Formula One Season Preview: Hamilton odds-on but Bottas the bet at 8/1

Valtteri Bottas
Valtteri Bottas should go close to the Drivers Championship this season

The Formula One juggernaut begins again in Australia with Lewis Hamilton the overwhelming favourite to win the Drivers Championship again but Jason Pettigrove has his eye on a bigger price...

"It’s a given that Verstappen will attempt to dominate the Brit in every race too, and along with Charles Leclerc of Ferrari, the attacks will be regular and consistent."

It's about that time again. Break over, and back down to business for Formula 1, with the Australian Grand Prix on the immediate horizon.

Lewis Hamilton is again the driver to beat, and with a potential record-equalling seventh World Championship available to him by season's end, we can be assured that the Brit will be as fully focused as always.

However, as pre-season testing has already shown, he faces a battle with his car as well as his opponents.

Verstappen confident he has what it takes

Red Bull's Max Verstappen is having none of the talk that Hamilton is going to waltz his way to another title.

Having won three races in 2019, Red Bull's first campaign using the Honda engine, Verstappen still managed to finish third overall, and he along with his team remain confident that the stability in the rules will benefit them and allow Red Bull to build on their strong finish last season.

Certainly, the 22-year-old Belgian has the tools in his armoury to make a fight of the championship this season rather than the procession many expect.

It's a given that Verstappen will attempt to dominate the Brit in every race too, and along with Charles Leclerc of Ferrari, the attacks will be regular and consistent.

The real issue for both drivers isn't their competence either, it's the reliability of both the RB16 and Ferrari SF 1000.

If either make an impression in Australia, then don't expect Verstappen's current 11/2 odds to win the Drivers Championship - or Leclerc's 5/1 - to hang around for long.

Racing Point to make a point?

A second full campaign for Racing Point (previously Force India) could see Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll throw in a surprise or two.

During testing, their RP20 car has looked quick, and with the revelation that it was based on Mercedes' 2019 W10, it's no real surprise.

Perez has noted that the car is the best he's ever driven in pre-season, and only McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes managed more than Racing Point's 782 laps. With barely any tinkering required, no wonder there were happy faces in the paddock.

Although Perez won't trouble the likes of Hamilton or Leclerc for the Drivers title, there's every reason to believe that he's good value for the odd podium.

Bottas the value bet

The sign of a true champion is one who can keep coming back, week after week, week after week, season after season and do it all again.

Lewis Hamilton is at 8/15 to equal Michael Schumacher's record of seven titles, and team-mate, Valtteri Bottas believes that he only needs to be more consistent in order to oust the reigning champion from his perch.

The Finn showed his capabilities in 2019, with wins in Australia, Japan, the United States and Azerbaijan, but his lack of consistency saw his challenge wane quickly.

Importantly, Bottas has sought to minimise not only his mistakes in the car, but also his mental state, after he admitted he finds it difficult to attain the same concentration levels as Hamilton.

Mercedes' technical director, James Allison, whilst noting that the technical rules remain largely unchanged for 2019, has been quoted as saying that some fundamental changes have been made to the cars in order to allow scope for development.

Quite how that will affect Bottas is a moot point at this stage, but at 8/1 to win the Drivers Championship outright, the Finn is the value bet in the field at this stage.

Vettel rounds out the top five

Sebastian Vettel has already bemoaned Ferrari's poor pre-season testing, but despite seeming to be at an obvious disadvantage to the Mercedes pair, the German is well up for the challenge.

Suggestions that he might be thinking about retirement were quickly rubbished, but with Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo being touted as potential replacements in the 2021 season, Vettel would do well to either sign a contract that team principal, Mattia Binotto, says is ready or make any other plans clear.

For no other reason than to have his future mapped out in his own mind and thus allow him to concentrate on what's ahead.

At a best price of 8/1, he's still a worthwhile each way bet (1/3 odds, two places).

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