Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
Location: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Track: Jeddah Corniche Circuit
Course Length: 6.174 KM
The first race weekend of 2022 and the new race regulations are behind us, and at first glance Ferrari dominated the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix with a 1-2 finish. However, that result came only after both Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez had shocking exits due to what Red Bull attributed to a fuel pump problem. That should be a relatively easy fix for this weekend and create a good battle between Ferrari and Red Bull for the race win and remaining podium positions.
In addition to a second look at the cars under new regulations, we'll also see them running on a very different type of track compared to Bahrain. There are a number of notable characteristics of the Jeddah Circuit, highlighted by three DRS zones, an average lap speed of mor than 150 mph, and 79 percent of the lap taken at full throttle. In short, it's a very fast circuit that is far less punishing on tires than what we saw in Bahrain.
Key Stats at Jeddah Corniche Circuit
Winners from pole: 1
Fastest Lap: Lewis Hamilton 1:30.734
2021- Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton won the first and only F1 race at the circuit last season, which put he and Max Verstappen level on points heading into the final race at Abu Dhabi. This season, the race is much earlier on the calendar. There are also a number of other notable changes. Hamilton and Mercedes opened the season at a significant speed deficit, and on a fast track like Saudi Arabia he and George Russell are unlikely to compete for the win without some chaos ahead of them. Next, there were some changes to the track after the initial race that were based on safety concerns. The barriers have been moved back at turns 2-3, 14 and 21 in an effort to lessen blind turns and improve overall safety. Those changes could be offset by the larger tires this season, which have decreased visibility.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
DraftKings Tier 1 Values
DraftKings Tier 2 Values
DraftKings Tier 3 Values
Red Bull - $9,800
Ferrari - $10,800
Alpine - $5,200
After the first race weekend, Ferrari and Red Bull appear clearly superior to the field. While that could change rapidly (even by the next race in Australia), it's unlikely that teams have had enough time between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia to make significant changes to their cars. That said, Red Bull boasted the fastest straight-line speed in Bahrain, while Ferrari was middle of the pack in raw speed but with better cornering and downforce. Expect that to be the case once again in Saudi Arabia. Given the emphasis on speed and lack of hard braking, Red Bull is preferred team to build through.
From a strategic/scoring standpoint, it makes sense to stack your captain and constructor in tournament contests. This gives the highest upside to your lineup, though it does also introduce downside if there is a DNF or surprise poor performance as we saw in Bahrain with Red Bull. If you're entering multiple lineups, diversifying between Leclerc and Verstappen as well as Red Bull and Ferrari makes sense for that reason.
From there, look for potential values in the midfield. Albon is perhaps the most surprising inclusion of the picks, but there are three reasons to consider him as the punt play on the slate: 1) He is likely to beat Williams teammate Nicholas Latifi — worth five DK points alone; 2) there is likely to be some chaos in the race, so he could sneak into a points finish even if his pace alone wouldn't put him in the top 10; and, 3) he is likely to start toward the back of the field, so if he moves up there are additional points available given DK scoring.
I'm less tied to the midfield cars of Gasly, Ocon and Magnussen at this point in the week. We don't know how the teams will qualify, which will dictate the midfield cars I gravitate toward. These were the drivers who fit in around a Verstappen/Red Bull build.
Lastly, a mistake I made last week was stacking teammates (ex. Alonso and Ocon of Alpine). This could work if you happen to hit on two mid-priced cars that make it well inside the top-10, but the move also caps the upside of the lineup given the five points earned for beating a teammate.
Best Bets (Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook)
The same logic for choosing Verstappen over Leclerc and Red Bull over Ferrari in DK contests applies for these picks. At the time of publishing, there is also more value for Verstappen as opposed to Leclerc (+125 to win, +135 for fastest lap) and Red Bull as opposed to Ferrari (-120).
Seeing either of these cars in the top-6 would likely take a stroke of luck. We could get that if the race is as chaotic as last season (Ocon finished fourth, and was in podium position until the last turn of the race). However, there's reason to like this pair beyond just a hope for luck. Ocon was the fourth-fastest driver through the speed trap in Bahrain (320.4 km/h) and Magnussen seventh (318.2 km/h). As has been the theme of this article, Saudi Arabia is a fast track, so betting on the fastest cars at the best value is common sense.
Schumacher is my preferred pick of the duo. He had his race compromised early in Bahrain after getting contact from Ocon on the first lap. Afterward, Haas stated that the contact caused damage to his car and compromised his pace throughout the race. Even so, Schumacher finished 11th and had the chance to reach the top-10 after opting to gain track position rather than pit on a yellow flag late in the race. Turning once again to the speed trap data, Schumacher was sixth in the field (318.4 km/hr) at Bahrain. For those who watched F1 in recent seasons, it might be hard to take Haas seriously, but early data suggests it's the prudent move.
Unlike Schumacher, Tsunoda tallied points in the opening race. In his second season, Tsunoda also performed well at Bahrain as a rookie before disappearing for large portions of the rest of the calendar. However, he showed some promise and a more mature approach on the track late in the season and it's possible he's carried that into 2022. The Alpha Tauri car is competitive, so he's at no disadvantage from that perspective.
Safety Car – No (+450)
This is one of the top circuits in terms of probability of a safety car. Last year's debut race saw two red flags, as well as multiple cars going into the wall during qualifying. There's no value in betting yes (-800), so this is likely a stay away for the week. However, it is worth reiterating the changes to the track, which is really the only reason to believe there is a possibility that there won't be a significant crash at some point during the race.