Penalised Leclerc Could Yet Come Good
Charles Leclerc has incurred a ten-place grid penalty ahead of this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
Bookmakers have decided this punishment – for a change of his control electronics power unit – has dashed his chances of leaving the Jeddah Corniche Circuit with any silverware. We disagree.
As a street circuit, there is an outstanding chance of an accident or incident leading to the use of a Safety Car. The two previous races in Saudi Arabia generated two full Safety Car periods, two red flags, and five Virtual Safety Car periods.
The online betting sites make it 5/6 that this Sunday’s race will have 15 or fewer classified finishers. But, how will this predicted carnage help Leclerc, who will probably start the race somewhere between twelfth and fifteenth?
Safety cars normally shake up the running order and always compress the field. Likely to start the race on hard tyres – a reminder that drivers must use two different compounds during the race – the Ferrari driver may well skip an opportunity to pit when his rivals have to.
In one fell swoop, Leclerc could gain 20-plus seconds and several positions while the chances of other rivals are scuppered. It is a scenario that ruined Sergio Perez race-winning chances in this race last year.
25-year-old Leclerc has a fast car – maybe not always the most reliable – and the sector times recorded in the season’s opening race in Bahrain suggest it will love the long straights that feature prominently at Jeddah’s Corniche Circuit.
Leclerc is 2/1 (with Unibet and Coral) to finish on the podium, and it is an outstanding proposition. In fact, Coral’s 9/2 about Leclerc claiming the fastest lap of the race is an equally attractive betting proposition as the Monegasque driver should be very racy in the closing stages of the race when the fastest laps are traditionally set.
Bottas Could Find Two Spots
Eight drivers are odds-on to finish in the top six of Sunday’s race. At least two of them will fail to justify their price. But could a driver outside of this select eight (the Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes, and Aston Martin drivers) finish amongst the top half-dozen places?
Valtteri Bottas looks over-priced at 8/1 to take a top-six, Naturally, he will require some luck, but that is entirely possible at this venue.
The Finn finished an excellent eighth in Bahrain and, like Leclerc, his Ferrari-powered car might deliver the top-end speed the Saudi Arabian track craves. His car is so punchy, Bottas’s teammate, Zhou Guanyu, registered the fastest lap in Bahrain.
All-in-all, 8/1 (available at bet365) about a Bottas top-six finish may depend on three of the front-running drivers to capitulate. But, with just 13 cars seeing the chequered flag at this track last year – and 15 in 2021 – the planets could line up to make this bet a winner.
* F1 betting odds correct at the time of writing. Subject to changes.