Can anyone stop Max Verstappen and Red Bull? That is the hot question heading into the 2023 season, and judging by the F1 predictions, the answer is “No.” The F1 betting odds install Verstappen at -160 to win the title, while Red Bull is at -150. This is roughly a 60% implied probability and it starts with their biggest advantage: continuity.
Red Bull Already Ahead
Verstappen and teammate Sergio Perez ride into 2023 with an even better car: the RB19. Without diving into all the details, it’s the same car with slight but integral improvements. In short: Verstappen can pick up where he left off.
Max Verstappen says the ‘evolution’ of the Red Bull from last season has been positive during pre-season testing 💪 pic.twitter.com/1IAX1l90DQ
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) February 25, 2023
The 25-year-old captured his second straight title in 2022 by winning nine of the final 11 races. He and Perez started last season dealing with reliability issues as he finished 19th in Bahrain and retired in Australia. But he practically dominated once Red Bull sorted things out.
The team also is ahead of Ferrari in the pit stop strategy and has a more fine-tuned car than Mercedes. And even with the scandalous F1 news of Red Bull being potentially penalized for going over budget, even point deductions will not matter if we go by the Las Vegas odds.
“Max Verstappen is one of the highest skilled drivers I’ve ever worked with,” Franz Tost said in his experience working with him. Red Bull’s race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase also told The Athletic that Verstappen “Has an extremely rare natural talent: an innate feeling for the connection between himself, the car, and the road.”
Ferrari, Mercedes May Face Early Problems
There is immense pressure on Ferrari and Mercedes to close the gap with Red Bull, which is already weighing both teams down. In Ferrari’s case, last year’s runner-up gets a new boss in Frederic Vasseur. He fills in for Mattia Binotto, who stepped down following the Italian team’s problematic strategizing and car performance issues that cost them an early lead.
Ferrari’s leading driver Charles Leclerc jumped to a massive lead finishing 1-2-1 in the first three races. Then the wheels came off from there, sometimes literally, as he retired in Spain and Baku and won just one of the final 19 races. The Monegasque racer is a distant runner-up on the Las Vegas F1 odds at +400, while the constructor is at +275.
But should Vasseur find a way to match Red Bull’s strategy on top of Ferrari reportedly improving on its engine, Leclerc may just give Verstappen tougher competition. He did finish just behind the Dutch-Belgian champion in four of the races. More consistency from his team’s end could tighten the odds.
As for Mercedes, the team has a slew of problems to deal with beginning with their cars’ porpoising issues. Should they rectify this, there is also growing competition between Lewis Hamilton (+500) and George Russell (+1400).
Hamilton is still the team’s leading man but Russell finished ahead of him last season and preserved Mercedes’s streak of winning at least one race. The team also looked like one in flux during testing indicating it may face difficulties during the early part of the season.
But if Mercedes can get aligned properly, it may finally challenge Red Bull again as it did in 2021. Backers will have plenty to bet online on (+300 currently on the outright odds) though it may be too little too late when Verstappen builds such a big lead.
Volume 🆙😁 Sliding into race week 💪 pic.twitter.com/Sd0DuFP5Mg
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) February 27, 2023
Rest Can Race for “Intercontinental Title”
As for the rest of the grid, the race is for who can finish in fourth place. Last year, it was Alpine that “won” the midfield title (teams outside the top three) with 173 points, finishing just 14 points ahead of McLaren. Some driver changes may push Alpine down as Fernando Alonso switched teams to Aston Martin.
The two-time champion immediately makes Aston Martin a trendy pick at +5000. That’s still just an implied probability of 2% to win with Alonso at +2500 or 3.8%. Both are long shots at best though the Spaniard has a way of elevating the results of every team he’s been on.
McLaren, on the other hand, looked the worst from testing. Nevertheless, from a drivers’ standpoint, both Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri may be the best tandem outside of the top six. Many believe Norris can be a title-winning driver if he was with one of the better teams.
If McLaren can get its stuff together, look for Norris to be a popular F1 pick to win a race this season. He was the only one outside the top six to finish on the podium, which he did in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. Norris and McLaren are listed at 250-1 to win the title.
Alpine is at 150-1, with Esteban Ocon at 300-1 and Pierre Gasly at 500-1 to pull the impossible. The best any of these midfield contenders can hope for is to win one race.