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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.

Race winner is probably the most popular bet but not necessarily the best. Although the odds are usually higher than other bets race, betting on the winner is much more specific, only paying off if the car ends in one specific position unlike bets on podium, top six or top ten. This specificity means that all the relevant factors have far more influence; being confident that a driver will finish in 4th position rather than 5th does not matter when betting on top six but being confident a car will finish 1st rather than 2nd is precisely what betting on race winner is all about. Betting on race winner is much more of a classic gamble than the safer lower odds betting like top 6 or top 10. Some people prefer the gamble, some people prefer safer lower pay off betting but mixing the two is the best.

Generally, most race victories come from 3rd position or higher. Try and get a bet upon each of the top three qualifiers for that race. Aim to break even if one or maybe two of the top 3 drivers wins and then place a higher bet upon which of the top three you think will win or has the best odds. For example, at Silverstone 2012 Alonso was on poll with 2/1 (3.00) for victory, Webber second at 5/1 (6.00) and Schumacher third at 11/1 (12.0). If you put £10 on each then an Alonso win sees you break even, Webber makes you £40 and Schumacher pays off a handsome £120. Details of such bets will be found on the main blog after qualifying. Some courses vary from the norm, with some courses only seeing victories from 1st or 2nd on the grid. Details for specific courses can be found on the stats page. Also, some drivers only win from high qualifying positions whereas other drivers sometimes win from much further down the field. Details from the last decade can be found on the pre-weekend blog post. Finally, some drivers prefer certain tracks and this will be noted in the pre-weekend blog post.

Prior to the qualifying and the practice sessions drivers will have higher odds than after the grid order is known. Taking advantage of this uncertainty is advised in limited quantities. Consider how a driver has performed here before and consider his current form. Also, factor in which courses suit which cars. All this is discussed on the pre-weekend blog post. Placing a small amount of money on a few drivers who the statistics favour or who have unreasonably low odds is wise. If these drivers then qualify badly little money is lost but if one ends up on poll you have money on him at far higher odds than are available after qualifying.

Red Bull have usually been strongest for victory in the previous few years. By contrast, this year after Hungary, Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari have three victories each. Despite this Red Bull are still arguably the most powerful overall team. There reliability is only beaten by Ferrari, they make fewer pit stop errors than most top teams, they are considerably quicker than Ferrari and perform better in the rain than McLaren. However, victory is far from certain and they are only a good bet if qualifying well, Vettel having never won from below 3rd and Webber from below 2nd on the grid. Hamilton is only marginally weaker overall but on any course suiting the McLaren Hamilton is a better bet than the Red Bulls. Alonso is the driver out performing his car, leading the world championship with a car slower than the McLaren, the Red Bull and maybe even the Lotus. His victories this year have usually come from qualifying high due to the rain or because some competitors crashed out when he qualifies relatively low in the dry. Only bet on Alonso for races where rain is likely though he is certainly one to watch for live betting.

Neither Lotus has won yet but with plenty of podiums a victory this season is likely. Their major problem is weak qualifying as they have arguably the best race pace of the field. Their odds often decrease after qualifying because of this though really they need to qualify at least top four for victory to be anything but a high odds bet. Their strong race speed makes them ones to watch for live betting. For Mercedes, Rosberg has won once this season and Schumacher has qualifying top 4 in over half the races this season. Another victory might be possible but after a series of weak results over the summer only bet on victory if they qualify top 3. However, since they usually do better in qualifying than the race it might be best watching them for live betting to see if they can retain the pace rather than betting heavily on them even after qualifying well. Perez has looked very impressive at times this season, two podiums and potentially a victory in Malaysia. However, he is too much an outsider for victory currently but is one to watch for live betting. Maldonado won in Spain but since then failed to score a single point. Despite very high odds he is not worth betting on for victory unless he qualifies top three.

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.

Heavy rain at Hockenheim practice sessions.

