next race.

Image © Evoflash

A very unusual qualifying session.
Qualifying Results
Starting Position
1st
Button
2nd
Kobyashi
3rd
Maldonado*
4th
Raikkonen
5th
Perez
6th
Alonso
6th
Webber*
8th
Hamilton
9th
Grosjean
10th
di Resta
11th
Vettel
12th
Hulkenberg
13th
Schumacher
14th
Massa
15th
Vergne
16th
Ricciardo
17th
Senna
18th
Rosberg
*Maldonado – 3 place penalty.
*Webber – 5 place penalty.

Button takes his first poll position in two years during one of t strangest qualifying results in the last few seasons. Both Saubers achieved their best qualifying position with Kobayashi 2nd and Perez 5th. Raikkonen also had best qualifying of the year by coming in 4th. Maldonado's excellent 3rd was demoted to 6th after blocking a car in the pitlane (see Planet F1), promoting Raikkonen, Perez and Alonso.

There is no obvious reason why so many drivers who are relatively weak at qualifying have taken substantially higher grid positions than the Red Bulls or Hamilton. Since it is unclear why this happened it is also unclear if those who qualified well will be able to retain pace during the race. Caution is heavily advised for betting on Spa this year.

Jenson Button is the favourite to win with odds of 7/5 (2.40) from Paddy Power. The McLaren generally does not suit Spa that well and there is speculation that Button was so much quicker than Hamilton because his car was set up for qualifying so these odds are not brilliant. Raikkonen is second favourite with 7/2 (4.50) from Bet 365. Raikkonen almost always does better in the race than qualifying, the Lotus having arguably the best race pace of any car in the field. Having won here four times, Raikkonen has an excellent chance of taking a fifth victory at Spa from 3rd on the grid. 7/2 (4.50) is good odds though also placing a equally sized bet on Button would ensure a profit whichever wins would be wise.

The big uncertainty are Sauber. They usually do well in high speed tracks in colder weather which puts them at home in Belgium. In the correct conditions the Sauber often show massive race pace and can often finish far ahead of where they qualify, Perez taking podiums from 10th and 15th on the grid. If Spa is one of the courses that maximises their potential pace – and qualifying suggests that it is – then a win cannot be discounted. 113/10 (14.3) from Betfair for Kobayashi and 83/5 (17.60) from Betfair for Perez are both worth at least a small bet. If victory sounds ambitious then podiums at 57/25 (3.28) from Betfair for Kobayashi and 7/2 (4.50) from SkyBet for Perez seem good value given that the Saubers usually finishing higher than they qualify. The Saubers may split their strategy, with Kobayashi covering the leaders whilst Perez tries his own strategy which he has so masterfully pulled of in the past so hopefully at least one Sauber will find the best strategy and take the podium. Top 6 are also good odds at 67/100 (1.67) from Blue Square for Kobayashi and 1/1 (2.00) from Blue Square for Perez.

The best strategy would be betting on all the top four for victory, trying to break even on a Button victory and profit for the other four. As a rough approximate example, betting £30 with £12 on Button, £14 on Raikkonen, £3 on Kobayashi and £2 on Perez would yield £1 profit if Button wins, £14 if Raikkonen wins, £12 if Kobayashi wins and £10 if Perez wins. The major challenge to this plan is Alonso in 5th. Maldonado should hold up many of the pack who lacked pace in qualifying and additionally di Resta might hold up Vettel in 11th and a demoted Webber in 12th (see ESPN.). Alonso's relentless nature is renowned but his win's at Malyasia and Valencia were dependent upon a car higher up the field having a slow pit stop or retiring . Since Alonso free admits his car is weaker than the Lotus and the McLaren it is difficult to imagine him taking victory without luck coming his way (see ESPN). Overall though, with so many uncertainties after such a bizarre qualifying it is very difficult to guess what race pace each car will approximately have so live betting or simply avoiding betting on Spa this year might ultimately prove wisest.

Odds above accurate at Saturday 2nd, 01.02 GMT. Click to see live odds.

Image © samarvid

McLaren likely to continue their usual dominance at Hungary.

