Formula One’s Ever-Increasing Globalization Doesn’t Bug Bettors

Formula One's Ever-Increasing Globalization Doesn’t Bug Bettors

Fairly or not, auto racing’s Formula One circuit suffers from a somewhat snobby reputation. So, too, does Europe. And when F1 got its start in 1950, it was almost exclusively a European affair, with six of the circuit’s seven original races run on the old continent — with the Indianapolis 500 the lone exception.

Suffice it to say, the Indy 500 eventually became very much its own thing, giving way to the United States Grand Prix, which will be run this Sunday in Austin, Texas. After adding a Miami race this year, F1 will add a hotly anticipated race in Las Vegas in 2023. All told, out of the 24 Formula One races scheduled for 2023, only nine will be run in Europe.

“The F1 circuit is really global now with increased numbers of races every year on almost all continents,” said Daniel Gustafsson, Kambi’s F1 analyst. “A race in South Africa is possible within some years.”

So are European fans and bettors turning their noses up at F1’s lack of loyalty to the continent? Hardly.

“If anything, it’s gonna enhance the betting for us,” Betfred analyst Roy Haggett told US Bets at the end of August. “The highest handle this season is the British Grand Prix — then Miami and Canada. The reason for that is the time that they’re on. It doesn’t clash with the soccer. It’s not up against anything. The cricket is normally done by then, so it’s got a free room.”

Introducing the 2023 F1 Calendar 👀

Get set for a record-breaking 24 races next season!#F1

— Formula 1 (@F1) September 20, 2022

Data released last week by Entain supports Haggett’s notion. The global gaming giant reported that it’s seen an 18% increase in the number of UK customers betting on F1 between 2021 and 2022, with UK residents accounting for 35% of all F1 bettors between 2018 and 2021. That topped the global pack, trailed by Brazil (17%), Germany (17%), and Spain (5%). The volume of bets on the 2022 British Grand Prix also saw a 121% increase compared to 2018.

But what about the U.S.? Despite the runaway popularity of Netflix’s Drive to Survive series and increased viewership of F1 races, it’s still NASCAR’s country from a sports betting standpoint — for now.

“The interest has been growing in the U.S., but there is still a large gap to the much more popular NASCAR,” said Gustafsson. “In 2023, there will be no less than three races in the U.S., including Miami, Austin, and the very interesting race in Las Vegas. This will give the interest a big push in the right direction, but the F1 circuit needs at least one American driver on the grid to really make it happen in the U.S.”

Will Max take his foot off the gas?

Last year’s F1 driver and constructor titles came down to the last race, with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen edging out Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton for the former title and Mercedes claiming the team crown ahead of Red Bull.

But this year was supposed to be different, with Ferrari poised to make it a three-team race. After an encouraging start to the season, that didn’t materialize. Mercedes’ car proved inferior, while Ferrari has endured a comically long list of race-day mistakes. Hence, Verstappen clinched the individual championship in Japan earlier this month and his team is all but certain to take top honors as well.

“Ferrari really had the chance to challenge Red Bull, and all the mistakes this year will haunt them for a long time,” Gustafsson said. “I think both Ferrari and Mercedes have a good chance to challenge the Red Bulls next year. I expect Mercedes to improve a lot from this year’s car.”

Mercedes, which has steadily progressed all season via a series of mechanical tweaks, may actually be poised to improve as early as this weekend. It reportedly plans to “bring another batch of upgrades” to the race in Austin, where Verstappen is, unsurprisingly, a big favorite (-182 at BetRivers, -225 at Betfred).

Bettors will want to keep an eye on qualifying and grid position for Sunday’s race, but with little left to race for, it’s not outside the realm of possibility for Verstappen to take his foot off the gas a bit if teammate Sergio Perez (9/1 to win at BetRivers) — currently leading Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc (+650 at BetRivers to win in Austin) by a single point for second in the driver standings — is at or near the lead.

That being said, if Ferrari earns its usual stellar grid positioning in qualifying and (a much bigger) if the team and its drivers can avoid strategic mistakes during the race, Gustafsson feels “Leclerc should be well ahead of Perez.”

“Ferrari and Leclerc have shown all season that they are as fast or even faster than the Red Bull in qualification,” he added. “When it comes to the races themselves, the Ferraris have suffered from an unreliable car, several driver mistakes, and many strategic mistakes that have cost them many points.

“Leclerc and Sainz are pretty even, both in qualification and race, while Perez is most often half a second slower than Verstappen in qualification, which always gives Verstappen a huge advantage in the races.”

A Wolff in sheep’s clothing

After winning eight straight constructors’ championships, Toto Wolff’s Mercedes team sits in third place with four races to go, with a slim chance of catching Ferrari for second. And Hamilton, considered by many to be the greatest driver in F1 history, hasn’t even been the best wheelman on his team this year — he sits in sixth place behind fourth-place George Russell. (Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. is in fifth.)

Still, Hamilton’s odds to win in Austin are twice as good as Russell’s (8/1 to 16/1) at Betfred, while BetRivers rates Hamilton a -167 favorite to finish higher than Russell (+135) in a head-to-head prop. This sentiment carries over to the 2023 season, where BetRivers has Hamilton priced at -167 to outrank Russell (+120) at year’s end.

“I think Hamilton has struggled more in the bumpy Mercedes so far than his new teammate Russell, who has been very impressive showing consistency and skill on and off track,” Gustafsson said. “Though Hamilton is 27 points behind Russell in the overall [standings], I do rate Hamilton higher. He is back to his original form and feeling more comfortable in the car. Having said that, I had Hamilton as a huge favorite to outscore his new teammate before season started.”

He certainly wasn’t alone in a season full of surprises.

Photo: John David Mercer/USA TODAY

Author: Ryan Gonzales