Just one race into the 2022 F1 season and we already have a whole host of talking points: Red Bull’s double retirement, Lewis Hamilton’s luck and, of course, Ferrari’s 1-2. The season opener gives us quite a few parameters to consider before breaking down our odds for the upcoming Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
According to the F1 Saudi Arabia odds at BetOnline Sportsbook, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc is the favorite to win the race by a slim margin, followed by Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen and Leclerc’s Ferrari teammate, Carlos Sainz.
2022 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Odds
Odds as of March 23 at BetOnline Sportsbook
After preseason testing, it was evident that Ferrari was possibly the quickest car on the grid and the Bahrain Grand Prix was further evidence of this. Charles Leclerc had a perfect weekend, with pole position and a race victory. The Monegasque driver had a drama-free race start and put up a mature defense as Max Verstappen forced a battle for P1 after the pair made their pit stops.
However, Verstappen suffered from a steering issue and made it easier for Leclerc to pull away as the race wore on. This meant that Verstappen’s race was with Sainz, who was just behind him in third position. Recalling his race, Verstappen remarked: “The steering wheel was completely locked and the faster I was going, I could barely steer. So it was not easy on the restart to defend from Carlos (Sainz). I was still in second with that big issue so you think, OK, second would be a good result.”
Things went south from there relatively quickly, though, and Verstappen faced a fuel pump issue that brought his race to an end just a few laps before the end of the Grand Prix. Red Bull endured more disappointment as Verstappen’s teammate, Sergio Perez, who was in third place after Max’s retirement, was also forced to retire as his engine locked up.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner reflected: “It’s very disappointing to lose 30 points. I think the positive side for us was we had a very competitive car. I don’t think we quite had the pace of Charles today, but (that was) some great racing between Max and Charles. When you look from a season’s perspective, we need to get on top of the issue, whatever it was today and come back next weekend.”
While Ferrari had a dream weekend with a 1-2 finish, Lewis Hamilton managed to make the most of the circumstances and sneak into the podium. The British driver had a relatively incident-free race and when presented with an opportunity to maximize the points for the Mercedes team, he made the most of it.
What is interesting to note about Hamilton’s race is that, during the practice sessions, the Mercedes car suffered from porpoising, a side-effect that sometimes occurs in cars that rely on ground effect for their downforce. While this kept Hamilton from being able to squeeze out maximum performance in the practice session, his car was much more compliant during the race. This is surely an indicator of just how quickly the Mercedes team could turn their season around and begin challenging for wins within a few races.
Ferrari vs Red Bull
With the new regulations coming in, it was clear that the teams that put time and effort behind developing the new car would reap the most short-term rewards. Based on the Bahrain Grand Prix, it’s clear that Ferrari and Red Bull have developed their cars much more than the rest of the field. An encouraging sign for Ferrari is how well their engines fared in the previous race, evident by its performance in qualifying – all cars with a Ferrari engine, Alfa Romeo, Haas and Ferrari, performed much better than expected.
While Ferrari engines are finally at par, or better, than the rest of the field, it must not be forgotten that Red Bull’s chief technology officer, Adrian Newey, is the only person on the grid that has experience building cars that generate downforce through ground effect, as the current spec F1 cars do. Newey’s experience with ’80s F1 cars and Indy cars, both of which had a similar method of generating downforce, seems to have given the team an intangible advantage over the rest of the pack.
Moreover, Verstappen and Leclerc, who were former rivals in the junior categories, are extremely skilled wheel-to-wheel racers, and if their cars have similar performance, one can expect more of what we saw in the Bahrain Grand Prix.
These reasons are why Verstappen and Leclerc are so close in the odds table. The upcoming Saudi Arabian Grand Prix is a challenging street circuit that will put the drivers’ skills to the test, and it looks to be an exciting race to say the least.
Value Predictions For The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
If last year’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix was any indicator of how close Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc are in terms of performance on a street circuit, then one can certainly expect Sainz to be in the mix for the race win at this weekend’s race.
Sainz, despite qualifying 15th at last year’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, took seventh and was very much in contention for sixth place, which his teammate Leclerc held. Sainz’s car control is notably exceptional, and his performances at street circuits have historically been terrific. His odds for the race win are currently at +700.
Sergio Perez, whose odds are currently at +1600, can also punch above his weight if his qualifying performance is good. Given that the season has just begun and Red Bull has not scored any points yet, both drivers are still on equal footing and the team will certainly not enforce team orders to ensure that Verstappen finishes above Perez. Given Perez’s knack for tire management and defensive driving, he is certainly equipped to hold P1, should he be in that position.
History Of The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix takes place at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit. The track lies adjacent to the Red Sea and was inaugurated last season. The tight corners and the unforgiving walls made for an entertaining and incident-filled race last year, and there’s no reason why it won’t be the same this time around.
Typically, street circuits such as Jeddah are loved by drivers as the risks presented by the circuit make it a true challenge to drive close to the limit. It is a thin line between being brave and being in the wall as Verstappen found out in qualifying last season. Suffice it to say, calculated risks will be rewarded disproportionately on this track.
The 6.1-kilometer-long track will play host to 50 laps of racing on Sunday, amounting to a total race distance of 308.4 kilometers. Lewis Hamilton holds the lap record with a 1:30.7 in-race lap last year, and given how the current cars are roughly two seconds slower than last year’s cars, the lap record should remain intact.
Despite the fact that the Jeddah Corniche circuit features the most corners of any track on the calendar, it is the fastest street circuit ever seen in F1 with average speeds of up to 252 kph. This makes it the second-quickest track on the calendar, behind only Monza. The hard-braking zone heading into turn 1 and rapid sequence of corners following turn 13 make the track ripe for overtaking, as mistakes are easily magnified.
Conditions are expected to be dry, with temperatures forecast to stay between 15 and 28 degrees Celsius. There is no possibility of rain and given that the race will take place after sundown, fewer curveballs will be thrown at the drivers this weekend.
Betting Strategy For The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
Technical factors are crucial in a race like the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. It is expected to be a race of high attrition, and cars with a higher degree of maneuverability will have an advantage over the rest of the pack. Further, given how this track is the second-fastest on the calendar, engine performance is also crucial to getting a good result. This puts Red Bull and Ferrari in contention for the race win.
Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz seemingly have the best of both worlds, with a high-performing power unit as well as a good aerodynamic package. The engine performance was evident in Bahrain’s long straights as Leclerc pulled away from Max Verstappen relatively easily following his lock-up in lap 51.
While Red Bull lacked a bit of pace, they seemingly have a superior aerodynamic package, which could be a huge advantage in street circuits like Jeddah. However, given the lack of reliability of the car at Bahrain, it seems like Ferrari simply has the better overall package at this point in time.
This is the reason why odds favor Charles Leclerc to take victory at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. If Leclerc is on pole after qualifying on Saturday, then he is certainly a safe bet for the race win given the Ferrari’s raw pace advantage over Red Bull.
Doc's Picks Service
Need more winning picks? Get $60 worth of premium member picks from Doc’s Sports – a recognized leader and trusted name in sports handicapping since 1971.