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F1 2019 season betting preview: who will win the drivers championship title?

Mercedes ace Lewis Hamilton set battle Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari all the way

Sebastian Vettel (left) could be forced to play second fiddle to Lewis Hamilton again
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There has been little to choose between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel in the last two Formula One seasons, and winter testing suggests more of the same for 2019.

Just 0.003 seconds separated Vettel’s fastest time of pre-season around Barcelona from Hamilton’s best and the pair head the market to top the 21-race around-the-world slog that begins in Australia this weekend.

You can back both drivers and still make a profit if either becomes champion, showing that there are other runners the bookies respect.

They are headed by Vettel’s new young Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc, while Max Verstappen, who finished last season strongly, will be looking to get in on the act if the Honda engine in his Red Bull proves up to the task.

Top tip
Lewis Hamilton 11-8
It’s easy to make a case for either of the market leaders, but there looks a good chance bookmakers have overestimated pre-season form.

Hamilton was 8-11 to retain his title before testing began and that could prove a more accurate reflection of his chances than the price he has drifted to.

Hamilton has been beaten to the title only once since F1 switched to hybrid power units in 2014 – when his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg capitalised on Hamilton’s poor reliability in 2016.

Vettel looked on course to end Ferrari’s 11-year wait for a drivers title going into the second half of last season, but he fell short by a huge 88 points – almost double the 46 points the German missed out by the previous season.

Vettel lost 32 points in the battle by sliding out of a comfortable lead in Germany last year – a race Hamilton went on to win.

He also lost ground in Singapore and Italy – two races he would have expected to win had the events been re-run.

But Mercedes’ ability to keep finding performance from the car as the season grinds on, along with Hamilton’s tendency to fall into a groove of invincibility at times, make the Briton look the safer bet.

Leclerc could certainly enter the equation if the Ferrari proves the class of the field, but he will surely make mistakes in his first year with a top team.

Verstappen threw away two victories last season through impetuosity and it will be a surprise if the Red Bull is quick enough to allow him to challenge for the title.

Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas is undoubtedly better than his fifth-place finish in last year’s championship suggests, although he looks very much the team’s number two.

Other markets
Daniel Ricciardo without the big six 9-4
McLaren and Haas no podium in 2019 11-10
Daniel Ricciardo's switch to Renault was a bold move for both parties.

Renault are the only one of the midfield teams with the realistic medium-term aim of challenging the might of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull. While they're unlikely to do that this year, the French team look capable of beginning to bridge the gulf between the midfield and the elite division.

Nico Hulkenberg finished seventh in the drivers championship last year fairly comfortably despite failing to finish three of the final five races of the season, and that berth looks Ricciardo's to lose if Renault have built on the progress they showed last season.

Sergio Perez's third place for Force India (renamed Racing Point this year) in a wacky Azerbaijan race was the only podium of 2018 for a team outside the big three.

While the pack look a little closer this term, it's unlikely to be any easier for the smaller teams to get a taste of the rostrum champagne, so Sky Bet's odds-against quote for a Haas or McLaren to fail to reach the podium looks worth taking. 

L Hamilton to win drivers title
5pts 11-8 Sky Bet
D Ricciardo without the big six
2pts 9-4 Coral, Ladbrokes
McLaren & Haas not to get a podium finish
4pts 11-10 Sky Bet

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Hamilton was 8-11 to retain his title before testing began and that could prove a more accurate reflection of his chances than the current price
E.W. Terms
Sky bet