It has been a long road to get to this home stretch of the Formula 1 season, and the overarching narrative has been one of absolute dominance from Max Verstappen. The record-setting driver has won nearly all of the races to this point, having won the last six, and 18 out of the 21 races in 2023 as we head to Abu Dhabi.
Though the talk of every race is Verstappen, his epic run, and just how much further he can extend his points record, there are more than a few other things worth discussing. In this preview, we’ll talk a little more about the Dutch superstar, and then give you a few other storylines to keep an eye on.
Let’s check out the racer odds, some storylines to watch going into the weekend, and a few of our best bets to consider. Keep on reading for your official F1 Abu Dhabi preview.
Lando a Favourite?
Las Vegas was certainly not kind to Lando Norris (he didn’t finish), but in all his last couple of months have been among his best on the circuit. In his last six races before Las Vegas, Norris managed to crack the podium five times, including four second-place finishes.
The 24-year-old seems to have found his groove, which has provided the chance to take a lot of momentum with him into the 2024 season. He doesn’t have a win yet in F1 but given that Verstappen has been hogging the top of the podium this year, that’s more or less excusable.
Norris looks set to keep building on his impressive recent finishes. He has done relatively well in Abu Dhabi in years past. In four races on this track, he has finished between fifth and eighth in all of them. This year, he’s looking to take the next step forward and challenge Verstappen for the top spot on the podium.
The question at hand is, “Which Norris will we get?” He has been on fire of late, but he was the complete opposite at to start of the season. To call it a slow start would be generous, given his four 17th-place finishes, along with one finish at 13th. Norris needs to finish the season the right way, and it would be a great story if he could cap it off with his first win.
Not-So-Breaking News: Verstappen Dominant
We can’t give you a real F1 preview without discussing the shining star of Red Bull Racing. Max Verstappen currently has a record 549 points, 276 more than his teammate and second-place driver Sergio Perez. After 21 races so far this season, Verstappen has won 18. In two other races, he took home second. To the shock of the racing world, he limped to a fifth-place finish in Singapore back in September, the only anomaly of a totally dominant season.
Anything you could possibly think of to say about Verstappen’s season has already been said. It is the single most dominant season by an F1 driver, even if there are more races now than there have ever been. He has taken on challenge after challenge and conquered them with ease.
With this being the final race and a shot at win #19, don’t expect Verstappen to take his foot off the gas. He wants to make this the type of season that cannot be challenged and has likely already done so. It should be a long time before we see anyone break the record Max Verstappen has set this year.
A Strong Finish for Leclerc?
Though it’s been a one-man race for first place for the most part this season, Charles Leclerc made Vegas closer than just about any other race this season. In the end, he had to content himself with a second, but in the process showed once again that he has what it takes to push Verstappen, even if beating him has been a bridge too far.
If not for a DNS in Brazil and a disqualification in the United States, Leclerc’s last couple of months would look as good as any other racer. Three fourth-place finishes in a row, a fifth in Qatar, a third-place finish in Mexico, and then runner-up in Vegas.
The Ferrari ran well for him in Vegas, with Leclerc even getting the pole. Leclerc has had a bit of bad luck this season but showed what he can do when the stars align. A strong finish in Abu Dhabi could be the momentum-builder that he needs to take into 2024.
Three Bets to Consider
Now that we know a bit more about the field going into Abu Dhabi, it is time to get down to the most important part: what wagers to take. There are three wagers, in particular, that you should strongly consider making before the field takes its place on the track in Abu Dhabi.
Oscar Piastri Top 6 (+100). McLaren is still fighting in the constructor standings, so there is still something on the line. Piastri has been similar to Norris this season in many ways. He’s had a rough run of late, but look for him to cap off his rookie season with a strong top 6 finish.
Lando Norris Podium Finish (-200). It’s hard not to like the British racer in this one. His last seven races – the last one aside – have been some of the best outside of the bubble of Verstappen domination. Also fighting for McLaren, a strong finish from Norris and Piastri could be the push the team needs.
Carlos Sainz Podium Finish (+450). There have been times when Sainz has been one of the most impressive drivers on the circuit. Since September, he has earned a trio of podium finishes, including a win in Singapore. His worst finish since the end of August has been sixth, which he’s done three times (including last week in Las Vegas). He’s got the potential to be a top contender, and Abu Dhabi could be a great opportunity to finish off the 2023 season on the podium.