Betting on F1 Race Winners

The most popular way to bet on F1 is by picking the winner of a race. To help our visitors get an edge, we put together this article discussing some of the most important angles to research. Most casual punters just want to bet for fun, but serious handicappers need to work harder to make consistent wins.

Many people don’t realize all of the little aspects of a race that need to be studied. For example, the management of tyres can be critical during a race, giving one team a huge advantage over the other top drivers. In some races, starting position is much more important than in other races. Even a small rule change during the season can have a major impact on results. Are you researching these things?

The real question is, how badly do you want to win your bets? If you’re looking to make consistent wins betting on F1 race winners, it requires more time, and you need to know what to research. You might be thinking “this all makes sense until a bad pitstop or a crash ruins all of our hard work.” That’s true, it only takes one small driver error, an extra second on a pitstop, a tiny handling issue, or any number of other things that could screw it up for us. However, we don’t worry about that because we aren’t concerned about a single race. We’re concerned about the lifetime of our betting careers. Over the course of a season, 5 seasons, 15 seasons – our informed decision making will undoubtedly translate into a significantly higher winning percentage. Depending on the stakes you bet, it can be the difference of hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of dollars.

Finding Drivers With the Best Value

Picking the hottest driver ‘right now’ isn’t always the best way to go. Odds on a big favourite are generally low, and with so many other important factors involved, no driver is ever a lock to win. Some other things that have to be considered include starting position, circuit characteristics, recent rule changes, team strategies, weather, and a number of other things as well.

When we’re looking for value, we have to achieve two things. First, of course we have to pick a driver who has a legitimate shot at winning. Second, we need to choose drivers who offers us odds that are worth the risk. For example, just because you think Sebastian Vettel will win doesn’t mean he’s worth a bet at 1/3 odds. We have to risk $3 to win $1, and if he isn’t at least 3 times more likely to win than any other drivers, he isn’t giving us the value we need.

On the other side of the coin, just because we can get 12/1 on Fernando Alonso doesn’t mean he’s worth a bet either. Where is he starting on the grid? Is it realistic that he can move up the required number of spots to win the race? Is his car fast enough? Essentially, if this race were being run 12 times, would he win one or more of them? If not, he’s not offering us the value we need. To figure all this out, we have to dig deeper into the stats, and have more knowledge on how the sport works.

Starting Grid Positions

On some F1 circuits, starting positions can be extremely important. On circuits where it’s difficult to overtake, starting on the pole can be a huge advantage. On other circuits where passing is more common, it can be easier to find value betting on drivers who aren’t on the pole. Punters should never place a bet on a race winner without considering historical results. If you aren’t getting this information before you bet, you’re consistently throwing away money.

Below are three of the most difficult circuits for overtaking. This means that punters shouldn’t be looking down the starting grid for value, because P1 or P2 almost always win. At these three circuits, even P3 can be considered a longshot.

Circuits: Difficult to Overtake
Below are three of the most difficult Formula 1 circuits for overtaking. This means that punters shouldn’t be looking down the starting grid for value, because P1 or P2 nearly always win. At these three circuits, even P3 can be considered a longshot. While it’s easier to predict winners at these circuits, odds are always very low for drivers on the pole.

  • Circuit de Monaco (Grand Prix of Monaco): In seven of the last eight seasons (2004-2011), the winner of the Grand Prix of Monaco has come from the pole position. Since 2007, four of the five races have seen all three starting positions finish on the podium. This circuit is known for being extremely difficult for overtaking, and the polesitter has a huge advantage here.
  • Circuit de Catalunya (Spanish Grand Prix): Between 2001 – 2011, the winner has come from the pole position in every year except 2011. In 2011, the winner was Sebastian Vettel, who started 2nd on the grid. Watch for potential circuit changes in the future, as F1 is likely to adjust this street circuit to make it more friendly to overtaking. If they don’t make any changes, keep betting towards the top of the grid.

The Yas Marina Circuit (Abu Dhabi Grand Prix) has been favouring top qualifiers as well, but not to the degree of the circuits listed above. It’s also been reported that FIA has requested that track officials adjust the course to encourage more overtaking. We’ll update you if any significant changes are made in Abu Dhabi.

Most of the circuits on the F1 schedule have been adjusted over time to accommodate more passing opportunities. While it makes it more difficult to pick race winners, it’s also easier to find value on drivers not on the pole.

On a circuit where it’s difficult to pass, look for aggressive, fearless passers like Lewis Hamilton when they start in the 2nd or possibly 3rd position. Some drivers have the guts (and enough desire to win) to try risky maneuvers that can pay off. Others don’t have the ability or desire, and these are the drivers to stay away from on the tougher circuits. Value can often be found in situations like these.

Consider This Option

We all have different betting styles, but here’s an F1 betting strategy I prefer to take on circuits where it’s difficult to pass. Instead of waiting until qualifying is over, I will often place my bet on the outright race winner before practice and qualifying has begun. Here’s why:

Before practice and qualifying, favoured drivers have greater odds than after qualifying has ended. So, instead of taking 1/5 odds on the polesitter at the Grand Prix of Monaco, I can usually get something in the area of 2/3 or better on the top two or three drivers. When we do this, we’re essentially betting on the qualifying itself, rather than the race. Since we know that the winner is most likely to come from the pole position, that’s what we’re hoping to pick. If we’re wrong and our driver finishes second, we still have a decent shot at a win – and either way we’ve locked in better odds than we would get after qualifying. If our driver starts in P3 or lower, it’s probably a losing bet, but we still have a dog in the fight.

