Formula 1 is not an easy sport to handicap, but can be profitable if you know how to do it correctly. For starters, track details, and head to head can only give us so much info because sample sizes are limited. In order to beat F1 betting, we need to dig deep and find even the tiniest little intricacies that we might be able to use to our advantage. If we find an edge – we can profit betting the openers. If we understand the market – we can sometimes profit closer to race time if bookmaker’s odds change. While I can’t cover all there is to know about handicapping F1, this article here will act as a solid start to anyone interested in betting F1 more seriously.
How do Bookmakers Set F1 Odds?
In the off chance I have any math based cricket punters reading, or anyone used to betting American sports – football, basketball, and especially baseball, you’ll probably be quite surprised to learn the math involved in handicapping Formula 1 racing is extremely limited. For the most part, bookmakers create openers using a limited dataset of past races. Weight is given to both similar tracks and the most recent results and adjustments are made to tweak the model and run the simulations. The bookmaker doesn’t need to get the openers exact because he works with a massive percent market and can also adjust the odds later when bets start coming in.
The percent markets on F1 match winners generally runs 123% to 135% at online bookmakers. To illustrate this, the odds on a recent Singapore Grand Prix had the top eight favourites priced as follows.
The first column is the odds the top favourites were available at. The percentage is how often this driver would need to win for anyone betting his offered odds to break even over the long haul. These eight drivers (the top eight favourites) alone account for a percent market of 122.91%; keep in mind – while factions of a percent each – there are 19 other drivers in this race (their odds not included in the 122.91%). If it the odds were fair – meaning there wasn’t a bookmaker advantage – the percent market would total 100% for all 27 drivers participating in the qualifier.
The point I’m illustrating here is the bookmaker doesn’t need to be exact creating openers because he has a huge advantage to work with. If he’s off by 10% here and 20% there on a driver’s chances to win – he’s still making killing over the long haul. So, with a bookmaker advantage that large can we overcome these odds? Yes – in some cases it is possible, but it will take work and line shopping.
Keep in mind this is the percent market at a single betting site. If you were to use a betting exchange such as Betfair the percent market drops down to 113%. From here if you’re using multiple betting sites, shop and follow line movements, you might over the course of the odds sharpening and then closing – be faced with an effective percent market down near 107%. When looking at it that way, although tough, it probably can be beaten.
Capping the Race
Sophisticated punters that are able to handicap race winners before the odds open, are unlikely to ever share the exact formula they use to create odds. Think about it, if I posted the exact math in this article, hundreds of readers would have it and F1 openers would be even tougher to beat. Things change over time, there are rule changes, track changes, drivers lose their edge, and new drivers are added to the race that affects other drivers. The formula today might not be the formula tomorrow. What the formula always will be however is past race is results with weight given to the same and similar tracks. From here you start to make adjustments for position, rule changes, track changes, weather, and then minor things that can be dug up such as tyre management. Let me go ahead and cover some the adjustments that can be made.
Starting Position: The day before a race, qualifiers are held to determine what position drivers will start the race in. This is where models need to get adjusted. For some tracks on the F1 Calendar passing has a higher level difficulty and other tracks passing is common – I’ll share an example below so it is clear.
Difficult Tracks to Overtake
Monaco – The pole position has won this race 7 of the past 8 races, and 4 of the 5 most recent races seen the top 3 starting positions remain top three for a podium finish.
Catalunya (Spain) – In 2011 Sebastian Vettel started in second position and won the race. This ended a ten year consecutive streak of the pole position finishing first.
Keep in mind near all F1 tracks will be adjusted over time to provide more passing opportunities, so it’s important to pay attention to rule changes. To find value on these tracks – look for frequent passers – Lewis Hamilton for example when he’s starting second or third on the grid. Keep in mind you’ll still need great odds, as even high risk passers with guts will have difficulties on these tracks.
Tyre Management: Teams have a limit on how many sets of tyres they can use for both qualifying and the race. If you understand which drivers are best at conserving their tyres while still driving fast, and which wear them out too quickly you’ll have a good start towards making tyre management adjustments to your handicapping model. Next look to see which drivers saved an extra set of tyres normally used in the qualifier, for the race. This can easily account for extra two or three second off their finishing time.
Rule Changes: Be sure to a keep an eye on rules changes. F1A is always changing rules and with some of them it is difficult to predict how they’ll affect the cars.
