Sebastian Vettel's flying start to the 2011 F1 season has seen one bookmaker already decide that the German is destined to repeat as world champion.
The Red Bull Racing driver has won four of the opening five rounds - only missing out to a flying Lewis Hamilton in China - and already enjoys a 41-point advantage over the Briton heading into this weekend's Monaco Grand Prix. Although he wasn't fastest in Thursday's free practice sessions, Vettel has revelled in the pace and handling of the RB7, and starts each race weekend as favourite for success, while his rivals - including RBR team-mate Mark Webber - squabble over the minor places.
Such has been Vettel's apparent margin over the field, Irish bookmaker Paddy Power has already decided to pay out on bets backing the German's second world title. Not shy of a publicity-seeking story, the company decided it could not wait until the final round of the season, scheduled for Brazil in November pending a possible calendar reshuffle, and has concluded the title race is a foregone conclusion despite the possibility of Vettel's bid coming off the rails.
"Congratulations to punters who backed Vettel - Red Bull gives them winnings!" a Paddy Power statement announced, "It was no secret Vettel was going to be the one to beat this year, but he has been on another level altogether and looks simply uncatchable. So why wait months to collect on the inevitable?"
Britain's Daily Mail
newspaper, reporting the story, pointed out that it may have been a little premature of the bookmaker, citing Arsenal's 2008 Premier League title success - which came little over a month after rival company Fred Done had paid out early to backers of Manchester United! With the prospect of technical protests and injury always on the F1 horizon, could Paddy Power also have jumped the gun?