F1 Japanese Grand Prix Odds, Picks & Predictions: 3 Bets for Middle-of-the-Night Race (Sunday, September 24)

F1 Japanese Grand Prix Odds, Picks & Predictions: 3 Bets for Middle-of-the-Night Race (Sunday, September 24) article feature image

Dan Istitene – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images. Pictured: F1 driver Lando Norris of Great Britain and McLaren

Round 17 on the Formula 1 calendar takes us to the Suzuka International Racing Course and the iconic red Ferris wheel for the F1 Japanese Grand Prix.

Be sure to set your alarm clocks or DVR for this race as lights go out at 2 p.m. local time, which is 1 a.m. ET on Sunday morning (10 p.m. PT on Saturday night) in the U.S. The race airs live on ESPN2 as a nightcap to your college-football viewing.

This year’s edition of the F1 Japanese Grand Prix will be the 37th running overall and the 33rd at Suzuka. Last year’s race was cut short due to the early red flag under torrential-downpouring conditions. Max Verstappen was on pole and was able to cruise to victory in only 28 racing laps. Red Bull went one-two after Charles Leclerc was awarded a five-second time penalty to drop the Ferrari from second to third.

Qualifying on Saturday was a return to normal for 2023 as Max Verstappen outpaced the field, leading Q1 and taking pole position in Q3. After a down week last week over in Singapore, it appears that Red Bull has gotten the RB19 car back to where it needs to be, and Verstappen has found his drive again. Since the 2022 running of the F1 Japanese GP, Max has earned his 12th pole position (out of 21) and has won an astonishing 16 of the previous 20 races.

Behind the soon-to-be world champion driver, the two McLaren drivers will start P2 and P3.

A papaya sandwich 🥪#JapaneseGP#F1pic.twitter.com/MmcqrwaEw5

— Formula 1 (@F1) September 23, 2023

With his first career front row starting position, rookie Oscar Piastri just edged out his teammate in Q3 with a 1:29.458 fastest lap time. While this was more than a half-second slower than Verstappen at the top, Piastri was just 0.035 seconds faster than Lando Norris.

Leclerc, who posted the fastest lap time (1:29.940) in Q2, dropped to P4 in qualifying. His Ferrari teammate, Carlos Sainz Jr., will need to come from behind in P6 in order to win back-to-back weeks. Sandwiched between the two red Ferraris on the starting grid will be Sergio Perez.

F1 Japanese Grand Prix Bets

Fading the Red Bull No. 2

Verstappen will win this race. I firmly believe that Max will take care of business and lift another trophy on Sunday. Verstappen led the entire grid at Suzuka during FP1, FP2, FP3, Q1 and Q3. He is a man on a mission and has great history at this track.

On the flip side for Red Bull, their No. 2 driver, "Checo" Perez, will start all the way back on the third row in P5. While Verstappen will likely pull away from the pack early in this race, Perez will be battling against two sets of teammates all day. The Red Bull will be behind both McLarens and one of the two Ferraris to start. Look for the teammates to defend and work as a pair to cut off Perez.

This pick is not a full fade of Perez, but I do not think he is in good enough form to join his teammate on the podium. Since coming back from summer break, Perez has finished on the podium in only one of the three races. He was able to jump up from P5 to P2 at Monza, but he finished fourth at Zandvoort and eighth in Singapore last week.

I think there is good value at plus money to bet Perez not to finish in the top 3. The McLarens have outperformed Checo all weekend with the Ferrari pair right behind them.

The Pick: Sergio Perez – Top 3 Finish? No (1 unit, +110 on BetMGM)

Lando Norris Top Weekend

Team McLaren and Zak Brown have had a tale of two seasons through 16 rounds (15 races) in 2023: pre-Silverstone and post-Silverstone.

Prior to the British Grand Prix, McLaren were struggling for points, totaling only 29 team points in the World Constructors’ Championship over nine total races. The next six GPs have vaulted the team up into the fight for fourth place, seeing 110 team points earned by McLaren.

I wrote about the initial upgrade package by McLaren prior to the Austrian Grand Prix at the beginning of July, and what a difference it has made. While it didn’t lead to a podium finish for Lando Norris that weekend, improved results were just beyond the horizon.

Norris has finished in 4th, 2nd, 2nd, 7th, 7th, 8th and 2nd over the past seven race weekends. I’d say that the driver, the team and the car have all made a leap forward into consideration for not just being a midfield team behind the giants of the sport. This team can compete with anybody, and I like for that to continue in Japan on Sunday.

Looking at actual times from qualifying, Norris was the second-fastest lap time behind Max with a 1:30.063 in Q1. He was unable to improve on that time in Q2, but he still made it into the top 10 to advance. In Q3, Norris went third fastest with a 1:29.493. Lando was also up at the top during the practice sessions, running top 3 in FP1, FP2 and FP3.

There are a lot of ways to bet and be bullish on Norris at Suzuka. The most aggressive route is to take an exact Dual Forecast, Max Verstappen 1st & Lando Norris 2nd at +160 odds (bet365). I do see Norris being able to jump his teammate at some point during the race, and he should be able to hold off the other Red Bull and both Ferraris right on his tail.

The Picks: Lando Norris – Top 3 Finish (1.5 units, -165 on BetMGM) | Norris – Top 2 Finish (1 unit, +100 on bet365)

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