The first race of the new Formula One season is still two-and-a-half weeks away. But savvy F1 followers know this time of year can offer the best opportunities to take a punt on a winner.
And with another major overhaul in the Formula One regulations coming into force, the field could be about to experience one of its periodic shake-ups. Are there some killer odds lurking which may offer big returns?
Here’s what you can get on the top teams ahead of the new season.
Mercedes: Time to be toppled?
The Silver Arrows dominated the last three seasons but now face a trio of threats to their superiority. Nico Rosberg stunned the F1 world by announcing his retirement five days after winning the championship for them last year. A vast weight of expectation now falls on the largely untried shoulder of Valtteri Bottas.
The departure of engineering wizard Paddy Lowe threatens to have an even more destabilising effect. Mercedes wasted no time in replacing him with another star technical hiring, but he won’t start work immediately.
This is no time for disruption on the engineering side as F1 has relaxed its aerodynamic development rules for the new season. Mercedes will surely continue to have F1’s best engine, but Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren know this change gives them a precious opportunity to narrow the gap.
The odds strongly back the reigning champions. Lewis Hamilton is on 2.00 to take a fourth world title and you’ll only gets odds of 3.0 on him winning more than the ten races he won last year. But 3.50 on Bottas to make a winning start in Australia is a reasonable bet – Hamilton’s only won there once in the last three years.
Red Bull: Tailor-made for 2017?
As the team which has set the standard for aerodynamic development, Red Bull are obvious favourites to take the fight to Mercedes. Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen are both race winners and potential champions.
Verstappen gets all the hype but Ricciardo has been more than a match for him so far. And Verstappen’s own father, ex-F1 racer Jos, isn’t sure his son is ready for a title shot in 2017. So take a look at Ricciardo on 5.0 to take the title – or to score a home win at round one in Australia.
Ferrari: Cause for concern
Having failed to build on their race-winning 2015 season, Ferrari have shown worrying signs of lapsing into another slump. Only the faithful would back Sebastian Vettel at 18.0 for the title – and Raikkonen’s odds are more than twice as long.
McLaren: Untapped potential
It’s year three for McLaren and Honda but the team is still playing down expectations. This may just be good PR, however, as they showed strong progress last season. Check out the tenacious Fernando Alonso at 4.0 to win at least one of the 20 races. On a damp day with a little luck, that could happen.
Keith Collantine is the editor of Formula One blog F1 Fanatic