Formula 1 takes a step into the unknown this weekend with the first-ever Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in Jeddah. Also entering the unknown is Max Verstappen, who could clinch his first-ever drivers’ title with a 10th win of the season on Sunday. However, bearing down on Verstappen is a man who has been there and done it all, and his shadow once again looms large over the F1 landscape.
After back-to-back victories, the momentum in an epic title fight lies with Lewis Hamilton, who is the 4/9 favourite to make it three wins on the spin at a venue that is expected to suit Mercedes. Race officials boast the Jeddah Corniche Circuit will be the fastest street track ever seen in Formula 1, and with Hamilton’s new-found pace to burn, Red Bull face an unviable task trying to prevent what seems inevitable.
Red Bull Fear Qatar Repeat
While Verstappen is still in control of the title and could technically wrap up the championship on Sunday if he finishes first and Hamilton comes home lower than sixth, the overriding view is that the crown is slipping through the Dutchman’s fingers.
No driver in the last ten years has ever failed to win the title when leading with two races to go, but Verstappen’s current eight-point advantage couldn’t look much more precarious after the last two races. Hamilton proved far too quick for his Red Bull rival in both Brazil and Qatar, with Verstappen’s team having found little to offer in response.
Of the final three tracks, Qatar was the venue Mercedes were most concerned, only for the weekend to play out perfectly as Hamilton won by over 25 seconds from Verstappen in second. He could finish even further ahead in Jeddah, a circuit that looks set to play into the hands of Mercedes with its plethora of high-speed corners.
As if that wasn’t enough, Hamilton has shown a unique ability to pick up and dominate new venues at lightning speed, winning five of the last six inaugural races in Formula 1, and he’s 6/4 to do a fastest lap and race winner double to put his immediate stamp on Saudi Arabia.
Verstappen is 5/2 to break Hamilton’s domination of their title fight with a win but could need either a mistake or mechanical issue to achieve his goal given the Brit’s recent hot streak. A record-breaking eighth world title is calling to Hamilton, who should set up a winner-take-all showdown in the season finale in Abu Dhabi with a win.
Aston and Alpine Coming On Strong
Away from the main event, the undercard for the season’s penultimate race is shaping up nicely. Five teams battled it out for the points in Qatar, and the quintet are all expected to be in the mix again.
Alpine’s Fernando Alonso recorded his best finish since 2014 in Qatar when taking third, with his teammate Esteban Ocon not far behind in fifth. With the duo having gone well at the Losail circuit and sporting a decent record at street venues this year (Alonso finished sixth in Azerbaijan), it could be worth taking a chance on both Alpines finishing in the top six again.
With McLaren struggling for form and AlphaTauri not having the required race pace, Alonso at 5/2 and Ocon at 11/1 for the top six look like value options.
Also hoping for a strong showing are Aston Martin, fresh from their third double points finish this season. Like Alpine, they have also gone well at street circuits this year, and while Jeddah looks a slight hybrid between a street and traditional race track, their performance in Qatar gives them plenty to build upon.
Aston’s Sebastian Vettel now has three top-10 finishes in his last four races and is 20/21 to come home in the points once more.
*All odds correct at time of writing.