Back in March, with the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix on the near horizon, gutsy Formula 1 prognosticators like Betfred’s Roy Haggett left the door wide open for Ferrari to end Mercedes’ eight-year reign atop the racing circuit’s constructor standings.
Five months later, with eight out of 22 races remaining on the calendar, Haggett will likely be proven half right. Mercedes is a distant third among manufacturers, but after showing plenty of promise early in the season, Charles Leclerc and Ferrari have ceded the top spots in the driver and constructor standings to defending champion Max Verstappen and last year’s second-place team, Red Bull — and not by a small margin.
“Verstappen is just in another league of his own,” said Haggett. “He’s got the record of 13 wins in a season in his sights.”
Of Verstappen and his Red Bull teammate, Sergio Perez, who’s currently second in the driver standings, Haggett observed, “They’re quicker on the corners and they’re quicker on the straights.”
In other words, Red Bull is quicker than everyone, everywhere, leading to a virtually insurmountable 118-point lead over Ferrari in the constructor standings heading into Sunday’s Dutch Grand Prix.
Just how dominant have Verstappen and Red Bull been? With more than a third of the season remaining, Verstappen, who sports a 93-point lead over Perez in the driver standings (Leclerc is third with 186), is -5000 at both DraftKings and PointsBet to claim his second consecutive drivers’ championship, while FanDuel has him priced at -2400. (Leclerc boasts the second-best odds at all three sportsbooks, with DraftKings offering the best price at 16/1.)
Similarly, DraftKings has Red Bull at -5000 to win the constructors’ championship, with FanDuel offering the same action at -2400.
Mercedes stuck in third gear
At odds of 22/1 at DraftKings, Mercedes is effectively out of the running to overtake Red Bull atop the constructor standings, and Haggett doesn’t like the defending champion’s chances of passing second-place Ferrari either.
“They’re just not winning races,” said Haggett. “They’re getting podiums (i.e., top three finishes) and points, but there are eight grand prix left, and you’re not gonna make that up through podium finishes.”
Verstappen won last Sunday’s grand prix in Belgium, where he was born. But his dad, a former F1 racer, is Dutch, and Verstappen currently counts the Netherlands as his home country. Unsurprisingly, he is favored to win at odds ranging from -170 at PointsBet to -200 at DraftKings, with Ferrari’s Leclerc (best price: +420 at PointsBet) and Carlos Sainz (shortest price: 9/1 at PointsBet) the only drivers given a single-digit shot at preventing Verstappen from winning his fourth straight race — and his second consecutive Dutch Grand Prix.
Max’s first win on home soil and the Dutch fans don’t hold back! 🙌#DutchGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/qLsKThvaW0
— Formula 1 (@F1) August 31, 2022
“It’s just a question of how many seconds Verstappen wins by,” predicted Haggett. “Three consecutive wins, in his home country — it’s a boring answer, but I think he’s that superior at the moment. He’s got the superior car, and in terms of driving, he’s superior even compared to his teammate.”
Fortunately, there’s a betting market for how many seconds the eventual winner — presumably Verstappen — prevails by, with “over 10 seconds” the favorite at both DraftKings (+115) and FanDuel (+120), and “between five and 10 seconds” offering more value than “under 5 seconds” at odds of +270 at DraftKings. (FanDuel also has a slate of head-to-head props pitting drivers from the same team against each other.)
Alpine poised for Dutch treat?
While podium finishes have been rare for drivers outside the top three teams, if there’s an also-ran poised to hoist a champagne magnum at Zandvoort on Sunday, it could be either up-and-comer Esteban Ocon (28/1 to make the podium at FanDuel, 40/1 at DraftKings) or former world champion Fernando Alonso (18/1 at both sportsbooks) from Team Alpine, which Haggett said “have been the standout best of the rest” this season.
“Ocon, I rate as the best young driver,” Haggett said. “He had a brilliant run at Spa (Belgium) and can handle the turns. I think he could go well.”
As for Alonso, he’s already announced that he’ll be leaving Alpine for Aston Martin’s F1 team next season, putting youngster Zhou Guanyu’s seat in extreme jeopardy. Alonso’s defection, coupled with McLaren’s decision to sever ties with Drive to Survive star Daniel Ricciardo, could set off a rather spirited game of musical chairs.
To this end, it’s worth keeping an eye on the contract dispute involving Oscar Piastri, who’s currently Alpine’s backup driver and is coveted by that team as well as McLaren. Should Piastri wind up with McLaren, Haggett thinks Pierre Gasly might slide into Alpine’s second seat, with another possibility being Ricciardo, who, according to ESPN, “remains one of the most marketable athletes on the grid right now.”
Photo: David Kirouac/USA TODAY