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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

As the season draws to a close Red Bull find themselves in the paradoxical situation of looking likely to win the driver’s championship after such a long wait this season whilst they are finally facing a strong challenge in the constructors. Their main rivals throughout the season are McLaren but Button had a dreadful run between Bahrain and Silverstone whilst Hamilton was rarely fully on the pace during that period, leaving Red Bull the clear favourites. However, since Germany McLaren have arguably been the fastest car with both Button and Hamilton scoring race wins. Also, Webber has had a run of terrible luck plus a couple of poor performances since since Silverstone.

Going into Korea McLaren are 43 points behind Red Bull. They would have to score an average of 9 points more than Red Bull between both drivers each race to take the constructors championship. If the McLaren is quicker than the Red Bull currently then this is not impossible. Except for Hamilton’s mechanical failure in Singapore, McLaren would have won four of the last five races and if they could do the same in the remaining five races they would take the constructor’s championship. Although Vettel had a very strong result at Japan this might not be reflective of the future races since Hamilton was hampered by a poor mechanical setup the entire weekend. However, it is worth noting that Vettel was extremely dominant in the remaining circuits in 2010 and 2011. Although Red Bull are rightly the firm favourites, odds of 1/4 (1.25) from Blue Square pay off far too low to be worth a bet. McLaren’s odds of 7/2 (4.50) from Bet 365 are considerably better value although placing a large bet down is not advised given that Red Bull are still the most likely to win.

Odds above accurate at October 11th, 15:28 GMT. Click to see live odds.

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.

2012 has seen substantially more diverse race results than 2011 or 2010. During those two years, Hamilton, Button, Vettel, Webber and Alonso took all the victories and 89% of the podium places. This year, Mercedes and Williams have won races whilst Lotus and Sauber have reached the podium and could have taken a victory.

Despite this, five drivers have broken away as realistic contenders for the championship. Alonso is leading the championship and is the current favourite. Many consider him the current greatest driver, this may be true but it is questionable if he has the car to take the world championship this year. Alonso's win in Malaysia was due to Hamilton's unlucky slow pitstop whilst Alonso would not have won Valencia without Vettel retiring from mechanical issues. Without that luck, Alonso would currently be around 3rd in the championship. His win in Germany was well deserved but there is little reason to believe he would have won without poll position. That was only the second time in two years he started from P1 on the grid, the other being the previous race at Silverstone and both were reliant for on rain for poll.

It is very difficult not to imagine the other drivers slowly catching Alonso as the season progresses, the only question is if he has built enough of a lead to take the world championship. Since the championship will probably go down to the last few races, the chances are Alonso's odds will increase as other drivers catch him. Waiting for his current odds of Betfair to increase is advised.

Although Alonso is between 40 and 50 points ahead of Hamilton, Webber, Vettel and Raikkonen it is possible for any of them to catch up. If any one of those drivers won the next two races whilst Alonso finishes no higher than 8th then they'd be slightly above, equal or just behind Alonso. Alternatively, if Webber or Vettel finished an average of 5 points ahead for the remaining 9 races they would take the championship. The same is true if Hamilton or Raikkonen finished an average of 6 points ahead of Alonso. Alonso taking the championship is far from assured.

The major obstacle to anyone overtaking Alonso is that so many drivers are competing for that top spot. Vettel, Webber, Alonso and Raikkonen keep taking points from one another and even one driver does rises above the others it is extremely difficult to determine which will.

A few races into 2012 and Hamilton had a couple of pole positions, good race performance and looked favourite for the championship. Mistakes in the pit lane and unlucky penalties cost him race victories but it looked as though if Hamilton could have a few incident free races he'd probably be leading the championship. Unfortunately, Hamilton then did not matched that early performance, with only one (disqualified) pole position and one no podiums beyond his win in the seven races prior to Germany. The upgrade package introduced in Germany helped him take to true dominance at Hungary with victory, fastest in all three qualifying sessions and two of the three practice sessions. With so many poll positions this season and such strong race pace Hamilton has an equal chance of taking the championship as Vettel but considerably higher odds at 6.5 from Betfair.

There is very little between both Red Bull drivers currently. Vettel has more poll positions but Webber has more wins and more championship points. Both drivers have improved since the first three races, Vettel found his skill at setting pole laps again whilst Webber has stopped consistently coming 4th and instead won races. Being so evenly matched currently, both drivers will likely go into the final races of the year neck and neck. Neither driver has an edge over the other but Webber has odds nearly four times as high at 16.00 from Betfair. compared to Vettel at 4.23 from Betfair. A bet on Webber for world champion is by far better value for money. Webber has lookes far stronger than his odds suggest. He won Monoco, had a DRS failure at Valencia when the Red Bull otherwise looked very strong, won Silverstone, gear box change meant a grid penalty at Germany, team error meant he missed Q3 in Hungary when he was quickest in free practice 3 then penalty at Belgium from another gear box change. His recent spate of bad results is due to back luck so is not an indication of poor potential. 16.00 is excellent value for money.

The big outsider is Raikkonen. After two year of McLaren, Red Bull and Ferrari competing for the championship another team is mounting a challenge. Raikkonen looked good at the start of the season and has recently had a series of strong performances, finishing top 5 including two podiums in all the last four races. Having been so close to a win this season, a race victory this year looks likely fairly likely. However, there is good reason to believe the odds are against Raikkonen taking the championship. The Lotus performs well on warmer circuits so has had an advantage over the summer that will fade as the autumn sets in. Also, Raikkonen has only had one incident this year, failing to make Q2 in Australia. Beyond this Raikkonen has avoided more than his share of misfortune of mechanical errors or race incidents (though some would argue that avoiding problems on the track is due to Raikkonen's careful driving). If the Lotus slows down on the colder tracks and if Raikkonen starts having some bad luck then odds of 11.00 from Betfair is not good value for money.

The best odds are currently Hamilton and Webber whilst waiting for Alonso's odds to increase is also worthwhile.

Alonso's dominance continues, increasing championship lead further

Race Results
1st
Alonso
2nd
Button
3rd
Raikkonen
4th
Kobayashi
5th
Vettel
6th
Perez
6th
Schumacher
8th
Webber
9th
Hulkenberg
10th
Rosberg
11th
di Resta
12th
Massa
13th
Ricciardo
14th
Vergne
15th
Maldonado
16th
Petrov
17th
Senna
18th
Grosjean
Yet another win for Alonso puts him 34 points clear in the championship. His win at Hockenheim, however, was not dominant: Vettel or Button were never further than a few seconds behind. Had Vettel, Hamilton or Webber been on pole it is difficult to imagine Alonso making a pass but Alonso probably only took pole due to the rain. Alonso looks good for the championship but not yet for regular race victories.

The two most interesting results were Button and Perez. After a run of six terrible races, Button came second after Vettel's penalty and at times looked a contender for victory. There no good reason to believe Button's performance is a one off, so he should be the fifth man in the field contending for victory once again. Perez came an impressive 6th, having started 17th after a five place penalty. Without that penalty he probably would have finished 4th, converting into a podium after Vettel's twenty second penalty and paying off at 32/1 (33.00) from Ladbrokes.

The race was disappointing for Rosberg and Webber but they could have been expected higher up the grid without their gear box penalties. The major disappointment was Grosjean finishing 18th, having never finished below 6th except due to retirement.

Belgium GP race weekend 31st August to 2nd September. Click to see live odds for next race.

Image © nic_r