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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