F1 fans are licking their lips at a three-way title fight this season but Ralph Ellis explains why he will still have his money on Lewis Hamilton and team mate Valtteri Bottas.
"I still think Valtteri Bottas [9.6] offers the best value, and especially to back him at around even money (currently [1.97]) for a podium finish. He picked up 13 of them in 20 races last season, including at Melbourne."
Maths, at school, was never my strong point. All the stuff about Pi, logarithms, square roots and calculus had me totally lost. I think I might have scraped a 'D' grade in my O-level but I haven't a clue how.
What I've learned since, however, is that all you really need to be good at when it comes to numbers is basic adding, taking away, multiplying and dividing. And when it comes to betting throw in a few percentages, and you are just about there.
Certainly if they taught more on odds and chances instead of theoretical stuff about prime numbers it might save a few people from losing fortunes on slot machines, but that's another story.
The point of this is I was reading this morning that Daniel Ricciardo reckons his new Red Bull car, about 0.3 seconds per lap slower than the Mercedes which Lewis Hamilton will be driving, gives him a chance of competing in Sunday's Australian Grand Prix.
A 17.4 second advantage
"If we're that close then the driver can make a difference," is the argument put forward by the Aussie as he enters the final year of his contract.
"It's then about how you drive, are you aggressive, do you push for the gaps?"
Sounds good, until you do the maths. Multiply 0.3 seconds by the 58 laps of the Melbourne circuit that make up Sunday morning's race. Suddenly Ricciardo and his team mate Max Verstappen have got to find 17.4 seconds in total from somewhere to make up the difference, and at an average lap time of 80 seconds that's more than two thirds of a mile behind at the finish.
So for all that Ricciardo has high hopes of being the first Australian to win his home Grand Prix in 33 years of its history, it sounds a very tall order to me.
Hamilton, reigning world champion and with his sights set on a fifth title, inevitably starts as the [2.04] favourite to collect what would be the 63rd Grand Prix win of his career.
Vettel is second favourite
And while we won't know for sure that Mercedes still have the best car until we've seen qualifying, all the signs from testing in Barcelona suggested that to be the case again.
Last year, of course, the Ferrari was better suited to street circuits like Melbourne so Sebastian Vettel is second favourite at [5.9] on that logic.
But his car has the most significant design change with a longer wheelbase this year which might well iron out that advantage, especially as the Mercedes seems far more reliable.
The one thing about Hamilton is you can never quite be sure what mood he will be in at the start of a season. He's been very low profile on social media during the winter, but has stirred things up today with a very fair observation about the lack of diversity in F1.
Regardless I still think his team mate Valtteri Bottas [9.6] offers the best value, and especially to back him at around even money (currently [1.97]) for a podium finish. He picked up 13 of them in 20 races last season, including at Melbourne - and even with my grade D O-level those numbers make sense.