Japanese Grand Prix Win Simulations: Can Ferrari Challenge Red Bull?

Jim Sannes
Jim Sannes@JimSannes
Japanese Grand Prix Win Simulations: Can Ferrari Challenge Red Bull?

We've got ourselves an "If you give a moose a muffin" situation going on in Formula 1.

In Australia, non-Red Bull fans finally got what they've been clamoring for: a competitive race.

Max Verstappen had mechanical troubles and had to retire early, opening the door for Carlos Sainz to claim the win. It was just the second time in 21 races that Verstappen wasn't the winner, with the other checkered flag also going to Sainz.

So we got what we wanted. But now? We just want more.

And, frankly, it's not an outlandish hope. Even before Verstappen's issues, Ferrari had good race pace in practice, and they easily outran Sergio Perez during the race. Perez's median lap time was slower than not just both Ferraris but also both McLarens.

Thus, entering Suzuka for this week's Japanese Grand Prix, Verstappen is still the runaway favorite. But the gap back to Ferrari is shortening.

Here's what my win sims see there prior to practice and qualifying.

Win Sims
Max Verstappen64.3%85.8%86.5%86.5%
Carlos Sainz11.3%60.2%85.4%86.4%
Charles Leclerc8.4%45.9%83.3%86.5%
Sergio Perez7.7%48.8%83.7%86.3%
Lando Norris4.3%28.2%74.7%85.4%
Oscar Piastri2.2%15.7%62.8%84.8%
George Russell0.7%5.4%34.4%77.1%
View Full Table

It's very possible that the sims are overselling Ferrari here. But I understand the logic, and I think we could justify buying into them.

Right now at FanDuel Sportsbook, Ferrari is +550 to win in their F1 betting odds for Japan. That's down from +650 as recently as Wednesday morning but still a better price than you'll find elsewhere, where Ferrari is as short as +300.

The implied odds at +550 are 15.4%; my model puts them at 19.7%. It's not a huge gap, and again, it's possible my model is too high on them. But it does at least get your attention.

My preference is bundling Ferrari together rather than picking between Sainz and Charles Leclerc. The model prefers Sainz, but Leclerc's qualifying pace is tantalizing. Either way, I agree with the model that the market may be underselling Ferrari a smidge.

One other note on the sims is that they're above market on the two Kick Sauber drivers -- Zhou Guanyu and Valtteri Bottas -- to finish top 10 (both at +1100). I have no idea if that's accurate.

Sauber has had good pace this year as Zhou finished 11th in Bahrain and Bottas was running in the points in Australia. But they've had a catastrophic pit stop issue that has bit them in all three races thus far.

If you could guarantee me that their issues in the pits were fixed, I'd happily plug both at +1100. But I don't know if they have, and, frankly, I have no reason to think that's the case.

From a modeling perspective, all I can do is input in their race pace and jack up the projected incident rate as high as I can tolerate. That's what the sims above have in place, and it's still showing value on both drivers to finish in the points. I just don't know for sure if that incident rate should be even higher.

Personally, I did bite on both Saubers earlier in the week. You can certainly justify it if you're okay with risk. I just can't go out and recommend you do the same, given the unknowns about whether the issue will persist.

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The above author is a FanDuel employee and is not eligible to compete in public daily fantasy contests or place sports betting wagers on FanDuel. The advice provided by the author does not necessarily represent the views of FanDuel. Taking the author's advice will not guarantee a successful outcome. You should use your own judgment when participating in daily fantasy contests or placing sports wagers.