Hamilton hungry for success as Coral names him new title favourite

Sebastian Vettel’s odds to win the 2014 Formula One Drivers’ Championship have drifted from odds-on favourite to 7/2, and is now behind Lewis Hamilton (7/4) after his and Red Bull’s terrible pre-season testing displays.

As the four-time champion (all consecutively) looks set to finally let someone else have a chance at winning the individual title, the upcoming season is primed to be the most exiting in years. The first race begins on March 16th in Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix, and Vettel is fifth-favourite at 11/1 to add to his 39 race career wins.

Hamilton, champion in 2008, produced a fine performance on the final day in Bahrain by producing the quickest time. However, for the whole four-day event, he finished just behind Williams’ Felipe Massa – who will be encouraged by his new car’s performance. The Brazilian is an outside 16/1 to win the opening race.

Red Bull, second-favourites to win the Constructors’ Championship at 7/2, had a torrid pre-season, as they managed the third-fewest amount of kilometres raced – ahead of only Marrusia and Lotus. Their approximate 1711km covered overall from the tests in Jerez and both in Bahrain were well below distance-leaders Mercedes, who managed 4973km.

Mercedes-powered cars, on the whole, fared very well by showing great durability, with Williams completing 4893km (the second best distance) and McLaren in fourth (behind Ferrari with 4153). Force India, meanwhile, managed 3975km to finish sixth.

Hamilton, 7/4 to win the Australian Grand Prix, said of his title chances: “The goal is always to win the championship and this year I’m more pumped for it than ever.

“I feel confident the team is pushing hard to get us to the top and we’ve great people working on every area of what we do, so we have a fighting chance.”

But the 29-year-old is not getting away, and added: “There’s so much to learn with these new cars – I don’t think anybody can be ready for the challenge of this season.

“The further we get into the year the better our understanding of the car, the power unit, the tyres and everything else will be.”

Vettel was understandably less upbeat. “We cannot do the times that the guys at the top of are doing for a couple of reasons but at the moment we have bigger problems to solve than just the pace,” he said.

“Yesterday, two issues were bad enough to basically stop us from running the whole day. Today, we had some problems but were running for the whole day, so it just shows how different every day can be. But I’m happy we did a lot of laps.”

“It’s very difficult. Obviously I’m not calling ourselves the favourites for that, we haven’t done enough laps. The speed is not there compared to some other teams so we have to wait and see when we get there.”

Hamilton’s teammate Nico Rosberg also enjoyed an impressive fourth day in Bahrain, as he finished just behind the Englishman to finish third in testing. The German is third-favourite to win the individual title at 5/1, while his Mercedes team are odds-on at 5/6 to finish the season first in the Constructors’ Championship.

Other British hopeful Jenson Button, champion in 2009, will be proud of his team’s display overall in pre-season, and has title hopes of 8/1, and 9/1 to win the opening race.

Fernando Alonso, of Ferrari, is third-favourite to win the Australian Grand prix at 13/2, and has the same odds to finish the season as champion for a third time.

The Spaniard’s new racing partner Kimi Raikkonen, who returns to his former team, has odds of 12/1 both for victory in Melbourne for a second consecutive year as well as to win the Drivers’ Championship (sixth-favourite). Ferrari are priced at 4/1 to get the Constructors’ Championship at the end of the season.