Free Practice Results
        FP1
FP2
1st
Button
Maldonado
2nd
Hamilton
Rosberg
3rd
Alonso
Vettel
4th
Schumacher
Perez
5th
Perez
Grosjean
6th
Hulkenberg
Hulkenberg
6th
Rosberg
Ricciardo
8th
Massa
Button
9th
Maldonado
Webber
10th
Grosjean
Raikkonen
11th
Kobayashi
Vergne
12th
Vettel
Massa
13th
Bottas
Kobayashi
14th
Ricciardo
Pic
15th
Raikkonen
Glock
16th
Bianchi
Senna
17th
Vergne
Kovalainen
18th
Petrov
di Resta
19th
Kovalainen
Hamilton
20th
Webber
Alonso
21nd
Pic
Petrov
22nd
Glock
Karthikeyan
23rd
de la Rosa
Schumacher
24th
Clos
de la Rossa

With rain interrupting both practise sessions they only provided limited information about driver potential this weekend. The drenched FP2 can largely be written off, the fastest time was 11 seconds slower than FP1 but the sections of clear running in FP1 has some interesting hints. Button topping the first session with Hamilton close behind is the major surprise. After their recent poor performance, the upgrade package brought to Hockenheim seems to have paid off. Hamilton still looks good for pole with Vettel off the pace during dry running. Button still has high odds after his poor performance but if the upgrades have restored his competitive edge substantial money could be made on a victory at 13/1 (14.00) from StanJames or a podium at 5/1 (6/00) from Ladbrokes. Alonso came 3rd, keeping up the pace of recent races. Pole is unlikely for the Spaniard but he will look to continue his challenges for victory. Red Bull came 12th and 20th but they are just hiding their pace and only FP3 will give information about their potential.

Schumacher timed 4th and Rosberg 7th suggesting they will challenge for a podium and certainly a top six position. Both have 3/2 (2.50) from Bet 365. Perez came 5th, looking very good for a high pay off bet on a podium since likely high tire degradation will work to his advantage, with odds of 32/1 (33.00) from Ladbrokes. Lotus have brought an experimental DRS system but never had much opportunity to test it in FP1. It is unknown if they will use it this race but if they do focus on Lotus for live betting: they usually do better in the race than qualifying and with an experimental system to boot they may pull some surprises if it works.

Odds above accurate at Friday 20th, 18.41 GMT. Click to see live odds.

Image © nic_r

Webber
                        2012    
Since 2010
Won
2
7
Pole
2
10
Podium
4
24
Top 6
11
42
Top 10
15
50
Last update: Brazil

Season analysis after Korea

Webber is usually one of the best value for money drivers. He is generally considered substantially weaker than Vettel but even were this true the fact is that Webber is driving a Red Bull. Reguardless of how many more victories Vettel may have, Webber has a car that can easily reach top 6 if not the podium whilst he is only behind Alonso and Raikkonen for consistency.

Webber has never won from lower than 2nd on the grid so only bet on victory when on he is starting on the front row. Also, Webber has never won a race providing Vettel starts either 1st or 2nd. However, Webber is almost always an excellent bet for victory whenever he qualifies well but Vettel does not make the front row. Vettel has never won from below 3rd and only take victory from 3rd twice yet often Vettel can have lower odds for victory when he qualifies a few places lower than Webber, making Webber excellent value for money in this situation.

With a combination of high consistency and a strong car Webber is an excellent for long term low profit bets. He rarely fails to finish top 6 and has finished top 10 in nearly every race since 2010. Lotus have made top 6 finishes slightly more difficult this year but with the Red Bull currently looking so strong this is a good long term bet. A more risky bet is a podium. Having finished 4th so many times this year Webber has missed out on quite a few podiums this year. A podium is certainly a worth while bet when running well in free practice but focusing on top 6 finishes is usually wiser unless the Red Bull specifically suits the course.

Click to see live odds for next race.

 

 

Season analysis after Hungary

Webber is currently the most underrated driver. For example, Webber had far worse odds starting from 2nd at Silverstone compared to Vettel starting two places down. Webber convincingly won that race. After Silverstone, Webber has more wins and more points than any driver but Alonso or Hamilton. Despite this, Webber usually has far higher odds than Vettel, Alonso or Hamilton, making Webber better value for money.

Webber is usually a good value bet for victory but only if he qualifies well, having never won from lower than 2nd on the grid. Webber's greatest strength is probably his consistency, having scored points in all but two races since 2011 and finished top 6 in all but five. He is usually regularly on the podium although this season he keeps missing out with many 4th place finishes. Webber makes poll more regularly than all drivers except Vettel, though his qualifying performance in 2012 is weaker than previous years.

The world championship is too close to call currently. Webber, Vettel, Hamilton and Alonso are all equally strong contenders. However, Webber is usually given the highest odds despite being 2nd in the championship. Equally credible as Vettel or Hamilton to win the championship yet with lowest odds, Webber is the best bet for the drivers championship.

This update is out of date, see update from Korea above for current update.

Image © Rich Jones