It doesn't seem that long ago that Sebastian Vettel was being crowned F1 World Champion for a second time, but with the new season due to start in March, attention is quickly turning to whether the German can make it three Drivers Championships in a row and also three consecutive Constructors Championships for his Red Bull team.
Certainly, Vegas believes Vettel will complete the hat-trick of Drivers Championship and list him at around +110 favorite to do so. Next-best in the betting is Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso at 5:1. Interestingly, Vettel’s Red Bull teammate Mark Webber is only quoted at +1200, behind the twin attack of McLaren's two former world champions, Lewis Hamilton, who is +500, and Jenson Button at +700.
Most pundits are predicting a much closer affair this year, as McLaren and Ferrari both have had plenty of time to bring their vehicles up to the same standard as Red Bull, which means that this year’s title could be decided more on driving ability as opposed to the technical and mechanical abilities of the teams.
Should all the cars be close to being equal, it is easy to understand why Alonso would be regarded as a potential winner ahead of Hamilton and Button. The Spaniard is widely regarded as the best in the world behind the wheel, although there were plenty voicing their opinion that Vettel has proven himself as a better driver. After all, the 24-year-old German did win 11 of 19 races last year and was in pole position a record breaking 15 times!
Others would argue that Hamilton is the most adventurous of all the drivers. Although he made plenty of mistakes in 2011, he demonstrated on a number of occasions why his ability to overtake was feared by all of his rivals.
Jenson Button may not be as naturally-gifted as Hamilton, but he still posses plenty of ability. Button was good enough to finish second in last year’s Drivers Championship, winning three times and gaining a further nine podium finishes. Button is a great "thinking driver," who has often turned things around in a race using subtlety over speed. His ability to have the right tires fitted at certain times has proven invaluable to him over the last two or three seasons, and he is also known as a driver who is not easily pushed around—as Hamilton found out on occasions last year.
Changes to note for 2012 include the return to F1 of former world champion Kimi Raikkonen, who will be driving for Lotus. Also, Adrian Sutil has lost his ride with Force India to former Williams driver Nico Hulkenberg, who will join forces with Scot Paul Di Resta, who made such an impact with the team in his first season in 2011.
Needles to say, it is Red Bull who is the clear favorite in the F1 odds to win the Constructors Championship, but both McLaren and Ferrari should not be written off. Whilst they should have made ground on the Red Bull car, they may still come up short over the 20-race season.
The first of those races takes place at Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia on March 18th, followed a week later by the Malaysian Grand Prix in Kuala Lumpur. The penultimate race of the season sees a return of the USA Grand Prix, which will be staged in Austin, TX, and the championship concludes with Brazilian Grand Prix on 25th November.