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

Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

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Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

A Ganassi spokesman said the team hopes to run its second entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans but only its WEC team is confirmed (an AOC invitation would be required for the IMSA team). The team also is exploring options but currently plans to have the WEC’s team base of operations in Indianapolis.

Ganassi is the first American-based prototype team to confirm its entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s expected that Team Penske, which raced this year’s Le Mans with a full-time WEC entry in LMP2, also will race Le Mans with Porsche’s new LMDh car that is set for IMSA, but the manufacturer has yet to confirm its driver and team lineup.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.