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No surprise: Oddsmaker makes Lewis Hamilton early favorite to repeat as F1 champ

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It’s still more than two months before the 2018 Formula One season kicks off on March 25 with the Australian Grand Prix.

But oddsmakers are already setting odds on how the season will play out and who are the favored drivers to win the championship.

One of the biggest and most accurate oddsmakers, Bovada of Las Vegas, is out with its F1 picks for the upcoming season and, to little surprise, is picking defending champ Lewis Hamilton with 5/4 odds to win the championship again in 2018.

After all, it’s kind of hard to pick against a guy who won nearly half the races (nine wins) on the 20-race schedule last season

“There is no surprise Lewis Hamilton is once again the favorite at just over even money to defend his title with really only Vettel to challenge him at just over 3/1,” Bovada SportsBook Manager Kevin Bradley said. “Hamilton was the favorite last year and won and bettors are sticking to the trend with over 60 percent of all money bet on Hamilton and 80 percent of all money on these two combined. Considering these two have won 8 of the last 10 championships, there is a reason they are the two favorites.”

Hamilton has won three of the last four titles (2014, 2015 and 2017), and four overall (2008).

However, looking at Bovada’s picks, there are several surprises:

* It’s giving better odds to Max Verstappen (finished sixth last season, but is rated with the third-best odds – 4/1 – heading into this season), while 2017 third-place finisher Valtteri Bottas tied for fifth odds-wise at 14/1.

* Bovada is going long on the prospects of Fernando Alonso, having him tied with Bottas for fifth-best odds (14/1). Bovada isn’t the only oddsmaker or media outlet that is looking upon Alonso as one of the top darkhorses in the F1 championship this season.

* Last year’s runner-up, Sebastian Vettel, is also picked second in Bovada’s odds with a 13/4 prediction.

* Kimi Raikkonen, who finished fourth last season, is rated seventh in Bovada’s picks at 33/1.

* Sergio Perez, who finished seventh last season, is tied for 12th in Bovada’s picks with Esteban Ocon at 200/1.

* Lastly, the three drivers that Bovada gives the longest odds of winning the championship are Pierre Gasly, Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen, all at 1,000/1.

Here’s how Bovada sizes up the 2018 F1 championship battle:

Lewis Hamilton                           5/4

Sebastian Vettel                        13/4

Max Verstappen                          4/1

Daniel Ricciardo                       13/2

Fernando Alonso                      14/1

Valtteri Bottas                           14/1

Kimi Raikkonen                        33/1

Nico Hulkenberg                       66/1

Carlos Sainz Jr.                          66/1

Stoffel Vandoorne                    100/1

Esteban Ocon                           200/1

Sergio Perez                              200/1

Brendon Hartley                       500/1

Daniil Kvyat                               500/1

Lance Stroll                                500/1

Pierre Gasly                              1000/1

Romain Grosjean                     1000/1

Kevin Magnussen                     1000/1

GoDaddy to sponsor Patrick in ‘Danica Double’ at Daytona, Indy — now all she needs are rides

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By The Associated Press

Danica Patrick is going back to green.

GoDaddy Green, to be exact – a fitting color for her farewell tour.

The company will sponsor Patrick in the upcoming “Danica Double” that will close out her racing career, The Associated Press has learned. Patrick has no ride yet for next month’s Daytona 500 or the Indianapolis 500 in May, but she now has the financial backing to pull it off.

This time around, the original GoDaddy Girl will symbolize the new core mission of the company that helped make her one of the world’s most recognizable athletes.

“There’s this great story: I left IndyCar with GoDaddy on my car, I started NASCAR with GoDaddy on my car, I’m most recognized as the GoDaddy green car and driver, and so to finish up my career that way feels appropriate,” Patrick told the AP from Scottsdale, Arizona.

Her final race will be the Indy 500, an appropriate choice because it was “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” that rocketed Patrick and GoDaddy into pop culture notoriety.

GoDaddy and Patrick grew up together. The company switched series with her and marketed her as a strong, sexy woman in 13 Super Bowl commercials – a record appearance for celebrities. Now, the company is most interested in Patrick the budding businesswoman who is firmly closing the door on her racing career and rebranding herself as an entrepreneur . She has a book out, an apparel line, a wine label and confirmed to AP this week that she’s dating Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

“Our goals are so well-aligned,” Barb Rechterman, the chief marketing officer of GoDaddy, told AP. “She’s passionate, tenacious and creative just like so many of our customers who are also looking to leverage the power of the internet and turn their `side hustle’ into a full-time business. Danica absolutely epitomizes the heart of our GoDaddy customers.”

Prepare to hear a lot about the “side hustle” as GoDaddy climbs aboard the so-far fledgling “Danica Double.”

Patrick announced in November she would end her driving career with the Daytona 500 and Indy 500, but didn’t have a deal completed for either race. Still doesn’t. Yet somehow, Patrick always figures a way to get what she wants. Talks ended with Chip Ganassi Racing about a possible ride, and late last month, Patrick said, she called former GoDaddy founder Bob Parsons and asked about a reunion.

GoDaddy has rebranded since it last teamed with Patrick. The company now touts itself as “the world’s largest cloud platform dedicated to small, independent ventures,” and there’s no better spokeswoman than Patrick, who is in the next chapter of her life and her brand.

GoDaddy pulled out of racing after the 2015 season, and Patrick hasn’t had the same level of funding and marketing support since. Patrick has slowly reshaped her image, first into a Instagram model and is now a full-blown lifestyle guru. She realized – at the age of 35 – she was on her own.

She and GoDaddy aligned for a splashy move into NASCAR, where she was glamorous off the track but only mediocre on it. Through all of this, she was married, divorced, spent five years dating fellow driver and competitor Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and then seemed to find herself through a tailored diet, exercise and a healthy lifestyle.

She is cutting the cord on racing after Indy, and her focus is on a sense of well-being far away from the track.

“Their business is so perfectly paired to what is going on with mine, so when we sat down and met, it was like, `Let’s talk about our business. Let’s talk about the messaging. How does this work?”‘ Patrick said. “And this is undeniably perfect for both of us. Not only is it a huge two races and the biggest two races of the year, but on top of that, you have so much `side hustle’ going on, and all the messaging and our brands, and where we are going is so perfectly paired.”w

GoDaddy can help Patrick move on to whatever it is for racing’s former “It Girl.” The company will help her streamline her online presence. Patrick, for the company, is back as a neon green-and-yellow symbol to all the wannabe entrepreneurs chasing dreams.

She’ll get those rides, too. Patrick said she knows she will because she believes she will.

“That’s just the way the universe works,” she said. “You have to ask for what you want. Things have taken a long time with this, but you just have to go with the flow on these things. The universe is not on your time schedule.”

More AP auto racing: https://racing.ap.org/