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A new era of F1 kicked off last week in Bahrain giving a much-needed shake-up at the front of the grid with Mercedes lagging behind both Red Bull and Ferrari in pace for the first time in years.
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All eyes turn this weekend to the Saudi Arabian GP in Jeddah, which has shifted from being the penultimate race of last season to the second GP of this year. There have been a few changes to the track layout in an attempt to improve safety since the last running, but it still is comfortably the highest speed street circuit on the calendar.
This high-speed nature of the track fuels the first tip of the weekend in Max Verstappen Overall Qualification Winner. Red Bull have some concerns with their overall reliability after last weekend’s double retirement but their straight-line speed and race pace was visible for all to see.
Verstappen will look to use this speed advantage and make amends for last season’s qualifying at this race, where he clipped the wall with his rear tyre on the final corner to throw away a place on pole. While his fight with Hamilton came down to the wire last season, there was no doubt about who the fastest on a Saturday was, with Verstappen having more than double Hamilton’s pole starts.
Come race-day there are several unknowns still which make a race winner difficult to pick. Carlos Sainz Race Winner (each-way) looks the best value in this market. Sainz admitted after the Bahrain GP that he still hasn’t fully got to grips with the new car, but he still delivered a solid 2nd place behind his teammate, Charles Leclerc.
Sainz outscored Leclerc in overall points in 2021 and had the upper hand in pace here last season, despite finishing just behind. With this in mind, the price difference between the two Ferrari teammates looks too big and Sainz has a good opportunity of securing his first ever race win this weekend.
Red Bull will be looking to get over their opening weekend disappointment and pick-up some much needed points. If they are able to overcome their reliability concerns and use their raw speed advantage, both Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez to finish on the podium in our new same podium acca are worth doubling.
Sergio Perez Fastest Lap is the NAP of the weekend. The Mexican driver has a good record around street circuits, particularly Baku which has some similarities with Jeddah, and with Ferrari and Red Bull likely to be battling out for the extra point awarded, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Checo putting on fresh tyres toward the end of the race, to gain that extra pace needed to secure the fastest lap.
Haas were the surprise package of the opening weekend with Kevin Magnussen picking up an excellent 5th place on his return to F1. Mick Schumacher was unfortunate to not pick up his first points in F1 last weekend, recovering well to finish 12th after being spun around by Esteban Ocon on the opening lap.
Pierre Gasly was another unlucky driver in Bahrain, retiring with power unit issues when running comfortably in the points. If fortunes of these two drivers improve, doubling Mick Schumacher and Pierre Gasly to finish in the points looks a good price.
Finally, last year’s race was an eventful one. It will get remembered for Verstappen and Hamilton coming together in controversial circumstances when the Dutchman was letting Hamilton pass, after being adjudged to illegally defend his position.
But on top of that the race saw two red flags, four virtual safety cars and five retirements. With the race being a difficult one in both car reliability and collision-avoidance, under 15.5 classified drivers is another bet worth considering this weekend.
Saudi Arabian GP Tips
Max Verstappen Overall Qualification Winner
Carlos Sainz Race Winner (each way)
Max Verstappen & Sergio Perez to both finish on the podium
Sergio Perez Fastest Lap (NAP)
Mick Schumacher & Pierre Gasly to both finish in the points
Under 15.5 Classified Drivers
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