Japanese GP preview and best bets: Max Verstappen finds success as Suzuka

Max Verstappen drives for Red Bull Racing
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Matt Selz


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A return to Suzuka this week for the first time in a few years. What a marvelous track and test it is. Originally built as a Honda test track for their cars, it is now home to the F1 Japanese Grand Prix and is one of the most beloved tracks on the schedule. What’s not beloved this weekend is the weather that’s on tap for race day potentially.

Suzuka Track Layout and Betting Strategy

The former Honda test track is one of the best tests on the f1 schedule. The 3.60-mile, 18-turn layout has a great variety of high-speed corners, long straights, and a couple of tight, slow-speed corners. There’s also quite a bit of elevation change as the track has 40 meters between its highest and lowest points. Oh right, how can we forget the crossover section of the track? That’s right the second straight goes right over part of the first segment of the track. What does all of this mean for betting? Well, even though it’s considered a bit of an outlier in terms of matching tracks on the schedule, we can take a lot from other layouts.

The speeds here are high; on-throttle time is roughly 77% of the lap. The high speeds combined with plenty of passing chances throughout a lap means we should be in for a show on Sunday. That also means that drivers should be able to move through the field and make passes under braking and/or DRS. The weather will be a major concern as well as there is rain in the forecast. We’ve seen wet weather races this year and it’s typical for chaos to enfold as cars just don’t grip as expected. So don’t be surprised if drivers with a tad longer odds have a shot to win come Sunday.

F1 Japanese GP outright winners

Odds listed are from DraftKings Sportsbook at the time of publishing

Max Verstappen (-185)

Verstappen has been the class of the field all season. He may not have had the best practice runs on Friday, but we’ve seen that before from him and then he shows up and wins from anywhere on the grid on Sunday. There’s also the fact that there’s rain in the forecast for the race which could lead to chaos and we’ve already seen Red Bull maximize their points in chaotic races this year. Let’s also not forget that he can lock up the 2022 World Championship with a win and the fastest lap on Sunday. If you like what you’ve seen from Red Bull but want longer odds Sergio Perez (+1100) is in play too.

Lewis Hamilton (+1000)

Can we possibly get a year without a Hamilton win? I don’t think so. He loves this track and has talked about it frequently as being one of his favorite tracks on the schedule. We also can’t discount the fact that Mercedes has been competitive at tracks like Suzuka all year and ran 1-2 in FP2 — in similar conditions to expected race conditions. So in essence we’re banking on the talent of Hamilton, the strategy of Mercedes, his confidence on the track, and his speed at similar tracks. Oh yeah, plus the ability to make Verstappen wait to become champion for one more race.

Carlos Sainz (+1500)

Sainz has been, on average, faster than Leclerc this weekend. He’s also been faster at pure speed tracks much like Suzuka is. We’ve also seen Sainz be quite good in rainy conditions like what’s expected on Sunday. There aren’t team orders for Ferrari and if Sainz has the better spot on the track and/or the faster car, he’ll be the lead car for strategy. Ah, yes, strategy and Ferrari — their nemesis all season. I’m willing to take this return to bet on them sorting out a strategy this weekend.

Longshot: Fernando Alonso (+15000)

Rain and Alonso are best buds. How do I know? He ran P1 in FP1 and the last time he did that was FP3 in Canada when it was also a rain-soaked session. He ran P7 in FP2 as well. This style of track really fits Alonso’s driving style. It flows. There’s also the fact that we’ve seen Alpines have a ton of speed at tracks where they’re on throttle the vast majority of the lap.


Best Prop Bets for Japanese GP

Odds listed are from DraftKings Sportsbook at the time of publishing

Alpine Double Top-10 Finish (-120)

They ran in the top 10 at both practices in the wet. They have good enough speed to run top-10 in the dry as well. Before the last two races, they pulled off the double top-10 feat five straight times. Sunday will make it six times in eight races.

Fernando Alonso Top-6 Finish (+135)

If we’re confident in the speed to put a small wager (like .1u) on Alonso to win, why not hedge the bet with a top-6? He’s run P1 and P7 at practice in the wet. When we look at the same time frame as we did for the top-10 bet for Alpine, it’s on his side too. In that span, Alonso finished top-six three times in those five races and top-eight in four. Alonso also finished P5, P7, P9, and P7 in the four races preceding that five-race span. So in total in nine of the last 11 races this year, Alonso has finished P7 or better six times. I’m liking that consistency.

George Russell Podium Finish (+185)

Russell has finished top-five in every race this year outside of the British GP. The fractional odds for this line (37/20) equals a 35% chance of this happening. Over the last 14 races this year, he’s podiumed half the time. Let’s not forget he ran P1 in FP2 over the course of 23 laps run. That’s a lot of track time in similar conditions to the race with a lot of speed shown. That’s a great combo for this prop bet.

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