SPORTS BETTING : Frentzen has power to go the distance

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The Independent Online
Success in Formula One is all about money, and if the same is true of the betting market on the new World Championship, which starts in Australia next weekend, then Jacques Villeneuve is as good as past the chequered flag before a gear has even been engaged in anger.

The Canadian is the only driver anyone has wanted to back in recent weeks and, from a price of around 13-8 a month ago, Villeneuve is now odds-on with all leading bookmakers. A promising debut season in Formula One hinted at better to come, while his popularity within the Williams team should also be worth a couple of thousandths of a second per lap.

Above all, he should be in the best car, much to the frustration of Michael Schumacher, who is without doubt the best driver but who has recently appeared to backtrack on his prediction that it would take a year for the Ferrari to develop into a truly competitive car. The German is friendless in the betting, drifting out as far as 7-2 with Ladbrokes and Hills.

The interesting point about the odds is that, while drivers such as Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger are quoted at odds which imply they have an outside chance, it is all but impossible to see the title going beyond the first three in the list. The third potential champion is Heinz-Harald Frentzen, long-talked of as a future contender and now, in the second Williams, with a chance to prove it.

Villeneuve may look like a solid odds-on shot, but as the punter who lost pounds 15,000 on last year's Monaco Grand Prix will tell you, motor racing is rarely so predictable. At the prices on offer, Frentzen must be the choice at William Hill's 5-1.

FORMULA ONE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP: Best odds: 5-6 Villeneuve (Coral, Ladbrokes, Tote), 7-2 Schumacher (Hill's, L), 5-1 Frentzen (H), 20-1 Hakkinen (H,T), 25-1 Alesi (C), 28-1 Berger (C), 50-1 Panis (H,T), 66-1 Hill (H,L), Irvine (L,T), 80-1 bar.

EUROPEAN OPEN SNOOKER: Ladbrokes: 13-8 Hendry, 5-1 Higgins, 6-1 O'Sullivan, 9-1 Ebdon, 12-1 McManus, Parrott, 14-1 Williams, 16-1 Doherty, 25-1 Davis, Drago, 28-1 Bond, 50-1 bar.