Not betting in this area myself I'd given it almost no thought, and when I did the picture was clearly complicated enough to warrant an unexpected article.
Firstly, the raw numbers.
There are likely to be 19 races at this stage, the TBA race slot seeming likely to go unfilled. Positions 1 to 10 yield points (25, 18 and 15 for a podium, then 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2, 1). This gives a theoretical maximum of 475. All second places would yield 342, all third 285, all fourth 228 and all fifth 190.
There will be 22 drivers and 11 teams. Caterham and Marussia should improve, but they'll still not trouble the scorers often, if at all, meaning most races will see 18 drivers fighting for 10 points positions.
Other facts we need to consider are the competitiveness of the field, the reliability of the cars, the raw speed at the start of the season, the ability to improve and develop a car during the course of 2013, and the two drivers themselves.
The competitiveness of the field is more critical than anything else, perhaps. In 2011 Vettel had the best car and ran away to an embarrassingly easy 392 point victory. In 2012 he squeaked home with 281 (Alonso had 278).
In 2012 there was a group of four quite closely clustered behind the two frontrunners, with 207, 190, 188 and 179 respectively. In 2011 there were three clustered behind Vettel, on 270, 258, and 257.
In 2010 there were a cluster of four at the top, with points from 256 to 240.
So, how tight will 2013 be? Unhelpfully for Mr. Putney, I believe it's impossible to say, but it is possible to guess. Red Bull and Ferrari may suffer a developmental hangover from 2012, when they developed cars right to the end. McLaren is in the best position, with a very fast 2012 car and no title pressure at the end of last year giving them more development time. Mercedes appears to have improved their engineering/production operation, but I believe the impact of this will be tempered by a focus on 2014 when new regulations come in. Lotus should also be in good shape.
It's unlikely to be as close as 2012, simply because that was an extremely close year, and that's unusual in F1. I'd be surprised if Mercedes can close the gap to the frontrunners, though they may be able to compete with Lotus. Alonso is unlikely to reproduce the excellent performance of 2012, and Red Bull may suffer developmental jetlag. I would guess that McLaren will be out of the blocks the fastest, and that Red Bull and Ferrari will be a little way behind, with Lotus and Mercedes fighting for fourth.
Generally, reliability was ok in 2012, but for some it was shocking. Occasionally this was self-inflicted (Maldonado and Grosjean) but for others it was due to team mistakes and their cars breaking (Hamilton and Schumacher). A driver will probably suffer approximately two DNFs in a given year due to reliability, whether this is being struck by another car, making a mistake or being let down by the team.
However, it's worth pointing out that McLaren and Mercedes, the teams of Perez and Hamilton respectively, had the worst reliability records of front-running teams last year.
Mercedes has tended, I think, to start a season pretty well (they were certainly strongest early on in 2012), and McLaren started last season with the best car. I expect both teams to be pretty racy at the start of 2013, particularly as Red Bull and Ferrari may have compromised 2013 development in the battle for last year's title.
This is a different bag of monkeys. It's no good being the fastest at the start of the season if you fail to develop or if your car breaks down (reliability, above) all the time. McLaren have shown they can develop a car all season long. Mercedes has struggled in the past in this area, but if their new operations run smoothly they should improve in this area.
Perez and Hamilton
Perez is hardest to read, because the Mexican only has one full season in the sport (he missed a few races in 2011 after getting concussion when he struck a barrier in Monaco). He's also only driven for Sauber, and whilst the team had a good car in 2012 it's difficult to draw comparisons with Hamilton et al.
In qualifying terms he was, I think, usually out-qualified by his team mate. They often qualified poorly, but that may well be down to the car rather than Perez, as Kobayashi tended to qualify poorly if his team mate did.
In terms of tyre degradation Perez was generally excellent. Race pace was a little variable but generally good and occasionally excellent. However, fine judgement was sometimes off (probably due to inexperience, I don't think he's a hot-head like Maldonado).
He also had a few periods, notably at the end of the season, when he failed to score in successive races. Some of this can be put down to the Sauber car, which was occasionally podium-tastic and sometimes surprisingly slow (they also suffered on tracks where passing is hard, due to their tendency to be slow in qualifying and fast in the race). However, part of it was due to Perez. He'll find it easier at McLaren, though, because he should start and race nearer the front. Fewer cars around him means fewer opportunities to cock things up and less chance of encountering any Venezuelan traffic offenders.
I take a fairly optimistic view about Perez. His decision in 2011 to say he wasn't up to racing in Canada was a mature one (in the aftermath of the Monaco crash) and he showed strong pace in 2012.
There's no doubt Hamilton is one of the very best drivers in F1. He's probably joint-equal with Vettel in qualifying ability, and can wring the neck of a bad car to drive beyond what it should be capable of. Tyre degradation hasn't been an issue with the crumbly cheese Pirellis, although that may change at Mercedes as the team has suffered serious tyres-shredding problems in the past.
His only really bad season was in 2011, and that was more due to events off-track affecting his mindset. However, a potentially significant handicap will be the Mercedes car. The car matters more than the driver, and with the likes of Vettel, Alonso, Raikkonen, not to mention the McLarens, around he won't be getting any free passes to the podium.
It'll be very interesting to see how the two drivers cope with their fresh challenges in 2013.
It's likely Hamilton will outperform Rosberg. Perez could beat Button, but the Briton almost certainly has better judgement and will start the season with more experience and so be able to hit the ground running.
I would expect Perez to finish ahead of Hamilton, but probably behind Vettel, Alonso and Button as well. Raikkonen could also make the Mexican's first year at McLaren difficult. Although he may have title-winning pace (and we'll find out if that's the case this year) I think reliability of the car and his own inexperience will make winning this year hard.
If he does finish 4th then something like 220 points should be his aim. Hamilton I expect to finish something like 5th or 6th (probably vying with Rosberg and maybe Raikkonen) with around 200 points.
However, I want to stress that I have never participated in spread-betting and I dislike such predictions. As regulars will know, I only bet on qualifying after P3 (a few hours beforehand) and the race after qualifying. So, please take this with a massive pinch of salt. This is emphatically not a tip, on either driver for those points.