Free Practice Results
        FP1
FP2
1st
Hamilton
Hamilton
2nd
Button
Raikkonen
3rd
Alonso
Senna
4th
Rosberg
Massa
5th
Grosjean
Alonso
6th
Schumacher
Button
6th
Raikkonen
di Resta
8th
Bottas
Vettel
9th
Perez
Grosjean
10th
Hulkenberg
Schumacher
11th
Maldonado
Rosberg
12th
Kobayashi
Maldonado
13th
Webber
Hulkenberg
14th
di Resta
Webber
15th
Vettel
Kobayashi
16th
Ricciardo
Vergne
17th
Vergne
Ricciardo
18th
Bianchi
Perez
19th
Petrov
Petrov
20th
Pic
Kovalainen
21nd
Kovalainen
Glock
22nd
Glock
de la Rossa
23rd
de la Rossa
Pic
24th
Clos
Karthikeyan
Hamilton was quickest in both Friday practice sessions and Button was second quickest in FP1. Hamilton has the lowest odds for both qualifying (2/1 (3.00) from 888sport) and the race (3/1 (4.00) from 888sport). Hamilton certainly does look strongest but Button is better value for money for the race victory at 9/1 (8.00) from Bet365. Rain has been predicted for the race and Button is renowned for his skill handling changing weather conditions, including winning here in 2006 starting 14th on the grid. Live betting is advised: the McLaren has struggled in both the last two wet qualifying sessions and it is currently unknown if they face similar difficulties in a wet race.

The biggest surprise from qualifying was the lack of pace from the Red Bulls, both struggling to set top ten times. The rain cancelled any plans for low fuel running from Red Bull so their exact pace is unknown. However, their times were unusually low and both drivers admitted they were off the pace. Despite this Vettel is still second favorite for qualifying (11/4 (3.75) from William Hill) and the race (10/3 (4.33) from Ladbrokes). He does not currently look like value for money although FP3 Saturday morning might give a true indication of potential. Webber has 14/1 (15.00) from Ladbrokes for race victory. Having won more races than everyone but Alonso this year, these seem incredibly good odds for a high profit bet.

The qualifying should be dry which probably rules out a pole position for Alonso. With rain predicted for the race he should prove strong and 9/2 (5.50) from 888sport are good odds. The major issue will be how well the McLaren handles the wet weather. If the McLaren proves weak and given Red Bull's problems, Alonso could be good for victory. If the McLaren can keep pace in the rain then they will probably win. Live betting is recommended.

Image © nic_r

Odds above accurate at Friday 27th, 17.40 GMT. Click to see live odds.

The 11th Race of 2012, Hungarian Grand Prix at the Hungaroring

Previous Winners
2011
Button
2010
Webber
2009
Hamilton
2008
Kovalainen
2007
Hamilton
2006
Button
2005
Raikkonen
2004
Schumacher
2003
Alonso
2002
Barrichello

The Hungaroring is typically a McLaren hunting ground, with five victories in the last six races. Only Webber, in 2010, has broken their dominance. The race has been won from 4th position or better in all but one race for the last ten years. Strangely, the race has not been won from pole since 2004.

With pole position being no guarantee of success, drivers who are weaker at qualifying usually have good odds for victory. Button has near double Hamliton's odds at 9/1 (10.00) from Ladbrokes and he looked back on the pace at Hockenheim. Webber's odds are almost three times Vettel's at 12/1 (11.00) from StanJames, despite Webber's weakness of qualifying not mattering at the Hungaroring. Raikkonen showed excellent pace in Germany, going from 10th to 4th on the grid. 14/1 (15.00) from StanJames are good odds, though betting on a podium if he does not qualify top 4 may pay off. There might be rain on Sunday so considering waiting on the forecast and bet on Alonso, Button and Schumacher if a wet race is likely.

Vettle is the current favourite at 3/1 (4.00) from 888sport, on a track he has never won. Webber has odds three times as high at 12/1 (13.00) from StanJames despite winning here in 2010. The course suits the Red Bull and Webber has the best odds.

Alonso is second favourite for victory at 7/2 (4.50) from 888sport. With the Red Bull and the McLaren suiting the Hungaroring better than the Ferrari, Alonso's odds will only be good if he qualifies well.

Qualifying bets should depend upon the weather. Alonso took pole in the last two race but he admits the Ferrari is currently weaker than his competitors, suggesting Alonso success at qualifying depends on the rain. With the McLaren weak in the rain, Alonso for pole and Schumacher qualifying top 3 are good bets for wet weather qualifying. If, as currently forecast, qualifying is dry then Vettel and Hamilton are usually equally strongest for pole position. Vettel has 9/4 (3.25) from 888sport but Hamilton's odds are better at 47/2 (4.50) from Bet 365.

Image © Rodefeld

Odds above accurate at Friday 27th, 00.40 GMT. Click to see live odds.