Jenson Button is in pole position to be crowned 2009 BBC Sports Personality of the Year according to leading bookmakers – but the man whose F1 World Championship crown he stole, compatriot and future McLaren-Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton, is facing odds of 100-1.
William Hill quotes Button – who clinched an unheralded title glory this year after his Brawn GP
team very nearly collapsed last winter in the wake of parent company Honda's sudden and shock withdrawal from competition, providing the catalyst for a remarkable phoenix-from-the-flames like story – as an overwhelming 8/13 favourite to lift the prestigious prize.
The 29-year-old's closest challengers are Berlin athletics hero Jessica Ennis and new World Heavyweight Boxing Champion David Haye, with England cricket captain Andrew Strauss next up but failing even to dip below 10/1. Hamilton, meanwhile, is way down the list in only 20th place.
Victory in the annual awards extravaganza would cap a magnificent season for Button – one that many, fans and detractors alike, had believed might never come as he toiled away with a succession of uncompetitive cars scarcely worthy of his talent.
The Mercedes-powered Brawn BGP 001, though, came out of the starting blocks fighting right from the word 'go' in 2009 – enabling the Frome-born ace to storm to victory in six of the first seven grands prix of the campaign – and whilst his rivals would gain ground as he suffered a mid-season wobble, none ever came close enough to even be able to attempt to halt his march to the throne.
What's more, glory for Button in 2009 and Hamilton in 2008 represented the first time in exactly four decades that Britain has had back-to-back F1 World Champions, with the late Graham Hill and Sir Jackie Stewart the last men to have achieved such a feat in 1968 and 1969 respectively. The last time British drivers lifted the laurels for three seasons in succession dates back to the mid-1960s.
However, if some contend Button is all-but a shoo-in for the coveted BBC accolade, they would do well to remember that Hamilton was similarly hotly-tipped this time twelve months ago – only to wind up, for the second consecutive year, with the silver medal.
Since the official inception of the ceremony in 1954, BBC Sports Personality of the Year has been won by motorsport greats on just seven occasions – 1959 (John Surtees); 1961 (Sir Stirling Moss); 1973 (Sir Jackie Stewart); 1986 and 1992 (Nigel Mansell); and 1994 and 1996 (Damon Hill). The latter duo are two of only three people to have ever won the award twice.
The 2009 ceremony will be held in Sheffield on 13 December.