Brazil could be the last best chance for someone other than Max Verstappen to get a win in 2023.
Verstappen enters the Sao Paulo Grand Prix (Noon ET, ESPN2) as the overwhelming favorite once again. There’s no reason he shouldn’t have that status with 16 wins in 19 races. But there’s reason to think Verstappen could have a serious challenge during race weekend. Or at least the most serious challenge he’ll get over the final three races of the season.
The 2023 champion is -300 to win Sunday’s Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton is the No. 2 favorite at +700 after back-to-back second-place finishes to Verstappen (though he was disqualified in Austin). Lando Norris is at +1200 and three drivers are at +1600.
One of the drivers in that group is defending Brazil race winner George Russell. Russell got the first win of his career a season ago ahead of his Mercedes teammate Hamilton as Verstappen started third and finished sixth.
Last season’s Brazil race weekend was an outlier. Rain during qualifying on Friday meant Kevin Magnussen got the pole for the sprint race ahead of Verstappen and Russell. Verstappen looked like he was going to easily win the sprint, but his tires fell off and his car might have sustained damage from crash debris and he fell to fourth.
Verstappen then had to pit during Sunday’s Grand Prix for a new front wing after a collision with Hamilton and subsequently lost any chance he had of the Grand Prix win.
If the race weekend is more straightforward this year, it’s hard to bet against Verstappen. The Red Bull car is just that adaptable. But Mercedes has also never been closer to Red Bull than it is now and enters the race weekend as the defending champion. The Autódromo José Carlos Pace is a high-tire wear circuit with a lot of slow corners. That could be a recipe for an upset — or at least a closer race than what we’ve been accustomed to seeing throughout the season.
Here are a few bets we like ahead of the race weekend.
Max Verstappen to finish in the top three (-800)
Take the easy money on the small return and run.
Lewis Hamilton to finish in the top three (-185)
Hamilton has seven podium finishes in 15 starts in Brazil. He’s won three of the last six races and finished second in each of the two seasons before getting his first win at the track in 2016.
Fernando Alonso to finish in the top 10 (-155)
Aston Martin is regressing but these odds are too tempting to resist, especially if the team abandons the upgrades it’s tried recently in favor of getting Alonso a good finish.
George Russell to finish ahead of Charles Leclerc (-120)
Ferrari’s tire management makes us leery of its chances this weekend. While Leclerc could be a contender for the pole and during the sprint, the team’s Grand Prix pace tends to fall off.
Verstappen and Hamilton to finish in the top 2 (+160)
Why not make it three in a row? We’re not sure how well McLaren will fare this weekend because of the mix of corners in Brazil.