The 2014 F1 driver’s champion will be…Sebastian Vettel right? At least that’s what everyone seems to think is a foregone conclusion for this year.
The German has won four in a row with his team Red Bull and looks certain to make it five as he continues his pursuit of the all-time record of seven Formula One World Championships won by his countryman Michael Schumacher between 1994 and 2004.
The trouble with this scenario is that sport often has a habit of surprising us – and what seems unthinkable one day is simply accepted as the norm the next. And this could easily happen in Formula One just as it does in any other sport; ask any Manchester United fan what we mean and they’ll get it pretty quickly.
Look back in history and we could be in the same scenario was Michael Schumacher at the start of the 2005 season. Having won five in a row, Schumacher was odds-on to make it six – and eight overall.
But technical changes changed races.
Specifically, Schumacher’s Ferrari team lacked pace due to a new tyre ruling – banning changes during races. The Bridgestone tyres Ferrari were using couldn’t seem to strike the correct balance between durability and performance – unlike the Michelin tyres used by eventual champion Spain Fernando Alonso, then driving for Renault .
And the same could happen this season; new technical rules could easily upset the Red Bull-Vettel steamroller and remember that over the previous three season s to 2013 – two of Vettel’s championship wins weren’t decided until the very last race.
So it’s far from a given that Vettel will win but because everyone thinks it’s a forgone conclusion, his odds are just 13-10 with Betfair, the world’s biggest gambling exchange.
There could well be better value elsewhere, however. The afore-mentioned Fernando Alonso, for example, is a generous looking 6-1 with Betfair – and he’s with a Ferrari team desperate to get back on the winner’s podium and who are believed to have been working hard at the end of last season once the constructors’ championship was so clearly lost early to make improvements with a longer head.
Further out still with Betfair is McLaren driver Kevin Magnusen – currently a 45-1 chance. The 21 year-old Dane could easily be the new kid on the block – sweeping all before whom if McLaren get it right.
So anything is possible – but the odds suggest it isn’t. And, if you bet with Betfair, of course – you can profit even if your choice simply does better than the market expects by laying some of the bets back.
So even if you think Vettel will make it five – it still may be worth trying to select a lively outsider.