Welcome back to the column folks. Gonna be a bit of a short one since I spent too much of yesterday “earning a living” to write something a little more substantial. Nevertheless, I wanted to write a little about this weekend’s Formula One Sao Paulo Grand Prix!
F1 is in an intense stretch of globe-spanning races. From Mexico City to Sao Paulo for this weekend’s Grand Prix, and then to Doha(!) for next week(!!!)’s Qatar Grand Prix. Travel has been a big issue in the F1 paddock, with many teams having to work overnight on Thursday to have cars and garages and everything else for a race ready by Friday morning’s practice session.
Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes has a new Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) this weekend, and will take a five-place grid penalty on Sunday from wherever he finishes in Saturday’s Sprint Qualifying race (starting at 2:30pm Eastern). But the story of the weekend so far the wing on Lewis’s #44 car, and the millimeters of difference that have called the car into question by the FIA Stewards.
To try to say this in a less-wordy way than the FIA did in their statements: the wing of an F1 car opens for DRS, or the Drag Reduction System, and after Friday’s qualifying session, the wing of Hamilton’s car was opening mere millimeters more than the 85mm allowed by FIA.
The punishment if Mercedes and Hamilton are found to have actually breached the rule, would be his qualifying time being disqualified, and would force him to start from pit lane in today’s Sprint Qualifying race. With Lewis already taking the aforementioned five-place grid penalty, that could have massive implications on the F1 Championship.
Of lesser importance, but something that added some juicy intrigue to the Mercedes wing saga, was Max Verstappen being spotted in parc ferme (fancy term for the cars being parked after a qualifying session, where teams can’t work on them) taking a look at title-rival Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes. In his inspection, he touched the Mercedes wing under scrutiny from the F1 bosses.
You’re not supposed to do that. Saturday, F1 fined Max €50,000 for touching the Mercedes. Not that big a deal really, but with the decision being delayed overnight, it left fans and analysts alike to ponder what penalties might come to both drivers contending for the F1 Championship.
So I was gonna make this quick, but wanted to catch up on this weekend’s main storyline before even really thinking about anything else on track. Hamilton went fastest in Friday’s qualifying session to set the grid for Saturday’s short Sprint Qualifying race. I know that’s somewhat confusing. I wanted the sprints at first, but they have often been quite boring after the first lap spectacles, hopefully we have some good action in this afternoon’s short race.
WAIT WAIT WAIT BREAKING NEWS AS I WRITE THIS: HAMILTON’S FRIDAY QUALIFYING TIME IS DISQUALIFIED, HE STARTS FROM THE BACK IN THE SPRINT!
Well that kinda changes the bets a bit. This means Lewis will have to really battle to make up spots in the Sprint Qualifying, but with the grid penalty still to come on Sunday, he’ll need the drive of his life to stay in the title fight.
Max Verstappen is now an overwhelming favorite to win both Saturday’s Sprint Qualifying race at -280 and Sunday’s Grand Prix, available from -200 to -250. You can probably take that and win, sure, but where’s the fun in that?
Let’s have a little more fun. I like Charles Leclerc head-to-head over his teammate Carlos Sainz at -140 in today’s Sprint Qualifying. Leclerc will have the favorable inside grid position at the start and has shown a more consistent race pace than Sainz.
Valtteri Bottas is +330 to win the Sprint, and worth a flyer now starting in the front row alongside Max Verstappen. Like Leclerc, Bottas will have the inside line going into turn one, where the Sprint Qualifying races tend to be won.
Onto Sunday now, and if you’re betting on Sunday, odds will inevitably shift around based on results in the Sprint, so these lines are taken prior to Saturday’s action. I’m loving Charles Leclerc podium being +385 with a much-improved Ferrari engine giving F1’s biggest team some really competitive pace. Lando Norris top six at -110 is also worth taking, with McLaren needing to keep up with the improving Ferrari in the battle for third in the F1 Constructors Championship.
I also like over 17.5 drivers to be classified in Sunday’s Grand Prix at +110 and Mercedes to set the fastest lap -110. With Hamilton likely not involved in the battle for the race win, Mercedes will look to take whatever points they can off Red Bull.
Let’s go racin’.