F1 Betting strategy

F1 Betting strategy

Formula 1 is bigger than ever and more viewers means more punters. It is a correlation the bookmakers have become increasingly aware of and now the average F1 race weekend sees the major firms offer upwards of 150 betting market around its outcome.

Naturally the vast majority of money is wagered on the simple race win markets. It means there is plenty of liquidity, minimising the prospect of your chosen bookmaker refusing your bet due to its size.

Unfortunately such a big consensus of opinion in a marketplace environment means the odds on offer are very much in-line with the probability of the outcome. Rarely is there any value in a win market when it comes to F1.

There are, however, the odd occasions when value can be found. Be quick with your news feeds and you may pick up some valuable information ahead of the bookmaking firms. This is a sport where a change of gearbox results in a five-place demotion on car’s scheduled starting position. That’s a massive handicap which can immediately make a 5/2 shot become an 8/1 poke.

Similarly, the weather forecaster is your friend. Rain or high winds is as significant as a going change from ‘firm’ to ‘heavy’ in horse racing terms. Essentially, however, the most straightforward betting market remains the hardest one to beat.

The more elaborate the market the greater the prospect of finding value. Once again, value is something determined by probability. If the odds of reward are greater than the outcome it is ‘value’.

To identify the probability there is no stronger indicator than form and statistical analysis.

A good starting point is to compile the results from the last ten Grand Prix at every circuit on the current calendar. This may involve data from over 160 races (as some of the tracks are new and others are no longer raced on). There are normally 20 races a season.

This may seem daunting but Wikipedia is an invaluable tool and the stats you collate can be relatively simple. For example, record just these:

  • Race Starters
  • Race Finishers
  • Pole Setter – and finishing position
  • Winner – and starting position
  • Fastest Lap
  • Safety Car – needed or not
  • Winning Margin

These pieces of data alone will give you a very good complexion of what can be expected at each race.

Naturally F1 cars are subject of constant rule changes. In 2005 the cars had 3-litre engines, those became 2.4-litre and latterly the cars are a 1.6-litre hybrids. But when it comes to the likelihood of accident or incident and race winning margins, previous results remain a strong form indicator.

For Example:

  • There has been a Safety Car in ten of the last 12 Monaco Grand Prix.
  • There has been a Safety Car in all seven Singapore Grand Prix.
  • The winning margin at the Hungarian Grand Prix averages out at over 12 seconds
  • Ten of the last 12 winners of the Italian Grand Prix have started on Pole
  • On average there are five non-finishers in the Belgian Grand Prix

All of the above fields can be gambled on: Safety Car appearance, Total Finishers, Winning Margin and Pole-Setter to Win the Race.

Additionally, while compiling the results/data you will see clear trends, such as drivers that excel at a certain type of track or conditions.

Track Types

The beauty of Formula 1 is no two circuits are the same. Form from one race cannot be translated directly into another. The circuits can, however, be pigeonholed and that is one of the golden rules of F1 betting.

Some cars are fast on fast tracks, tracks with long straights and high speeds. Others thrive at ‘squirt and brake’ slower circuits where cornering is key. Without being too technical it is about ‘downforce’, the amount of pressure a car needs to keep it on the circuit.

Fast tracks are known as ‘low-downforce’ tracks, slow ones with lots of cornering are ‘high down-force’ as these need an aerodynamic configuration which forces the car into the road and therein keep it on track while cornering at speed.

Unquestionably Spa (Belgium) and Monza (Italy) are the two fastest circuits and therein of the ‘low-downforce’ ilk. Conversely circuits such as the Hungaroring (Hungary), Singapore and Monaco are ‘high-downforce’.

When it comes to betting I have four pigeonholed tracks as set out below.




Monte Carlo

When assessing a race essentially the only place to look for form indicators is amongst results from similar tracks. It is not just about speed or the lack of it. These categories also have similar demands on tyre-wear, brake-wear and even the number of gear changes needed per-lap.

Thankfully odds compilers can be a little short-sighted and when the Belgian Grand Prix comes around it has been preceded by races at Silverstone and Hungary, vastly different circuits.

In horseracing terms they measure up like Warwick, Fontwell and Haydock racecourses and, as we all know, the form of a convincing victory at one will not necessarily translate to another. This is often missed by the men with satchels and algorithms.

Find a Market

As much as identifying tracks where form can be taken literally helps, this pales when it comes to exploiting markets where odds-compilers have employed traditional horse racing values to a sport which has none of horse racing’s conventions.

Top-Three (podium finish), Top-Six and Top-Ten (points finish) markets are not correctly compiled. A dominant 1/2 favourite, Lewis Hamilton in the current climate, is not 1/12 to finish in the top-six because, if he is not in the top-three he has probably succumbed to accident or mechanical failure.

Another market where bookmaker’s tend to get things dramatically wrong is the prices offered about a car completing the race distance or ‘to be classified’ as a finisher.

Whilst the likes of the Manor/Marussia team invariably find themselves lapped five times during the course of a race this lack of competitive pace should not be confused with reliability.

Their car is massively reliable and, as it is so uncompetitive, it is rarely involved in a racing incident. Nevertheless firms still offer handsome odds about their cars not completing specific races. The lack of speed should never be confused with a lack of reliability.

The Fastest Don’t always go Fastest

Possibly the finest market of the lot is the ‘Fastest Lap’ listing which habitually features the most likely race winners towards the head of it. Yes, common sense dictates the fastest car and driver combination is the most likely race winner and because they are fastest they are the most likely to post the fastest lap.

Not so. Modern day F1 is not about setting off into the distance creating an ever-increasing advantage by virtue of driving a superior car.

To the contrary, races are now ‘managed’ with leaders setting targeted lap times dictated by their pit-wall strategists who are happy to see their drivers maintain a controllable advantage and not unduly punish their engines in the futile exercise which is to win by a wide-margin or set a fastest lap. There is no additional prizes for setting a fastest lap and, until there is, no team will deliberately set out to claim one.

Fastest laps are generally set when the planets line-up and that involves the following factors:

New Tyres:

So often the last competitive car to stop for fresh tyres sets the fastest lap. Fresh rubber is fast rubber.

Clear Racetrack:

Being stuck behind a slower car is not a recipe for setting a fastest lap. A clear track with no opposition in your driver’s pathway is.

Late Stages:

As the cars burn their fuel they become lighter, lighter cars are faster cars. Therein fastest laps are invariably set in the late stages of the races – which generally last for 90 minutes.


The ultimate fastest lap setter will be racing flat-out, as opposed to those leading or those maintaining a ‘safe position’. Therein a late-stopping car with the benefit of new fast tyres who has the prospect of chasing down rivals for all-important point-scoring positions (the top-10 cars earn World Championship points) is destined to claim the accolade.

The above criteria saw Daniel Ricciardo set the fastest lap in Monte Carlo 2015 at odds of 100/1 and Sergio Perez at 150/1 at the same venue in 2012. Just two treble-digit victors in a market which consistently churns out big-priced winners and frequently neglects short-priced contenders.

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