Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Picks and Predictions: Verstappen Delivers Another Classic

Max Verstappen's Saudi Arabian Grand Prix got a little more complicated on Saturday. The Drivers' Champion will start 15th but our F1 betting picks make the case for another race win for the Dutchman.

Last Updated: Mar 19, 2023 9:24 AM ET Read Time: 4 min

The young 2023 Formula 1 season has taken to the streets for the second race of the year, at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.

What looked like another straightforward weekend for Red Bull got a little complicated on Saturday, though its driver pair still sits atop the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix odds board. Will it end up having an impact on Sunday's results?

We answer that question and more in our Saudi Arabian Grand Prix picks. 

Saudi Arabian Grand Prix picks and predictions

Click on each pick to jump to the full analysis.

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Saudi Arabian Grand Prix picks and predictions

Race prediction: Verstappen

There is, surprisingly, actually a bit of mystery here.

Despite dealing with a stomach bug in the leadup to the weekend, Max Verstappen hopped in his car and promptly topped FP1 by 0.48 seconds, FP2 by 0.2s, and FP3 by 0.61s. The table was set for a Red Bull front row-lockout and another pole for Verstappen.

Until qualifying threw a curveball. Verstappen's car had a drive shaft issue in Q2 that forced him to retire before setting a time, leaving him to start 15th. 

That has not only added intrigue to a high-speed track but brought back any real value in backing Verstappen to win in Jeddah, which had been gone by the first practice session. Sunday will be another comprehensive success for Red Bull. 

Pick: Max Verstappen outright (+137 at bet365)

Pick: Verstappen - Race winner

In this era of Red Bull dominance, stretching back to the second half of last season, I frequently have to get creative or take on extra risk in order to bet on a team and driver so far ahead of the competition. Not so much after Saturday's quali.

Verstappen's Q2 exit has left him with work to do, make no mistake, but he will be able to successfully carve through the field. After absolutely crushing everyone in Bahrain — his teammate and Sunday's pole-sitter Sergio Perez included — Verstappen started this weekend by doing the same.

Free practice, which going back to last year has frequently seen Verstappen and Red Bull grapple with the car until they find the correct setup, wasn't competitive. He topped all three sessions and, crucially, had a huge pace advantage over Perez, who only managed to get within 0.48 seconds of his teammate. 

Verstappen's Q1 pace, before the drive shaft issue, was the most encouraging sign as it relates to tomorrow's race. Perez set the second-quickest time in Q1, with a 1:29.244 — only one of three drivers to crack 1:29.300 — but it wasn't even close to Verstappen, who set a fast lap of 1:28.761.  

Last year, in a much more competitive field, Verstappen won from 15th in Belgium — and it took him just 12 laps to take the lead. In Hungary, at a circuit not dissimilar to Jeddah as far as width and overtaking opportunities, he won from 10th.  

A similar climb through the field is ahead for Verstappen. 

Pick: Max Verstappen outright (+137 at bet365)

Pick: Verstappen and Perez - Dual forecast

Before Friday, I bet Verstappen to be the fastest qualifier and race winner at +175. As a little hedge, I bet Red Bull to be the fastest-qualifying car at -138. Verstappen would suffer the aforementioned problem and Perez came through to take pole for Red Bull.

I expect Verstappen to win but for a little safety, let's double down on Red Bull's dominance and take the pair to finish first and second, in whichever order, at -110. There's simply no competing with the team right now.

An element of unpredictability is in F1's DNA but as it stands, Red Bull being well ahead of the rest of the field is as surefire as any part of the sport. We would be, and will be, wise to go back to the Red Bull well as frequently as possible.  

Pick: Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez - Dual forecast (-110 at bet365)

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