The Australian Grand Prix this weekend signals the start of a new Formula 1 season, so several bookmakers have introduced promotions to take advantage of if you are taking a punt on the 2015 season.
Britain’s Lewis Hamilton enters as defending champion after clinching his second F1 world title in 2014, following a pulsating season-long duel with Mercedes team-mate, Nico Rosberg. The Silver Arrows look set to dominate proceedings again if pre-season testing has shown us anything, although Ferrari, Red Bull and Williams will be among the biggest challengers aiming to spoil the party in 2015.
Aussie hero Daniel Ricciardo was a star performer for Red Bull Racing in 2014 with three wins on his way to third place in the championship, this year partnered with Russian Daniil Kvyat. Williams look strong once again and their drivers Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa will want to give the team a first victory since the 2012 Spanish GP.
Ferrari look the biggest improvers from last season, four-time champion Sebastian Vettel joining the Prancing Horse for 2015 alongside fellow title winner, Kimi Raikkonen.
Testing has already proved eye-opening for some of the big names, McLaren seemingly in the most trouble of all. The Woking team’s new Honda-powered MP4-30 has suffered from reliability woes throughout testing, only completing 380 laps across the whole winter period.
Kevin Magnussen races alongside Jenson Button this weekend as former double champion Fernando Alonso will be absent from the Australian Grand Prix, following a mysterious accident in Barcelona testing that left him briefly believing it was 1995 as a result of concussion.
With the new season just around the corner, several bookmakers have introduced money back special offers for punters take advantage of.
Unibet provide the most enticing promotion for all 20 Grand Prix of 2015, offering refunds on losing Outright race winner bets if your driver fails to finish that particular race.
Simply place a single bet on the Outright Winner market and, if your driver fails to finish the race through mechanical gremlins or an accident, Unibet will refund your stake as a free bonus of up to £20.
Unreliability has still plagued teams during pre-season testing at Jerez and Barcelona, so the early flyaway races of the season in particular could see many cars fail to make it to the flag.
Last year’s season opener saw seven cars fail to finish, the most significant being pole-sitter Hamilton who suffered one of numerous mechanical gremlins which hit Mercedes last year. Should Hamilton or Rosberg be denied by mechanical problems, all punters betting on either for outright race wins will enjoy the security of refunds this season.
Betfred are another to offer the same promotion, although just for the season-opening race in Melbourne as we speak. The non-finisher refunds again apply to losing race winner bets, Betfred offering matched free bets of up to £50.
The final company to offer the retirement refund this weekend is Betfair, the exchange bookmaker giving back stakes of up to £25 as a free bet based on losing race winner bets in Melbourne.
Drivers Championship Without Mercedes
With Mercedes in eviable form, the Outright odds for Mercedes winning the Constructor’s Championship again are not appealing. The value for either Hamilton or Rosberg clinching the Drivers’ title meanwhile is still profitable either way, but leaves you hunting for more than second-placed Rosberg’s 13-5 best odds.
Several top bookmakers however have introduced an additional market that excludes both Mercedes drivers.
The ‘w/o Mercedes’ market offers much more appealing prices for who you think will be ‘best of the rest’ of the remaining 18 drivers. While Hamilton and Rosberg are already tipped to be the ones to beat, it appears very difficult to call who will be their closest contenders in 2015.
Red Bull’s Ricciardo was best of the rest last season and will earn plenty of appeal in this market, although Ferrari and Vettel look stronger and Williams drivers Bottas and Massa again appear to have a good car underneath them.