Max Verstappen is the deserved favorite ahead of the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - NOVEMBER 5: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB19 during the F1 Grand Prix of Brazil at Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace on November 5, 2023 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Vince Mignott/MB Media/Getty Images)

Max Verstappen has won 17 of 20 races ahead of the Las Vegas Grand Prix. (Photo by Vince Mignott/MB Media/Getty Images) (Vince Mignott/MB Media via Getty Images)

When in doubt, go with Max Verstappen.

That should be your betting strategy ahead of this weekend’s Las Vegas Grand Prix (1 a.m. ET Sunday, ESPN). There are a bunch of unknowns ahead of the race given the brand-new track and the cool weather, but Verstappen’s dominance is a known quantity in 2023.

The three-time champion enters the race with 17 wins in 20 starts so far and should have a car that quickly adapts at Las Vegas. The track features 17 corners and a wide speed discrepancy in them. Corners like Turn 1, Turn 5 and Turn 14 require a lot of braking and are tight-angled turns. Corners like Turn 10, Turn 13 and Turn 17 may not require drivers to get off the throttle at all.

The long run down Las Vegas Boulevard also seems well-suited for Red Bull. The long backstretch down the Las Vegas Strip will be visually stunning and reward the cars with the best straight-line speed. That’s great news for Verstappen, McLaren’s Lando Norris and the Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.

Sainz is the only non-Red Bull driver to get a win this season. He won in Singapore — a street course that may have some commonalities with Vegas, even if Vegas has more full-throttle time. He’s the No. 4 favorite with Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate at +1600.

Verstappen is the favorite at -250 while Norris is the No. 2 favorite at +700. Leclerc is at +1400.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - NOVEMBER 14: A general view of the circuit along Las Vegas Strip during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Las Vegas at Las Vegas Strip Circuit on November 14, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

These cars will be replaced by Formula 1 cars on the Las Vegas strip on Friday. (Photo by Dan Istitene – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images) (Dan Istitene – Formula 1 via Getty Images)

The Mercedes drivers of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell find themselves down the board. Hamilton is the No. 6 favorite at +1800, while Russell is the No. 9 favorite at +4000 behind both Oscar Piastri and Fernando Alonso.

Mercedes was abysmal in Brazil and had terrible straight-line speed. The team is confident it identified what the problem was in Sao Paulo. Can it make sure it doesn’t reoccur in Las Vegas? If Mercedes is slow on the straights in Las Vegas, Hamilton and Russell could struggle to score points.

With all the unknowns entering the race weekend, we’re not inclined to make any pre-race bets. Our betting strategy would be to watch how practice and qualifying unfold before looking at the props available for the race. If there is a bet to make now, it’s Verstappen to win. We’re confident his odds could only get shorter as the race weekend approaches.

An interesting long-shot bet is Verstappen to win by 10 or more seconds, post the fastest lap and for Red Bull to have the fastest pit stop. That’s at +500. It requires a longish green-flag run to end the race and McLaren to not challenge Red Bull for the fastest pit stop. But it’s intriguing enough to take a look at.

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