Fancy a flutter? Put money on McLaren

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It is only a matter of days until the season-opening grand prix in Melbourne, and I for one cannot wait.

A perfect mix of good weather (usually), Aussie enthusiasm and a challenging circuit make the Australian Grand Prix well worth getting up at silly o’clock to watch. Or, later on in the day in condensed form if you don’t have Sky of course…

Now is also an opportune moment to have a wager on who you envisage will be topping the championship tables come the end of the season – before the bookies can see the lay of the land and shorten the odds.

Predictably, Sebastian Vettel is expected to complete his championship hat-trick this season, and with current odds no better than evens, the risk to reward ratio is too low to make backing the German racer worthwhile.

Instead, I recommend that you focus your attention on who will win the constructors’ championship, and while the bookies may favour the formbook and forecast a Red Bull win, a punt on McLaren is rather appealing, especially with the long(ish) odds that are currently floating around.

Jenson Button - Barcelona Testing 2012

Will McLaren's MP4-27 be a title-winning car? © McLaren

The Woking-based squad has enjoyed its best pre-season since 2008 and this year’s challenger – the MP4-27 – looks like being a true title-contender. Its race-stint performance appears to be very good and, while it is difficult gauge the competitive order from testing alone, they appear to be the team most likely to end Red Bull’s domination.

With 3,000 miles of testing under their belt, McLaren are well prepared for the year ahead, and without having to engineer their way out of trouble once again this season, they should be able to utilise their renowned in-season development pace to continuously take the fight to Red Bull.

McLaren also have arguably the strongest, most well-balanced, driver line up in Formula 1 and Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button seem more than determined to stop the Red Bull steamroller this year.

Frustration got the better of Hamilton last year when he was running down the order, but the 27-year-old claims to have hit the reset switch for 2012, putting his troubles behind him, and he poised is to make a welcome return to form. That being the case, McLaren will not only have the quickest driver on the grid, but also the smartest in Jenson Button.

The 2009 world champion should prove formidable week in week out. Clinching hard-fought podium finishes from seemingly nowhere and doing everything that is necessary – but never anything too risky – to keep him and the team in the hunt for their respective titles.

It is for this reason that I cannot see neither Hamilton nor Button winning this year’s drivers’ championship. Both can take the fight to Vettel, but chances are that they will only end up taking points off each other – a la Williams in 1986 – allowing Vettel to walk on through and win the title.

At the time of writing, you can get odds of around 13/8 at Bet365 on McLaren winning the title. So, for example, place a £10.00 bet and, should you win, you can expect to receive £26.20 in return. Perhaps not enough to hoist you out of penury, but that all depends on how much you’re willing to stake in the first place.

Better still, if you open an account with Bet365 they will match your initial deposit of up to £200. So, should my prediction go horribly wrong you can take a punt on Mark Webber whose odds of 14/1 look awfully tempting.

If only he could find that extra tenth or so in qualifying…

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