I also tend to wager less when I do this. Let’s use 1/4 odds versus 2/3 as an example. At 1/4, I would have to risk £100 to win £25. But, at 2/3 I can risk £50 to win £33.33. So, while I’m taking more risk by betting before qualifying, I’m taking less risk on my bet size, with potential to profit the same or more. I prefer this risk because it’s often fairly easy to pick the polesitter…so I feel I’m getting a worthwhile edge in this situation.


Tyres are important in F1 mainly for two reasons. First, the strategy in how a team uses their tyres is critical. Teams are only allowed to use a certain number of tyre sets for qualifying and during the race. During practice & qualifying, a team might conserve one set of tyres that helps them go faster during the race. Are you aware of which team has this advantage? The difference of having that one extra set of better tyres can easily amount to 2-5 seconds during their time on the track – which can be the difference between first or second place.

The second important thing about tyres is the driver. Which drivers are known for being able to conserve tyres while keeping their speed up? Which ones are known for chewing up tyres too quickly? When a driver is forced to put extra laps on a bad set of tyres, this can transfer into handling issues as well – also something that can slow them down. Once again, this can be the difference of multiple seconds gained or lost during a race. This isn’t a problem at every circuit, but it is at circuits which are known for being hard on tyres.

Rule Changes

To keep Formula 1 competitive between teams, FIA is constantly making rules changes. Some rules benefit certain teams and hurt others. Sometimes they have the desired effect, sometimes they go too far, and sometimes they don’t seem to make a difference at all. Regardless, we have to keep track of the rule changes happening both off-season and during the season as well.

During the season, when potentially significant rule changes have been made, I highly recommend waiting until after qualifying is done before placing your bets. How can you predict a winner when you don’t know how a rule change might affect the cars? By waiting until qualifying is done, we can better predict what might happen during the race.

Team Strategies & Execution

There are a number of aspects to be aware of when it comes to team strategies and their ability to execute them. Some teams are capable of making clever decisions that give them an edge during a race. How a team uses their tyres on a day when there might be rain can also be an issue. Is a team creating more downforce than they need? Have they planned an optimal strategy for pitstops? How well do they execute their pitstops? Who’s best at making adjustments to a car during the course of a race? There is a lot strategy involved in F1, and a lot of it comes from people other than the driver. If drivers from two teams are close during the final laps, which team do you have the most faith in?

Let me lay out another scenario for you. Late in the season you’ve placed a bet on Driver X. He’s in second, putting pressure on Driver Y – his teammate. You have a shot to win, until your driver is given instructions by his team to lay off and not overtake. He’s been told not to win. The opposite could happen as well, where your driver is in first, with his teammate putting on the pressure in second. It doesn’t happen a lot, but situations like this do happen. Can you think of anything more frustrating?

This kind of thing tends to happen when Driver Y is leading, or high in the points for the World Drivers Championship – or when the team is leading, or high in the World Constructors Championship. They do this for a couple of reasons. For the Constructors Championship, teams don’t care which driver is first and which is second, the team earns the same number of points either way. But, if they allow their drivers to aggressively compete against one another, they risk a crash that could take out one or both of their cars. So, rather than taking that risk, they call off one of their drivers.

To prevent this from happening with a driver you’ve selected, pay attention to the standings for the WDC and WCC. Figure out what could happen if driver X and Y get into a situation like this, and which driver is more likely to get the benefit of such a call. During the second half of most seasons, there will be a driver or two that we want to stay away from – knowing his teammate will be getting the benefits.


When it’s hot outside, everyone has sticky tyres. However, when it rains or when it’s cold out, weather can have a real impact on the results. Some drivers are excellent in the rain, while others are weaker in the rain. Cars also handle differently on wet circuits, giving some drivers an advantage over others. Before you place a bet, always check the weather forecast first, and adjust your bets accordingly.

Cold weather plays less of a role in results, but it can still make an impact. Certain drivers have a harder time getting (or keeping) their tyres hot enough to stick properly (Jenson Button). Less traction means less speed, or at least a higher risk of getting caught out. I know it sounds like I’m splitting atoms, but remember, F1 is a game of split seconds.

How Circuit Characteristics Affect Drivers & Cars

Something that many F1 punters fail to consider is matching drivers to circuits. For example, circuits with long straights and fewer turns give a big advantage to cars with top speed. There’s also less affect on tyres, removing an element of racing that can cause problems for drivers on tighter circuits.

This should go without saying, but it’s important for punters to check practice and qualifying times to see who has their car dialed-in, and who doesn’t. Every race is different, and every circuit offers new challenges. Is the McLaren-Honda team having problems creating downforce? Too much downforce and not enough speed? F1 is a science of details, and tiny differences between one car and another can be the difference between first or second place.

A good example of matching a driver to a circuit is Jenson Button. Button is known for having a very smooth driving style that benefits him on circuits that chew up tyres. His driving style conserves tyres, which keeps his speed up when others are slowing down. He has a slight edge on circuits with high speed turns where tyres turn to marbles, and this edge can move him up the podium a spot or two.

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