United States Grand Prix Picks and Predictions: Verstappen Undeterred by Second-Place Start

An exciting qualifying ended with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz taking pole position but he’ll be under threat right away on race day. Our United States Grand Prix picks highlight why a rapid start for Max Verstappen could be coming.

Last Updated: Oct 23, 2022 10:21 AM ET Read Time: 4 min

For the second time this season, Formula 1 is going racing Stateside with the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas.

The Circuit of the Americas is among the best to regularly appear on the F1 calendar, and despite Max Verstappen already crowned as the Drivers' Champion (and a heavy United States Grand Prix odds favorite), there's no shortage of intrigue up and down the grid at the U.S. Grand Prix.

Ahead of lights out at COTA, we're taking a look at the F1 betting board to bring you our United States Grand Prix picks and predictions. 

United States Grand Prix picks and predictions

Post-qualifying picks

Picks made on 10/22/2022 at 10:00 a.m. ET.

Pre-qualifying predictions

Picks made on 10/21/2022 at 3:00 p.m. ET.
Click on each pick to jump to the full analysis.

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United States Grand Prix picks (post-qualifying)

Leader after first lap pick

The front of the grid in Sunday’s race is incredibly hard to predict with an awesome fight, both on track and in the race strategy, ahead. Ferrari and Red Bull have looked quickest and are occupying the two front spots, but Mercedes is the lone team of the Top 3 not to have a driver take an engine penalty. So, with both drivers starting in the Top 4, what Mercedes may lack in pace in comparison to its two rivals it makes up for in strategic options. 

With Max Verstappen still a heavy -275 favorite to win and the potential for a three-team fight, I’m ducking most of the markets for the frontrunners. There is, however, a market related to the front two of Carlos Sainz and Verstappen that takes the deeper stages of the race out of the equation. 

While Verstappen may have come up short in his push for pole in Saturday’s qualifying, his second-place start will give him a great chance at making up for it — and quickly.

COTA is among the most unique starts on the calendar, with a climb uphill before a tight turn one. The angle of that first turn plays right into the hands of the driver starting second, on the inside line. The onus is on the pole driver to cut across and cover second place off — but at a huge risk of missing out if they get off the line well. 

Like at the Hungaroring, starting second at COTA hardly means you’ll be there into the first turn. In four of the last six United States Grand Prix (and in the last three overall), the driver who has started second has taken the lead into the first turn. 

After having the lead taken away from him by Lewis Hamilton into turn one at COTA last year, Verstappen is going to know just what he needs to do to claim the lead from Sainz off the line and lead the pack across the line to start lap No. 2.

Pick: Max Verstappen - Leader after first lap  (+150 at bet365)

Team fastest lap pick 

Despite both drivers, Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc, posting multiple superb times across Saturday’s qualifying and ending up with a driver, in Sainz, on pole, Ferrari’s optimism ahead of the race can’t be all that high. 

That’s the reality of Ferrari’s 2022 season, in which — glaring and inexcusable errors aside — its weekends have repeatedly come undone by its inability to translate one-lap pace into race pace. Since the start of the season, Ferrari and Leclerc have been competitive with Red Bull and Verstappen in qualifying — often getting the better of them — before falling away in the race. 

That hole in Ferrari’s 2022 car is plain to see in the season’s results. Though Red Bull has a vast edge in race wins, 14-4, the pole positions have been nearly flipped with Ferrari taking 12 to Red Bull’s six.

Ferrari’s single-lap pace again shined throughout Saturday in Austin. Sainz topped Q1 by nearly half a second, with Leclerc second. Leclerc then topped Q2 with Sainz third, before Sainz took pole with Leclerc setting the second fastest time (but dropping 10 spots due to an engine penalty). 

Ferrari’s inability to match Red Bull’s race pace is no secret, with even the pole sitter Sainz saying as much on Saturday after qualifying.

Ferrari’s ability to be the quickest car around a track in a single lap isn’t a secret either, and at +162 for the team to set the fastest lap, it’s good value.

Pick: Ferrari - Team to set the fastest lap (+165 at DraftKings)

United States GP predictions (pre-qualifying)

Both cars points finish pick

Three retirements across the races in Monza and Singapore aside, Alpine continued its excellent second half of the season in Japan and strengthened its hold on fourth in the Constructors' Championship as a result.

After qualifying fifth (Esteban Ocon) and seventh (Fernando Alonso), Ocon finished fourth — and did a fantastic job keeping Lewis Hamilton behind him — while Alonso came home seventh in a rain-effected race. The double points finish was Alpine's ninth in the last 11 Grand Prix, which is even more impressive when considering its major upgrades were only recently implemented.  

At the United States Grand Prix, Alpine is set up to make it 10 double points finishes in the last 12 races. COTA is a fantastically high-speed track, with long straights in the first and second sectors, and rapid, flowing corners until the slower third sector. That sort of circuit plays right into Alpine's strengths, with the French outfit boasting an outstanding power unit this year, as the grid's second-quickest car in a straight line. 

More encouraging still is that Alpine brought further upgrades to COTA, after its previous upgrade seemingly worked brilliantly. The success Ocon had in keeping Hamilton behind him in the wet in Japan, where Mercedes' superior downforce should've been a major edge, bodes well for Alpine in that third and final sector too. 

Barring any technical issues or racing incidents, Alpine should not only easily come in with two points finishes, but push for the Top 6, too. 

Pick: Alpine - Both cars points finish (-138 at bet365)

Both cars podium finish pick 

Between Max Verstappen's dominant run to the Drivers' Championship and Red Bull's generous lead in the Constructors' Championship, it's no secret Red Bull has created the grid's best car this season. It is, quite simply, vastly superior to every other car, Ferrari included. 

While Verstappen and Red Bull have had a few incredible showings this year, there's been no better representation of the team's dominance than its performances at F1's balanced tracks — the ones that reward straight-line speed as much as it does downforce that enables speed to be carried through corners.

That was no better represented than in Spa at the Belgian Grand Prix, which like COTA is a long lap, and requires power, power, and more power in the first sector but a good aero package in the later parts of the lap.

It was at Spa where Red Bull was not only quickest in the first sector but also in the sectors that should have favored Ferrari and Mercedes. As a result, the team finished with a 1-2 as Verstappen won from 14th on the grid. 

COTA, with its rapid first and second sectors before a winding, technical third sector, fits that billing too. Teams can't be too generous with their aero setup and risk losing a ton of time in the early parts of the lap, but they can't completely disregard it and suffer in the third sector either. 

While that will require nearly every team to make compromises in their car's setup, Red Bull has proven again and again that it has successfully married a dominant power unit with strong downforce. At a circuit that demands the complete package, Red Bull is equipped to deliver. 

Sergio Perez's engine penalty will see him take a five-place grid penalty before the race but that's not nearly enough of a drop to make me concerned about the team's chances of a double podium this weekend. 

Pick: Red Bull - Both cars podium finish (+120 at bet365)

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