After a thrilling qualifying that saw as many as four teams in with a shot at the front row, we're just hours away from the first race of the season with the Bahrain Grand Prix.
It’s the first race of the season and while there is some predictability — such as Max Verstappen’s Bahrain Grand Prix odds being slashed after qualifying — there is still so much more to be learned.
With the unknown still looming over the grid, our Bahrain Grand Prix picks and predictions are highlighting some of the safer bets in Formula 1 to begin 2023.
Bahrain Grand Prix picks and predictions
- Race Winner Prediction: Verstappen (-250)
- Pick: Red Bull - Double podium (-138)
- Pick: Leclerc - Podium (-138)
Click on each pick to jump to the full analysis.
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Bahrain Grand Prix picks and predictions
Race prediction: Verstappen
Hopefully, you were able to get Max Verstappen to win the race outright ahead of qualifying, when he was still available at -120. Now at -250, there may be no value left in taking Verstappen outright but there's no mystery, either.
A range of drivers topped timing sheets from last weekend's testing, through Friday's practices, and then into qualifying. Yet, when Q3 began and it was time to set the grid, the driver who dominated 2022 was there again.
Verstappen finished nearly three-tenths up on Charles Leclerc and was never under threat from teammate Sergio Perez, starting second, either.
Pick: Max Verstappen outright (-250 at bet365)
Pick: Red Bull - Double podium
While there's no value left in Verstappen as an outright winner, there's still a chance to back the reliability of Red Bull in the form of a double podium pick. Barring something unforeseen, Verstappen's a lock to finish on the podium, so we look toward Perez here (-163 for a podium finish).
Much like most of last season, in which Perez totaled 11 podiums, the superiority of the Red Bull should keep him safely on one of the top three steps. Unlike last year, however, when Perez's form came and went, he appears to have entered '23 ready to go in his title-worthy car.
Perez topped Friday's FP1 and then set the third-quickest times in both FP2 and FP3. While the early parts of qualifying displayed the parity simmering at the front of the grid, the latter stage only furthered the notion that Red Bull's starting well ahead of the rest of the field.
In setting the second-quickest time in Q3, Perez not only locked out the front row for the team but was the only other driver aside from Verstappen to crack the 1:29 threshold.
Qualifying represented a perfect start to the new season for Red Bull, and race day will deliver a double podium.
Pick: Red Bull - Double podium (-138 at bet365)
Pick: Leclerc - Podium
Much like most of last season, the driver threatening to disrupt Red Bull's hegemony in Bahrain is Ferrari's Charles Leclerc. After seemingly withholding pace in testing and the early stages of this weekend, the Ferrari that was expected to be in contention again appeared on track.
After setting fast laps in the Top 5 of all three practice sessions, Leclerc was third-quickest in Q1 and then set the quickest time in Q2. A curious moment ended his Q3 — and chance at pole — but the reasoning behind that moment brings reason to be optimistic about a podium finish for Leclerc on Sunday.
As the pole-position contenders were preparing for their final push lap of Q3, Leclerc returned to the garage, then in P2, with his session curiously over early. After qualifying, Leclerc told the broadcast that his early end was a strategic decision; rather than equip a new set of tires, thus leaving one fewer new set for the race, for a final push lap, Ferrari opted to look ahead.
As a result of Ferrari's foresight, not only will Leclerc be able to start Sunday's race on the racing line in third but he'll do so with new tires. That's a tangible reason for optimism.
A more intangible reason is that it showed proactive and strategic thinking from Ferrari. That was considerably lacking at times last season and derailed the team's position repeatedly. Provided the team stays out of its own way, Leclerc has the car and the ability to consistently be fighting at the front.
That will show through on race day with Leclerc joining the Red Bull drivers on the podium.
Pick: Charles Leclerc - Podium (-138 at bet365)