F1 2018 Betting: Is big value Bottas ready to give Hamilton a proper challenge?

Valtteri Bottas
Taming the Diva - Valtteri Bottas rolls out one of 1,040 laps in testing
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Ralph Ellis has looked at the number crunching from two weeks of testing in Barcelona and thinks he's found a big price bet for the new F1 season...

"Crunch the technical numbers any way you like – but odds of [18.5] rather than [1.72] for two guys both driving the same fast car looks like compelling maths to me, and no super computer required."

It's just as well the F1 teams all have sponsorship deals with high powered computer firms. Two weeks of testing has left them zillions of Gigabytes to eat up as they crunch the numbers.

It's hard enough picking through all the lap times and adjusted speed variations for tyre compounds that are all over the specialist websites. My mind's completely addled. Just imagine if you had to analyse every last dot of the data collected in Barcelona.

I've spent two days working through the analysis of the first look at this season's new cars, trying to establish what we've learned. But basically it all boils down to this - Mercedes, who've had the fastest car for the last four seasons, are going to be the team to beat again.

Week one showed that Ferrari and Red Bull have taken great strides forward, and when the weather improved in week two it simply confirmed that they are both going to be more competitive.

But week two also established that Mercedes, the team with the most dominant car last year, have made significant improvements of their own. Their car that was a Diva last year seems to have grown up and become a good deal more reliable. The most telling statistic from Barcelona was that Mercedes completed 1,040 laps.

Hamilton is odds-on

No surprise, then, that with a few weeks before the season begins in Melbourne, Mercedes are [1.49] to retain their Constructors Championship for a fifth year in a row. Red Bull are [5.1] and Ferrari [5.2].

In turn Lewis Hamilton is also odds-on at [1.72] to defend his Drivers Title. But that set me thinking - if there is value anywhere at the start of the season it has to be in backing his team mate Valterri Bottas at the huge price of [18.5].

The Finn was parachuted into the seat alongside Hamilton fairly late last summer after Nico Rosberg's shock decision to quit following his title success.

He needed time to get to grips with the car, with all the pressure that goes with being at a top team, with the delicate relationship of working both alongside and against a major star like Hamilton.

No mind games needed

Yet he still delivered a superbly consistent first half to the season, and despite falling away for a while came back strongly. He should have finished second not third but blew a big chance in Brazil when he started on pole - at least he learned and won the final race in Abu Dhabi.

This year he will inevitably improve again. He's had all summer to get the new car tweaked to his liking, working more closely with his engineers. And he'll also be far more mature in believing he has the right to fight Hamilton for the title rather than play second fiddle.

I've liked some of the interviews he's given, making it clear he won't stoop to the sort of mind games that Rosberg used against the Briton, yet still sees himself as ready to contend for the crown. Hamilton has started slowly in some previous seasons when defending a title, and that could give Bottas the chance to get off to a flyer.

Crunch the technical numbers any way you like - but odds of [18.5] rather than [1.72] for two guys both driving the same fast car looks like compelling maths to me, and no super computer required.

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