Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix
Location: Manama, Bahrain
Course: Bahrain International Speedway
Course Length: 5.41 KM
Bahrain Grand Prix Race Preview
The 2023 F1 calendar begins this weekend in Bahrain, the third consecutive season the country will host the opening race. Red Bull is coming off a dominant 2022 season, during which they claimed both the Driver Championship (Max Verstappen) as well as the Constructors Championship. Though we only have last week's testing to base predictions on, both Verstappen and Red Bull seem to be in a strong position to defend their respective titles. Ferrari looked prepared to give Red Bull some true competition last season, but Charles Leclerc proved unable to hold several leads at different points in the calendar due to both his own mistakes and tactical errors of the team. He looks to again be the primary challenger to Verstappen in the Driver Championship, while Ferrari is best positioned to give Red Bull a run for the Constructors Championship. Ferrari also has new leadership under Fred Vasseur, who has reportedly prioritized cleaning up the strategy errors that cost the team a pile of points in 2022. He also reunites with Leclerc, as the duo originally paired at Sauber (now Alfa Romeo) in 2018.
Though testing is inconclusive, Mercedes appears closer to falling into a battle for fourth than pushing Red Bull as the potential favorite. Mercedes boasts a very talented driver lineup of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, but both drivers have conceded they won't be competing at the top of the field at the start of the 2023 season. Instead, the Silver Arrows are anticipating a challenge from Aston Martin, which appears to be the midfield team best prepared to make a leap up into a new tier of performance. The team signed Fernando Alonso away from midfield rival Alpine, which could prove to be a big boost. Lance Stroll, son of team owner Lawrence Stroll, is the veteran within the team, but he will be racing with pins in his hand this weekend after suffering a bike accident while training during the offseason.
After Aston Martin, a tough fight among Haas, Alpine and Alfa Romeo is anticipated. Alpine finished fourth in the Constructor Championship last season and also boasts the most talented driver pairing of the group, so they are likely the favorites to emerge of the trio. However, there is some question as to whether newcomer Pierre Gasly will mesh well with Esteban Ocon as teammates. Alfa Romeo started the 2022 season with a very quick car, but they struggled to upgrade and develop the package as the season progressed. Zhou Guanyu is entering his second season and Valtteri Bottas is steady, so the team could be in line for another respectable showing in 2023. Haas is the wild card of the group. For the third consecutive season, they have at least one new driver as Nico Hulkenberg has taken over for Mick Schumacher to pair with Kevin Magnussen. The duo has reportedly moved beyond a squabble that occurred in the 2017 Hungarian Grand Prix and will hope to provide more consistency to the team this season.
Finally, McLaren, Alpha Tauri and Williams appear to be at the bottom of the pile. McLaren is lining itself up to be the biggest disappointment of the season after struggling during testing for the second consecutive year. Lando Norris has the talent to pull the team out of this bottom-tier group on his own, and Oscar Piastri is the most exciting young driver on the grid. The machinery simply doesn't appear to be there for the duo.
Key Stats at Bahrain International Speedway
- Races: 18
- Winners from pole: 8
- Winners from top-5 starters: 18
Previous 10 Bahrain Grand Prix Winners
2022 – Charles Leclerc
2021 - Lewis Hamilton
2020 - Lewis Hamilton
2019 - Lewis Hamilton
2018 - Sebastian Vettel
2017 - Sebastian Vettel
2016 - Nico Rosberg
2015 - Lewis Hamilton
2014 - Lewis Hamilton
2013 - Sebastian Vettel
Bahrain is a unique setting to start the season, as the track temperature is known to get quite warm during the day, with cooler temperatures at night. The race takes place at night in the cooler temperatures, though Pirelli (F1's tire provider) noted that Bahrain features some of the most abrasive asphalt on the calendar, while wind and sand from the nearby desert also affect grip. The tire compounds available to the teams will be on the harder side, as Pirelli is providing C1, C2 and C3 compounds (C0 being the hardest compound, C5 being the softest). There's nothing overly complicated or unique about the track itself, which features four long straights and several slow corners. There are three DRS zones, the last of which has been shifted to 250 meters after turn 15.
DraftKings Value Picks for the Bahrain Grand Prix
DraftKings Tier 1 Values
Max Verstappen - $13,000
Charles Leclerc - $11,200
Sergio Perez - $9,400
Carlos Sainz Jr. - $9,000
DraftKings Tier 2 Values
George Russell - $8,200
Fernando Alonso - $7,6000
DraftKings Tier 3 Values
Esteban Ocon - $5,800
Pierre Gasly- $5,400
DraftKings Tier 4 Values
Kevin Magnussen - $4,200
Alex Albon - $3,800
Nico Hulkenberg - $3,200
DraftKings Constructor Values
Red Bull Racing - $12,000
Ferrari - $11,100
Alpine - $5,300
Formula 1 DFS Picks for Bahrain Grand Prix
Captain – Max Verstappen - $19,500
George Russell - $8,200
Fernando Alonso - $7,600
Esteban Ocon - $5,800
Nico Hulkenberg - $3,200
Constructor – Alpine - $5,300
Based both on his dominance during the 2022 season and the ease at which he operated his RB19 in testing, Verstappen is the clear favorite to win the race. His price reflects that, so for those who roster him, it will be necessary to find value elsewhere. Both Alpine drivers (Pierre Gasly ($5,400) and Ocon) fit that bill. They both appear to be mis-priced relative to other midfield drivers such as Lando Norris ($7,000), Valtteri Bottas ($6,600) and Lance Stroll ($6,200). This is also reflected in RotoWire's Value Report, as Ocon and Gasly are projected to return 4 and 3.9X value on their salary, respectively.
In a tournament, consider using Charles Leclerc ($16,800) and even Carlos Sainz Jr. ($13,500) as captain to get a different build. Both Red Bull cars were forced to retire in Bahrain in 2022, and if that scenario were to repeat itself, the pair of Ferrari drivers would be in a strong position to take advantage.
Alonso also figures to be extremely popular, as there is a lot of helium for Aston Martin heading into the race. His teammate, Lance Stroll ($6,200) could become an option in future races if the Aston Martin performs as expected, but he'll be racing with a hand injury so is quite risky to roster.
Formula 1 Betting Picks for the Bahrain Grand Prix
Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook
Race Winner – Max Verstappen (-150), Charles Leclerc (+425), Carlos Sainz Jr. (+1100)
Winning Constructor – Mercedes (+550), Aston Martin (+2000)
Winning Margin – Between 5 and 10 seconds (+225), under five seconds (-110)
Safety Car – Yes (-225)
Fastest Lap - Sergio Perez (+650)
At this point in the article, it's pretty clear that Verstappen is viewed as the favorite and Ferrari second in order, so it's worth shifting gears to discuss correlating bets briefly. Bahrain has typically featured close races, as each of the last four grand prix have been decided by six seconds or less. For those who want to play it safe and bet on Verstappen to win the races, it's worth correlating that wager with a winning margin between five and 10 seconds. If Verstappen wins, he's likely to easily outpace the field, and pairing those wagers is a good way to recoup some value. On the other hand, for those who are betting on a Ferrari (or other) race winner, a smaller margin of victory is likely with the most dominant car being off pace.
Given that it's the first race, we are likely to see some mechanical failures and retirements. If one happens on the track, a safety car is a near certainty. Those are significant odds to lay, so this may not be the best week to do so.