Team Strategy: There’s a lot of strategy that goes into F1 Racing. How well a team manages their pit stops, tyre strategy during inclement weather, car adjustments and such. Another factor – there are two drivers from each team racing. There’s times where one driver lays off, in order to give the other a win. You want to analyze strategy the best you can to see if there might be something different about this race that could give a certain driver an advantage, or have him at a disadvantage.
Weather Conditions: When it’s hot out everyone’s tyres stick properly. In cold conditions there is a drop off with lesser racers. In the rain, things really start to change. Jenson Button’s style wouldn’t appear suited for rain, but he’s proved throughout his career to have incredible feel for grip limits, and has had some his best performances in the rain. Felipe Massa on the other hand struggles with adjustments and as a results has shown a considerable drop off when racing in the rain.
Circuit Differences: Not all F1 tracks are created equal. For example cars with better top speed will obviously perform better on circuits with longer straights. Tyre management is also less of a concern with certain circuits and you might have value on certain drivers where this has been their only weakness in the past. Meanwhile again, Jenson Button should be considered a greater favorite on tracks where tyre management is more of an issue. Understanding the differences between circuits is a great way to get an edge when betting F1 racing.
Testing Your F1 Model
The ultimate goal for anyone getting into advanced betting strategy is to develop a model that will come remarkable close to the no-vig closing lines. So again you’ll start with coming up with a formula that calculates odds based on all drivers lifetime and recent performance – and gives more weight to recent results, similar tracks and similar conditions. You’ll then make manual adjustments for any information you can find that hasn’t been factored in. Before betting with this information, back test it. Go look at past racing results and odds and see how close your model came to predicting closing odds and race results. If you’re way off you’ll need to tweak your model again.
Opening Lines: When odds first open for a race, is generally when you’ll find the most value. You’ve capped the race in advanced, have a proven model that’s worked when back testing – so you should be able to pick off any openers that look soft. You want to be there waiting to do this before other handicappers get a chance to do the same.
After the Qualifier: You should run your model in advanced for each spot a driver will potentially start in. When the odds open back up after the qualifier, this is again a time to be there waiting to find value.
Winning F1 Betting – Without Capping Winners
If your talent is not such that you can price overall F1 winners into odds, but you’re a master at finding the minor adjustments, head to head wagering is an area you’ll likely do well with. There are plenty of databases on the net such as this one that can be used to compare drivers past results. These bets have lower juice as well, and when you use multiple F1 Betting Sites to shop the odds, the bookmaker advantage is not difficult to overcome.
Bets to Avoid
Podium Finisher, Top 6, Futures and F1 Prop Bets, all tend to have large bookmaker advantages and steep odds. While you might find value on these in rare situations, for the most part you want to avoid these bets, as they are quite difficult to beat.
Using Sport Betting Forums
Learning to handicap F1 racing or any other sport takes considerable time and effort. As I mentioned earlier anyone who knows the exact formulas to pricing F1 isn’t going to share them, because these formulas only have value when they’re one of the few who understand them and can make adjustments. However, it is possible to pick-up bits and pieces at a time, clues so to speak, by hanging out at and scouting the archives of betting forums. Winning handicapper are often relentless in searching for information, get good at using Google, search deep and join forums you come across, and you’ll start picking up information a little at time, that adds up to considerable value.
Armature Betting Advice
If you’re just a fan looking to bet on your favourite driver, this article might have been a little deflating, as we revealed just how much of a bookmaker advantage there is on outright winners. I encourage you not to be discouraged by this; there are several things you can do to lower this advantage and give yourself a better chance to win.
Shop the Odds – Using multiple F1 Betting Sites to shop odds will greatly reduce the bookmaker advantage. Be sure to also check betting exchanges such as betfair.com.
Take Advantage of Bonuses – Many online bookmakers offer first time deposit bonuses. When bonuses are factored in – the odds on F1 race winners are far better because you’re getting double the odds.
Take Advantage of Promos – Many online betting sites will offer promos such as free live bets, reloads and other unique offers. Even if you don’t post up with them all, I’d suggest opening an account with each bookmaker listed on our left side promo.
No matter where you are on your quest towards winning F1 betting, I hope this article has helped. Thanks for reading and I wish you the best of luck when betting F1 races this season.